Thursday, January 26, 2012


"When the soveriegn spirit within us is true to nature, it stands poised and ready to adjust to every change in circumstance and to seize each new opportunity.  It doesn't approach an object with prejudice or preconception, but handles each thing dispassionately before embracing it and, if necessary finds advantage in what opposes it.  It is like fire in this regard. Whereas a feeble flame might suffocate under a pile of dry sticks, a robust fire consumes everything it touches.  The more objects of any kind heaped on it, the higher it rises, the hotter it burns." Marcus Aurelius

In the past 24 hours life has managed to throw an enormous wrench in to the works of my existence.  I am sure if we sat down together we could both talk for hours upon hours about all the ways that life throws us curve balls.  Just when you think things are starting to look up, no matter how optimistic you remain, life manages to dump something on you that causes your faith to stumble, your tongue to let loose, and your hope in humanity and your future go right out the door.  It happens every day all around us.  I read my Facebook posts from friends and family and see that they, too, are enduring hardships and adversity. 
My partner does not share the same focused faith that I do.  He recognizes the existence of God and is slowly beginning to see the workings of the spirit.  But he, like so many of us, are shot down because we seem to just get going and we get knocked back a few feet.  It can be very disheartening and discouraging.  It becomes more and more difficult to see the Holy through so many UNholy events. I get where he comes from and if I could explain to him in simple, step-by-step terms how it is that I can remain so optimistic…well…I would be a millionaire!
My optimism comes from my hope and trust that I am being cared for in divine ways.  I have seen and witnessed the divine in my life so many times that there is just no way I can deny that it is of the Holy.  And now as this new obstacle is thrown in front of me, I am called to react to it.  I firmly believe that God did not intentionally do this to me but I do believe He allowed it – like a parent allows their child to fall off the bicycle a few times – He allowed this to happen to a) gauge my reaction, b) allow me to watch Him work it out, and c) to see if I allow it to build or break down my faith and trust in the Holy.
The first item, ‘gauge my reaction’:  God is eager to see and feel how we react to every circumstance and situation in our life.  When teaching piano I would encourage my students to touch and play the keys in several different ways.  Obviously there are the loud and soft techniques, but also by changing the angle of the finger ever so slightly.  I would have them pull one leg up on to the bench underneath them and play a few keys to see if the feel and sound changes.  I would come up with multiple ways for them to experience the act of playing a note on the keyboard in order to allow them to gauge the musical reaction to their command.  It truly is a unique learning tool and it teaches the student to become aware of how even the smallest of elemental changes can create a difference in the sound that is produced.  In similar fashion, God allows circumstances to happen so that He can gauge how we react.  It is a test of our faith and our belief.  As long as we hold fast to our faith then God can and will work with every situation.  I believe that God says, many times , “this is not what I would have planned for your life but if you give me some time I promise you I will work with it”. 
If we are open to this method of faith then we remain open to seeing how God works with it.  Here is a prime example from personal experience.  In November of 2011 I was apartment hunting.  I applied for this beautiful apartment in a high rise building right on Lake Michigan.  It was beautiful but my application was denied.  I was devastated.  I was upset and angry and frustrated but I quickly put my faith to test and waited to see why.  I knew there just had to be a divine reason.  That was on a Tuesday.  That Friday I took my mom to the emergency room whereupon they discovered a very large cancer tumor on her brain.  The apartment was too far for me to provide the level of care-giving my mother requires after brain surgery and subsequent treatment.  It was a clear indication of divine intervention.  I believed that God could work with it and I watched for the signs and they were more than obvious.  Even today, as I have encountered this new issue within the last 24 hours, I just know that God is not going to abandon me.  There is a divine purpose and I will do my job of coping with this and doing what I can to fix and improve the situation.  I know God will be doing His part.
Finally, I believe that God is interested in how we hold up through adversity.  This world is full of troubles and situations.  The laws of physics and nature are all around us, wreaking havoc all the time.  The very nature of humanity causes us to be in turmoil with one another and the constraints and expectations of living in an industrialized nation weigh heavily upon all of us.  How we react to it speaks loudly of our character.  It has been said that the true nature of a man is in his reaction to circumstances.  A defeatist attitude will only bring you more defeat.  A pessimistic attitude will not yield optimism. 
Be real as you experience negative situations.  Let God know you feel anger and resentment.  Let God know that it may take a little while before you can fully trust that He is in control but let Him know you are trying; in and through the limitations of your humanity, you are trying to see God in all things.
The sending of Jesus to earth was a brilliant business move on God’s behalf.  Not meaning to make light of this incredible, divine gift – but think about this:  Jesus is our advocate to God the Father. When we bring our prayers to the feet of Christ, Christ then brings our needs to His father.  He brings them to Him with the experience of being human.  Christ knows what it is like to have a human heart and mind.  He knows humanity.  What better advocate than Christ? 
Advocate…attorney…coach…supporter…get the idea?  He is on your side!  Christ knows what it’s like to feel betrayed.  He knows what it’s like to have your plans disrupted.  Christ knows what it’s like to lose a friend to death.  He knows how deeply it hurts to have a friend, a loved-one, betray you.   He knows what it is like to be hungry and thirsty.  He knows what humiliation and total rejection feels like.  He knows what you experience and now He advocates on your behalf to God the Father.  Don’t take this gift too lightly.  If you need someone to rally for you with God you need look no further than the only one who truly knows both sides. 
Take time to process your reaction to circumstances and situations but also focus on the reality that Christ has your back.  Thank God for all things and thank God for working it out.  And then watch and be amazed, once again, at the amazing way that God works with it.  You may need to give Him time but even now, God is putting the necessary pieces in to play so that you can witness a moment of the divine in your life. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

