Month: September 2017

Lenten Safari: 40 Days/WEEKS 2 Blissful Authenticity

Courageous Or Crazy: Recovering Your Blissful Authenticity


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pexels-photo-461593This year of transition and settling in have allowed me to reflect on my sacred purpose and my twisted path,  and I have had to question whether I’ve been courageous or just plain crazy!  I have found myself wondering about my sanity, and whether I have been hearing God rightly.

However, in this process of “coming to myself,” as the Prodigal Son did in Luke 15, I recognized that I had to divest not only of other people’s opinions and projections, but also of my own ego.  Something I learned from Servant Leadership School of Greensboro is that “the ego is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master.”  In Luke 15, it was the elder brother, the one who had always been with his father, that had the unchecked ego and who had not yet come to himself.  We’ll have to unpack that another time, though.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to substitute teach a Tuesday and Thursday class at Laurel University for my pastor, and as God would have it, the class discussions centered around “self-awareness” and “call.”  The class discussion reminded me that what has been essential to my process of “coming to myself” is the discipline of self-awareness—understanding my personality type, my spiritual gifts, my strengths, my passions, values, experiences, convictions, context, etc.–in other words, recovering God’s good intention and sacred purpose for me and my life.  Then as I heard and discussed the amazing call stories of this diverse group of students,  I reminisced about my own call story.  I was reminded how my call resembles Abram’s call, because it seems to be sandwiched between two difficult sets of circumstances.

What I have found, though, is that regardless of what my human predicament has been, once I surrendered, God has always been faithful.  Things did not always end up the way that I had envisioned, but as I learned to go with the flow, things usually worked out much better than I could have thought or imagined.  From the outside looking in and sometimes from the inside looking out, I have either looked courageous or crazy. 

Who makes a two year commitment to work in a country they have never even visited?  Who gives their notice to move without knowing where they are moving?  Who chooses their convictions over a paycheck?  Who quits their job without having another one?  Someone who is either courageous or crazy.  Well, the Bible and our present day lives are filled with people who look either courageous or crazy!

I would suggest that I am a little bit of both–crazy and courageous.  For according to this world’s standards, many of my steps absolutely look crazy, but in my pursuit of blissful authenticity and through the lens of sacred purpose, I see my counter-cultural, out of the box, and inspired–not simply intellectualized–steps as courageous.

After all, I am a follower of Jesus, who is the epitome of counter-cultural, out of the box, and Spirit-led living.  Jesus was free to “go” wherever God was leading, and to meet people at their point of need, because He practiced non-attachment to many of the accretions that presently give us a false sense of identity.

According to the standard of that time period and even of current accepted societal norms, Jesus would be considered to be bat-sh@#-crazy—a raving lunatic.   However, in his willingness to be counter-cultural, to stand outside the institutional systems of injustice, and to stand with the marginalized, Jesus was and is courageous.

Now, I do not come anywhere near being just like Jesus, but on this journey to becoming who I really be, I have learned to pursue my sacred purpose.  That means doing what blesses my soul and the souls of others; it means acting in accordance with God’s timing.  It means taking the route God has prepared so that I can reach the spacious place that God is calling me into–regardless of the uncomfortable and inconvenient terrain I have to cross.  In the process, I have been perceived by myself and others as both courageous and crazy, and I have learned to love and embrace them both!

The pursuit of sacred purpose is a process of peeling back the layers that we have subconsciously built up to protect ourselves from the bad, which has also kept out the good.  More importantly, it has kept in the goodness of our essence–keeping it hidden, constricted and unexpressed.  With layers peeled back, however, we arrive at center–our sweet spot of blissful authenticity.  Mark Nepo describes this sweet spot as

“the center I once glimpsed…all around me, a landscape I now live in, and I will not pretend any more. If those I love can’t recognize me with my soul out in the open, I will no longer retreat and show what is familiar.” 

To live from a place of blissful authenticity and fulfill your sacred purpose is the greatest gift you can offer to the world!  Howard Thurman puts it this way,

“Don’t ask what the world needs.  Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it.  Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” 

So, take some time to know what your truth is, find a safe space for the expression of that truth, and never stop learning about who you be and why you are here.  There is something special and unique that only you can offer to the world, and I pray that you will come to “know” what it is so you can “be” who you are, and “go” where you are sent!

