Saturday, June 20, 2009

To Leap Ahead--Forgiveness

As imperfect humans, the progress we yearn for in our lives comes to a grinding halt when we fail to forgive. Often we dwell on this hurt or that injustice to the point where we live in worlds of bitterness and pain. This week has been particularly difficult for me as I struggle to let go of the unforgiveness which has kept me from following my call to serve others.

My biggest struggle to forgive centers on Christianity in general and the church I was raised in more specifically. I hear a lot of "Christians" out there spouting ideas about following Jesus' example. Do good works. Love your fellow man. Turn the other cheek. Serve others. They are all brilliant, worthwhile endeavors. The part I have a problem with is when "Christians" talk up these ideas but don't put them into practice. I see so many "Christians" lie, back-bite, cheat, judge, hate, etc. it appalls me. Many people are so turned off by the hypocrisy they refuse to even listen to the good in the message. While I am by no means perfect, I would much rather preach through my actions than through my words.

Because of unforgiveness, I have allowed the church I grew up in to hurt me to the point of leaving it even though I still feel God's call to stay there and serve. I use as my excuse the idea I am not spiritually fed there. I argue I can be blessed more in my quiet time with God than in all the hours I spend at church. Church is a waste of time. The reality is these are bogus arguments. In point of fact, I know how to have a relationship with God, and I hear Him calling me to help others find the way back.

Over time, I have let specific hurts involving my church pile up. I attended my church sponsored college and saw much hypocrisy there. I worked as a tour guide at church historic sites several summers and witnessed non-loving actions taken by church leaders. I heard stories about church leaders dealing with dissenters in petty and careless ways, not from the people they hurt but from other leaders who questioned the actions but said nothing. I felt judged by a church bigwig when she asked why I still attended church when I was not fed by it. My answer was I still felt called by God to be there,but she didn't take the time to listen to or comprehend that concept. More recently, I felt some of my service called into question, not because of anything I did but because of choices made by others. I felt as though any good I had done was tainted and unworthy.

What it all boils down to is this: unforgiveness keeps us focused on the past. Holding on to these hurts only leads to stagnation and ultimately disease. We have to be able to let go of the past in order to attend to the actions necessary for today. My choice is clear. I choose to let it all go so that I may forge ahead.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Living In the Now

I am a planner. I enjoy thinking about what I want in life in order to plan what direction to move in. Knowing where I want to go keeps me calm. The underlying thought is, "If I am moving I should arrive at my destination eventually." Sitting still makes me nervous. If I sit still too long I begin to worry bad things will happen. As my imagination is very fertile, these types of thoughts can overwhelm and depress me. It occurs to me that my answer to being happy lies in my ability to live in the now.

My normal thought processes run something like this: I want to be a published author, an inspirational speaker, and life coach. Once I have come to this conclusion, my next step is to ask myself how I can logically get there. First, I have to write something. Then I have to find someone willing to publish it. I also need to polish my resume and start to work on materials that I can use to teach people those things I would like to help them learn. Anyway, you get the idea.

My depression comes when my logic finds flaws in my plans. For example, my logic tells me that it often takes people years before they are able to find someone willing to publish what they write. Consequently, this is not a good way to make immediate income. My logic also tells me that I have no experience teaching groups of people (other than my tour guiding experience and some classroom and church school instruction). Who would take me seriously? Who would value what I have to teach? These are honestly the sorts of ideas that run through my head when I try to make plans. Is it any wonder that I get overwhelmed?

The only place I am free of all those negative thoughts is right here, right now. In the now, I am comfortable. My needs are provided for. God is with me, in the silence. He is taking care of me. I am listening. I am trusting Him to inspire me if there is something I truly need to do now. He knows the desires of my heart. I believe He wants to bless me. God can truly see all the things I can't. He can make a way where there seems to be no way. In the now, I trust Him to lead the way.

The bible says much this same thing. From Matthew 6:31-34 (KJV) comes this message:
Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Simply stated, our Heavenly Parent knows our needs. He supplies all the necessities of life when we need them. If we seek to find His will--His kingdom, He will supply the rest.

