Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Faith of Abraham

Two roads diverged in a wood
And I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference.

-Robert Frost

Abraham is a Biblical character whose story is well known as a person who was called by God in a way that most of us would have a hard time following. When asked by God to sacrifice his son, Abraham followed and was willing to move forward in a way that most of us would find unimaginable. For most of my life, I thought that was a terrible thing for God to ask, and I questioned the validity or purpose of the story, not understanding why a loving God had ever asked that to begin with, and further, how Abraham could have ever followed. I finally think I understand the faith of Abraham.

I believe that God knew that Abraham had an enormous task ahead of him and would need extreme faith in order to move forward, in order to continue without turning back. The request to sacrifice his son was more of a test than a command. God was allowing Abraham an opportunity to gauge his faith, not so much a test in terms of passing or failing, but a way to measure where he stood in that moment and if he was ready to move forward on his path. I think that we are often asked to do things (or we ask for our miracles), then we are given opportunities to follow in faith...the more faith we show, the more ready we are for our purpose, or to continue on our true path. It is so much easier to just follow society's norms by doing the paint-by-number faith that most of us never step out of that comfort zone to make any choices that require real sacrifice.

It is easy to speak of faith in ordinary ways, but what if God asked you to move in a way that seemed insane to others? If the message was loud and clear enough to make you sure that it was Divine, would you act, or would you deny any act that was outside of the lines? Do you actively ask for opportunities for true service, or are you satisfied with the usual and customary ways of serving - those deeds that allow you to color inside the lines and not upset your life? It is hardly faith or service if you are not challenged, it is merely punching the clock or marking off items on a checklist.

We have become a society that has little tolerance for anything. We attack those who don't believe or behave exactly as we do, all the while smiling and congratulating ourselves for being open-minded. Unfortunately, many in our Christian-based society do it in the name of Jesus, which is ridiculous since he actually taught just the opposite...love and acceptance. I have friends who have recently had experiences with God and Holy Spirit that were very real and incredibly powerful, moving them to tears of joy, but because those experiences varied slightly from the comfortable and controlled doctrine of their church, the events were diminished as not real, or something to be avoided. Some were even attacked for daring to think that it might be God working. Ministers often think that they can decide for us what God should be, but we should not allow them that power.

I will tell you that in my experience working with people on their spiritual experiences or guiding them to finding their own place and their own joy, I have often been witness to profound and magnificent moments in which their lives or perception changed greatly, where they experienced joy and peace in a way that they had never known. One thing that I can say with conviction is that if you sincerely ask God, angels, or the power of the universe to enter your life and guide you, it will occur. The challenge is being willing to listen when it happens, being willing to follow, even when it may seem unusual or against the tide. We tend to like to listen to the things that aren't really challenges, but just more of the same common path.

There is a saying that is often uttered from church pulpits that "God works in mysterious ways," yet I have to laugh at how quickly these same leaders will run from that sentiment when it doesn't fit into their restrained and controlled doctrine, when God works in such a way that it may lead one of their sheep in a different direction than the church desires, or different path than a minister can see. The most important thing that you can do to change your life is to ask for it, then step back and be open to the process, having faith that there may be a bigger picture than you, or other humans, can see in the moment. Serious faith is not just following the easy or the well-traveled path, but being willing to follow a less traveled path and forge a way for others to follow and explore if they so desire.

So how does your faith measure up? Do you take the easy path that has been worn clear by common actions, or do you venture to be the one who will take the road less traveled...the path that may make all the difference...the path that may make your service extraordinary rather than ordinary? I will be honest and say that I sometimes hesitate when asked to take the less traveled road, to blaze a trail that others can follow on. It is scary and without many comfort zones. I try to stay positive and remind myself that each time one of us takes a new path, it opens it up for others, but it is still not always easy. I know that many people are now being called, like Abraham, to live up to their purpose for being here. I hope that one by one we can have the strength to step up and make those changes, empowering each other along the way. And I pray that those of us who cannot meet that challenge will at least be supportive to those who try to do so.

I encourage you to start 2009 with an adventurous and open mind that will allow you the courage to ask for more, and the compassion to refrain from attacking those who venture outside the lines. Perhaps they are simply clearing the path to a brighter future for all.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Embracing Simplicity in a Season of Excess

The holiday season brings on a time that, in our culture, has come to be filled with excess....excess of food, excess of gifts, the need to decorate in such a way that it impresses, the need to have the picture postcard life, or at least the appearance of it. Celebrating abundance is a wonderful exercise, when we are in a place to really understand what abundance truly is. Often, to feel abundance in our souls, we must have loss and emptiness to allow a greater blessing to be showered upon us...very often, a blessing that we could never see in the fog of illusions that we pile upon ourselves.

This past year has been a time of sorting out for me...walking away from comfort zones, from some material possessions, and from much that is familiar to me in such a way that I could be emptied and filled with something greater. The willingness to lose, risk, or walk away was an attempt at demonstrating faith, as it it came to me in no less than a calling that was far greater than myself. There have been moments along the way when I have had to surrender, to verbally tell God and the angels to lead the way to help me fulfill my purpose, affirming that I would follow in surrender, even when I was apprehensive about what might be asked. It has not been easy, yet each step told me that I was on the right path, no matter how hard it was.

The latest such surrender came with the passing of my beloved yellow Labrador retriever, Katie, who developed sudden massive tumors that caused a quick demise. Katie was 14, so I knew it was coming at some point, but putting her down two days before Thanksgiving was not an easy task. It left me empty to the extent that I have just today been able to write about it, and I do so with tears streaming down my face. There have been moments when I feel that I have surrendered too much in this last year or so, in this quest to follow odd curiousities, to take on topics that I would rather not take on, to develop gifts that I had not asked for but felt compelled to develop. I have felt resistance in some form from many of those around me. Yet, in the surrender has come so much joy and a sense of knowing that tells me that the efforts are worth the difficulties.

Jesus talked about surrender when he suggested that giving away all that we have to the poor would make us richer in our souls. Yet we have turned his birth into a time of excess and materialism to such an extent that it is sometimes nauseating. I do not count myself out of that mix, as I know that I have wandered through many Christmas seasons more concerned about getting the decorations up and the gifts purchased than about stopping to understand his real message. Jesus taught that surrender - not to him, but like him - was the true way to abundance and joy - the true way to our soul - and our only path the our Higher Self and to God. Even churches use this celebrated time of Jesus birth for their own agenda, rather than portraying his true message that our path to God (or the universal energy of pure love) is already within us as individuals, if we just go within, surrender, and allow it. It does not require joining anything, does not require following a subscribed set of rules or agenda, does not require any more of us than the willingness to let go of all we know or all that we have been taught and ask for God or Holy Spirit to fill us with truth - to connect us to our true selves and our true purpose.

There is a saying that nature abhors a vacuum. Surrender creates the emptiness - the vacuum - which allows the miracles, the flow of abundance, and the joy to fill our souls. It is not for those who have little true faith, but it is there for any of us willing to look deeper, willing to understand that there may be far more in store for us than our simple minds have been trained to expect. Many times we speak of faith but then are reluctant to ever demonstrate it in any meaningful way. In the spirit of the season, step back and examine your own excesses and just how much you would be willing to surrender to be filled with the ultimate power of the Universe - to be filled with God energy. Make an attempt to live in true faith as Jesus did, and perhaps you will find miracles beyond your greatest imagination.