No matter how hard we try – we just can’t change overnight.  If you started a New Year’s Resolution of fitness there is a really good chance that most of you will be done within about 6 weeks.  Researchers suggest that within that time period if we don’t see results we get discouraged and quit.  Nothing can be more of a letdown than not seeing change.  It doesn’t mean it is not happening it’s just that you can’t see it because it is happening in small steps.  Many people who cry, “I’m a changed person, I swear!” are surprised how slowly people will believe them.  Because change takes time.

The magic number of days it takes to make a habit is up for debate.  We used to think that 21 days was the magic number.  That number was given to us first by the plastic surgeon, Dr. Maxwell Maltz. He noticed that it took an average of 21 days for an amputee to adjust to the loss of a limb.  He argued that it takes 21 days to adjust to a major change in life.  Well, I hope we’re not talking about sawing off any limbs so I’m going to guess this argument is really not relevant. 

A recent study in the European Journal of Social Psychology, Phillippa Lally and associates from University College London developed a study and concluded that 66 days is the average length of time it takes to get to the point of forming a habit.  It starts on day sixty-six!  It depends on the habit being formed though.  Drinking a glass of water a day should only take about 12 days while doing exercises before breakfast took a lot longer. 

Change also takes honesty.  If you are fooling people by telling them you are hitting the gym everyday but you really aren’t, sooner or later the results will speak for themselves.  Taking that first step is important but if you expect a parade after one day – even after two weeks – you are setting yourself up for disappointment.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Take the first step in faith.  You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”  He’s right.  Taking that first step is important.  But I want to talk about what happens AFTER the first step is taken.  How quickly does it take for us to fall back in to our old habits?

We typically hide our failures because we don’t want people to see them.  Especially if we have declared from the mountain top that we are changed and never looking back.  But how can we declare that on day one?  You simply can’t.  You aren’t free until you are absolutely free.  And for many, that can take months, years, or a lifetime.  Stop looking for the approval of others on this journey of a new you.  Approval may very well be a long thing coming.  It may never happen especially from those closest to you.  If what you strive for is noble, right, fair and just.  If what you resolve to be is to make yourself a better person.  If that which you seek is approved by God – than it is worth any and every sacrifice you make to make it happen.

Reliance on the Holy is to be wise.  And living one day at a time with a reliance on the Holy was taught by Christ.  When we are in self-will, living for self, doing for self, even deceiving others for the sake of self; we tend to dwell on that which produces anxiety, worry and fear; and we fall or continue on destructive behavioral paths.  As we dwell on these things we seek escape or false-comfort in anything from another trip to the fast food window to drugs.  Christ tells us to have reliance on God and through that you will gain wisdom.  But if you aren’t in the habit of doing that you really are not giving yourself much chance to succeed.

Lately I have been somewhat foolish in believing that change is a matter of making up one’s mind and then starting fresh the very next morning.  If you made resolutions and started them on January 1 or January 2 perhaps you, too, have fallen or will fall in to the foolishness category.  You are convinced that this can happen overnight because you WANT it.  But you developed a bad habit, maybe its over-eating, or not exercising, eating poorly, drinking too much, or other addictions such as drugs, smoking or sexual addictions.  Those did not happen overnight so why do we believe that our change FROM those will happen overnight?

Ok so that reality check is depressing.  If it can’t happen overnight than what’s the point?  The point is to become a wise person of your word.  To become what you WANT to become in spite of yourself. To fight the fight that is within you – to beat the raging monster inside your head that tells you to do destructive things; that’s the point of a resolution.  It’s a promise to yourself – not to others – oh it may be about others but the resolution is to yourself.  It is between your heart and your God. 