When I am in the now, I am waiting for His inspiration and guidance. When I am in the now, I don't have to trust in my flawed self. When I am in the now, I am the protected child of a Heavenly Parent. I am content, and that is all I need to be.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Seek Ye First

As much as I am a fan of ideas like The Secret and the Law of Attraction, after conversations with my husband and a friend within the past few days I am increasingly aware of the pitfalls associated with these beliefs. The problem is not with the ideas themselves but in peoples' interpretations of them. Many people seem so focused on the outcome that they do not see the path to get there. Consequently, their vision is clouded so much by what they want that they do not see what is their responsibility to give. The bible is very clear on this principle. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matt. 6:33)

Look at some of my favorite self-help gurus. Wayne Dyer, Cheryl Richardson, and Jack Canfield are very successful financially. They all write popular books, are sought out lecturers, and present enlightening workshops. They live in expensive homes and travel around the world. It's a glamorous sort of lifestyle to be sure, and everybody and their brother would like to live under similar circumstances. The thing is, people focus on what these three have now. They do not think about what it took to get there!

Take Wayne Dyer. He knew he had a spiritual message he needed to get out to the world. He plugged away for years on his own--buying his own books and selling them on the road, doing interview after interview, before his connection with the public was made. The point is, he made a conscious decision to contribute to the world first. It wasn't all about him.

Again, Cheryl Richardson became a life coach in an effort to help her fellow humans. Her books and subsequent workshops and lectures were the result of wanting to spread her message of hope, healing and spirituality to a wider audience.

Then there is Jack Canfield, one of the Chicken Soup For the Soul guys. While being interviewed for The Secret, he talked about having that financial goal. However, he did not stop there. He looked for inspiration to come on how he could contribute to the world. He said it took about a month for the inspiration to come, but when it did things happened quickly. Pieces fell into place and things began happening as he made his mark on the world.

The point is, there is always an action involved--not just the thought or belief. The inspiration for the action is also important. This is what I will call the "God component". In order to receive that inspiration you have to be plugged in to the Source. Otherwise, you could be spinning your wheels for years without anything to show for it. If you are truly seeking out where your gifts lie and listen to inspiration on how to use them, you will be in tune with your place in the universe.

Don't worry about the outcome. Trust that God has your back! Listen to that inspiration as it comes! Trust that when you seek His kingdom first, all His blessings will follow.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Signposts Found!

I am not a patient person. Even though I feel I've received the go ahead from my Source to rest for a while, it hasn't been easy to do. I'm still looking for signposts to indicate my direction in life. Yesterday was a banner day for signposts! I'm rather in awe of it!

Let's start with the second signpost. One of my favorite self-help gurus is Dr. Wayne Dyer. Over the years, books like The Power of Intention, You'll See It When You Believe It, and Manifesting Your Destiny have helped mold some of my beliefs. He recently came out with a book called Excuses Begone. As I receive Dr. Dyer's online newsletter, I have been aware of this new book as well as a new PBS special based on it for quite some time. I missed the program when it came out last weekend on my local station (or was way too tired to stay up for it). Coincidentally, I found out it was playing this weekend on the other Georgia public television station I get on my cable. The weird part about the whole thing was I had made a mental note to watch it at 7:00pm on Saturday night. Most of the time, my making a mental note of something has absolutely no impact on my actually doing it. I forget anyway. Yesterday afternoon, I managed to find a movie on SciFi that intrigued me, so I watched it to its conclusion. I began channel hopping again hoping to find something else. Then I looked at the clock, which read 7:00. Somehow, my 43-yr-old brain made the connection that there was a program I wanted to watch--Dr. Dyer!

I enjoyed listening to his perspective on the excuses we use to keep us from following our life's purpose. He talked about obstacles such as "I can't afford it", "I'm too busy", "It will take a long time" and "It's too risky" that we use every day to limit what we do. (These happen to be the excuses I personally use.There are others.) As Dr. Dyer continued to talk, I realized that this whole process I am involved in (quitting my job and trying to find my true purpose in life) is my attempt at giving up the excuses that have imprisoned me for so long! By quitting my 24/7 teaching job, I got rid of the "I'm too busy" excuse. As I listen to God's voice telling me it will be okay, I stopped listening to the "I can't afford it" excuse. Anyway, you get the idea. As I watched the program, one idea became clear. "You are on the right path now, Cindy. Stay the course!" The TV program was a signpost!