 

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Lenten Safari: 40 Days/WEEKS 2 Blissful Authenticity, Uncategorized

Moving Through Failure to Fulfillment


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Picture3When it comes to failure, believe me when I say that I’ve had my fair share.  The challenge, however, is how we acknowledge that we’re in the valley of calamity–whether we react out of the ego or respond in the Spirit.

Do we fall down in despair, blaming and shaming or do we fail up in vulnerability, accountability, and enlightenment?

Do we fall back on the same habits, attachments, and mindsets or do we fail forward into higher levels of consciousness, detachment, and surrender?

Failing up and failing forward are hard enough to do on a personal level, but that process is further exacerbated by the way society has been organized to divide us in so many ways and even by our failures and successes.  Failures have been used as yet another means to not only divide us, but as a means to define us and to deny us.

In America, we have been heavily indoctrinated with false notions of success, fake conceptions of meritocracy, and fraudulent presumptions of respectability that are rooted in the fiction of a one-size-fits-all-cookie-cutter American dream.  The reality, however, is that the American dream has become a living daymare for many in a racially biased, crony capitalistic, and scarcity-based system.

So, how do you process failure in a way that is life-giving, other-affirming, and truth-confronting?

It is hard to say in a country that places so much emphasis on winning that it has whitewashed its white supremacist history, sanitized its crimes against humanity, and institutionalized the “witchcraft” of “succeeding at the expense of others”–as defined by Dr. Albert Raboteau of Princeton University.

But I will say that failure can be a pathway to Purpose Place or simply a speed bump on Buffoon Boulevard.  According to the Apostle John, the difference is in how you process things, because when you process anything through “the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches,” (1 John 2:16) without the power of the Spirit, you are out of alignment.

Let me just suggest that these desires correlate with three of the four energy centers–the physical, emotional, and mental.  And please don’t misinterpret that desires are wrong or bad, because by themselves they are not; your desires just need to be rooted in the truth of who you are as a spirit-being.

This brings to mind something a wise mother of the church once told me.  She said that you should not make any major decisions when you are “Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired”–or in other words you should H.A.L.T. when your physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental energy centers are compromised.  Failure is one of those phenomenons that compromises our energy centers and inhibits our capacity to process it graciously.

Moving through failure to fulfillment, however, is a way to “enter through the narrow gate (of the spirit) ; for the gate (of the ego) is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it.” (Matthew 7:13)  When Jesus took the narrow gate that looked like failure on Good Friday, he was really taking a pathway to Resurrection and ultimately to his purpose.

But let me just be clear that Jesus’ purpose was not to be criminalized for leading the “Poor People’s Campaign,” not to be deemed dangerous or unpatriotic for his activist stance against the excesses and hypocrisy of  empire, not to be indicted on trumped up charges after a fruitless attempt to coerce a confession out of him, and not to be murdered in a state-sanctioned lynching that had been normalized by the police state.

Jesus’ purpose was to bring in the Kingdom of God that flips the script on failure and redefines success from a sense of being that informs doing, and from an abundance mindset of giving that informs receiving.

What is the Kingdom?  It is love, acceptance, belonging right where you are–the experience of ultimate love, nurture, and support in this life not just the hereafter.

What is failure?  Real failure is not what society has told you, but it is an unwillingness to live or die for something greater than ourselves.

What is success?  Dr. Maya Angelou puts it this way, “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”

Moving through failure to fulfillment is not automatic; it is a choice that each of us must make.  That choice can either take us to deeper depths of egomaniacal disillusionment or to higher heights of consciousness and fulfillment.