Don’t find excuses and more importantly stand up to them when they do come along. And they WILL come along.  Your old self wants you back.  That was ordinary.  This whole ‘new me’ and ‘resolution’ stuff is not ordinary so old self is going to fight like crazy to see that it doesn’t happen.  Fight the good fight.  Resist temptation and seek reconciliation when you do wrong.  Work hard every single day because when you decide to rest from your work is when the old self comes back to convince you the work is not worth the prize.  But it is worth it – the work and labor of the journey is worth the final destination.

Those who know me will not be surprised how I end this.  I’ve used this quote for as long as I can remember but I use it because it has truth.  Your desire to change – your inner need to change those bad habits and make good ones – that’s a destination in your spirit.  God would have never put it in your spirit if it wasn’t going anywhere.  Set your sights on the prize and the promise of God and don’t be scared.  Your desire is a confirmation that your destination is there.  So do it. Regardless of your old self, in spite of others, in spite of old habits no matter how destructive and no matter how many were left dead or hurting in its wake:  make the decision today to make positive choices and resolve to make them stick.  To resolve means to transform.  The transformation of your mind, body and spirit can be a long and sometimes painful journey but keep in mind and focus upon the end result.  The end result if a far better you. 

Look; one of the highest and most ultimate goals that God has for us is our transformation – our resolution.  The Bible tells us, “and do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may PROVE what is that good and acceptable and perfect WILL OF GOD (not will of self) (Romans 12:2).

Friday, January 6, 2012


I’m sitting in my car waiting for someone to come out from an appointment.  The temperature sits right around freezing and the sun is glaring down on me.  The ground is frozen and patches of grass are sticking up through the light dusting of snow.  A few birds brave the wind in search of food.  It appears they are finding plenty of that just in front of my car.  The occasional human walks past but the birds go undisturbed for the most part.  I’m caught up in the rays of the sun and am hungry for the warmth of it on my skin.  The cold air bites too hard for the heat of the sun to get to me.  It’s unfair.  The sky is a brilliant blue, dotted with gorgeous white fluffy clouds – the perfect summertime sky in the midst of freezing temperatures and snow. 

As I stare out the window of the car I find myself almost mesmerized by the leave-less trees. They stand as tall as always but don’t seem to be so majestic in all their nakedness.  They aren’t ashamed, of course, but they just stand there patiently waiting for the spring.  The seasonal death will yield a season of new birth for them and their neighboring plants and other vegetation.

Ahhh…new birth.  Christ talked about it and absolutely perplexed many.  He talked about a man being reborn, experiencing new birth.  Of course he did not mean for a man to literally go through the birth waters but for man to experience a rebirth…a birth by and through the waters of the Holy Spirit.  Much like the seasons of the year we each experience seasons of our lives.  Although it is typically reserved for the elderly, it could be said that each of us, no matter what age, experience autumn months of our lives (as well as winter, spring and summer). 

What time of year is it for you?  For me I feel spring is just about to hit.  I feel an urge to stretch my hands upward and outward a little further and begin to feel the thawing of my hardened heart and mind, which has been slowed by the wintering of my soul.  I see people I know in the autumn months, beginning to die off, yielding to the inevitable cold, frozen months to come.  Slowing withdrawing in to themselves and their vices.  Struggling against a win-less battle to stay strong and upright.  It just doesn’t work for them although the desire is there.  Some are experiencing the winter months – a time of deep hibernation, a lack of spiritual and emotional growth, a sleepy, coma-like existence where one just lives to get through the day.

We all go through different seasons and what is important for us to grasp is that we all go through them and it is ok no matter which season you are in.  There is a reason for that season.  There is much that happens beyond our eyes during winter.  There is growth and renewal in spring and times of abundance in summer.  What I’m trying to say is pretty simple – no matter where you are in your life right now the Creator has designed this particular time and space just for you.  Your journey will take you in and out of all the seasons throughout your life.  You don’t simply arrive, finally, at the joy-filled summertime and stay there the rest of your days.  No matter what season/weather is happening along your journey today, you are here because it is important for you to be here right now.  You may be experiencing abundant joy and freedom of summer soul-weather, or the cold bitterness brought on by depression, anger and frustration found in winter soul-weather.  Perhaps you are seeking renewal and experiencing a rebirth of your interests, loves and life found in spring soul-weather. 

Rejoice in your current soul-weather condition.  Find solace in the fact that you are not alone, you are being cared for, you are being loved.  The seasons change and each one is meant to equip you for the next.  You are growing and changing just as quickly as the weather.