The first signpost of the day was actually more profound, and much more focused on my life's calling. Several days ago, I was inspired by an idea for a children's picture book. A reoccurring phrase came to me, followed by tons of different thoughts that all fit this central theme. As the words flowed into my head (and I assure you they did flow as nothing in my writing has ever done before), it occurred to me that not only was it possible to make a book out of it, but if I worked it right I could make a whole series of children's books out of it! The possibilities excited me as I sat to write some of these thoughts down. Friday evening I actually typed some of them out on the computer. Saturday morning, I opened an email from my mom. As I watched the PowerPoint presentation from the email, I realized it was a signpost! The subject of the PowerPoint was the subject of my book! Even though it was not expressed like my book is starting to shape up, I got goosebumps as I realized that the subject matter is indeed relevant to people today. As I do not believe in coincidences, I knew this was indeed a signpost!

I don't claim to have all the answers for my life. The future is very blurry, and I still have no idea what lies down the road. I do believe it is time for me to write these stories down. I doesn't necessarily mean they will be immediately published and income had. My experience has taught me not to try to anticipate God's plans for my life. Nothing ever happens like I imagine it. The stories will be published in God's time and in His way. I just know it is time for me to write them. I found the signpost.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Clearing Out the Clutter

I finally began a job I should have started a long time ago. I'm sorting through all the junk in my living room in an effort to make it feel more livable again. The hardest part is not the cleaning but the determining what I need to keep and what to throw/donate/give away. There is just too much stuff for the available space. Even when I clean the room, it still looks messy. No more! Just like I am cleaning out the emotional/mental/spiritual baggage I carry I also need to clean out the physical baggage. The living room is just the first step. I truly need to do all the other rooms in my home as well.

Having too much stuff has many drawbacks. First of all is the guilt factor. My difficulty in throwing things away is thinking that I may need the item again someday, and I don't want to have to buy a new one. Waste! Waste! Waste! Maybe I wouldn't have this big of a problem if I more accurately judged what I really needed in this first place.

Another problem clutter brings is the inability to find things you really do need to use. I know I left that book in the stack of books by my bed, but by the time I actually find the one I want I have already wasted a lot of time. Then there are the times when my memory is very faulty and I look for something in the wrong place. This leads to looking in several other locations. Consequently, a great deal more time is wasted, and sometimes I still don't find the item I need!

Like physical clutter, emotional/mental/spiritual clutter has the ability the waste our time and energy. Finding the peace and calm we need to recenter ourselves is hard to do when the business of our lives gets in the way. We find ourselves working, doing chores, chauffeuring our children to their activities, attending meetings, surfing the web, etc. at breakneck speeds. It's amazing we aren't all suffering nervous breakdowns!

Somewhere, there needs to be a balance. I am working on trying to balance mine. I don't claim to have all the answers, but I do know God has given me the time I need to sort out not only the physical clutter, but the emotional/mental/spiritual clutter as well. My purpose in life should be much more clear when I am no longer distracted by all that is unnecessary.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Resting In the Arms of God

I finished reading Cheryl Richardson's book The Unmistakable Touch of Grace: How to Recognize and Respond to the Spiritual Signposts in Your Life this morning, and I have to confess it moved me to tears. The tears flowed because I realized how much God's hand has touched my life. As I look back, I remember all the times solutions appeared, doors opened and opportunities presented themselves, and I can see the Hand of God in each and every one of them. God provided everything I ever needed in a very timely manner. He never let me down--even when I failed to acknowledge His control of the situation.

I find myself waiting--waiting for the signposts that will guide me toward the next phase of my life. Like a horse behind the gate before the big race, I feel the need to push on ahead even though it is not quite time for the race to start. Nervousness and anxiety fill my thoughts as I try to anticipate what my future will hold. The signposts do not appear.

What do appear are thoughts. It is time for you to rest. It is time for you to fill yourself back up. Don't worry. I will provide for you when you have need. Like the scripture from Matthew 6:31-34
So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Admitting I don't have a gameplan is difficult. It sounds crazy to say, "I have no idea exactly what I'm going to do with my life." It sounds even crazier to admit I am not even actively seeking a job. Still I have to trust my guidance, and my guidance tells me to have patience and rest. I am still aware. I am still watching. I am trusting that the right door will open at the right time and I will walk through it.

Right now, my job is to rest and renew. I am resting in the arms of God. I am right where I belong.