 

 

Lenten Safari: 40 Days/WEEKS 2 Blissful Authenticity

Finding Redemption in The “F” Word: When You Realize You Planted The Lemon Tree


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Somehow, we’ve come to believe that the “F” word is culturally unacceptable, politically incorrect, and personally unforgivable.   It’s almost as if to simply utter the word is to instantly offend, and to hear it is to have a reaction of shock that (to be the most effective) is appropriately accompanied by the clutching of one’s pearls.
While the word may make us uncomfortable, it is part of the lexicon of our language and experiences.  I mean, if you’re anything like me, or simply human, you may have bitten off more than you can chew.  You may have written a check (figuratively) that your hind parts could not cash.  Or you may have made a promise that you could not keep.
woman-dropped-fail-failureAm I right about that?  Well, unless you are Jesus…no, I take that back.  Even Jesus dealt with the unspeakable “F” word that is spelled out as “Failure.”  On any given Sunday, you are guaranteed to hear preachers talk about the cross, which was Jesus’ big fat “F.”
So, welcome to the club that no one voluntarily joins, and where membership is so discrete that you may begin to think that you’re the only member.  Not so!  The club may seem exclusive, but I assure you that membership is inclusive and incalculable.
Now, interestingly while the other “F” word is widely circulated, the “F” word that is spelled out as “Failure” is not.
When was the last time you heard someone say, “Yay! I lost or Yay! I failed?”
Or the last time the refrain in your favorite song was, “all I do is fail?”
Better yet, when was the last time you celebrated a failure–any failure?
Never, Never, and I dare say NEVER!
So, how can you find redemption in the “F” word when you can’t even acknowledge it?  When all you feel is shame?  When you are too busy denying it to take advantage of the opportunity to learn any lessons from it?  The answer is plain and simple…YOU CAN’T.
You can’t find redemption in what you do not acknowledge, cannot accept, and as a result will not grow from.  I know this for a fact.
Listen, failure seems to be a recurring theme in my life–not because I’m shady, shifty (at least not intentionally), or flighty (maybe a little bit), but because I have this tendency to underestimate a task and overestimate my resources to get it done.  There are so many cases in point on this front that I could share with you, but I’ll just draw your attention to these three for now…
1) Earlier this month I did a Self-Love 777 Challenge over 7 days, with 7 meditations, and 7 giveaways.  With all the back-end work that I had to do to make this happen I did not deliver the meditations on time, only posted 5 of the 7 promised videos, and was so distracted by the back end that I missed out on the front end of engaging with my fellow sojourners in the Facebook group.  I bit off more than I could chew…I FAILED!

2) Almost three years ago, I started working on the “I Am She” Project, and actually raised the funds to publish the book.  Between living abroad and moving 5 times in two years, I was distracted from completing the book which should have been published two years ago.  I could not cash the check that my mouth had written…I FAILED!

3) Back in March, I ambitiously started a 40 Day Lenten Blog, and I posted to my blog as planned for the first few weeks.  Then in the midst of an international move, a return to my native home after being away for 28 years, and the reinvention of myself for what’s next, I ran out of gas after 27 posts. I made a promise that I could not keep…I FAILED!
But the good news is that there is redemption in the “F” word, and I do not have to wear it as a badge of shame.   The redemption is in my own self-awareness about how I overextend myself in pursuit of my starry-eyed visions without considering divine timing.  The redemption is in my own self-acceptance of my humanity and my limited resources, which may mean that I have to ask for help.  God forbid!  The redemption is in my self-actualization that comes from choosing to learn the lessons so that I can get up and try yet again, but hopefully the next time with more wisdom, more resilience, and more coherence.
There is a wise saying that states, “the only thing that beats a failure is a try.”  Once you are able to look “Failure” in the eye–not as the enemy, but as your teacher, you can more fully invest your energy in trying again and again and again and…  That being said, here are my takeaway lessons for my three “Failures” above:
Self-Love 777 Challenge – Get the back end done in advance or delay your target start date, and run the challenge for a shorter period of time.  Doing 7 days may have been overkill.  Revise it, shorten it, test it, and run it again in a few months.
The “I Am She” Project – Get help pulling all the pieces together, find venues to share the spoken word experience, and publish the book in 2018.
40 Day Week Lenten Blog – Since I am STILL in the wilderness, and since a day in the sight of God is like a thousand years, maybe I just need to go ahead and update my 40 days to 40 weeks!   That being said, I’m 28 weeks in and you can consider this my 28th post!
There is redemption in the “F” word when you see it as your teacher and not your enemy.  So, whether life gives you lemons, or you have inadvertently planted lemon trees, you can still make lemonade!  Just make sure you sweeten it with self-awareness, self-acceptance, and the self-actualization that comes from learning from the lessons.