For the past couple of years, I’ve chosen a Word of the Year – one value which I wish to embody in my life. It’s always been one of my values, but there’s always one that stands out more than others. For 2022, that word is Mastery:
the mastery of self (self-awareness and the resulting self-control) as well as
knowing more (knowledge and understanding) and
putting that new learning into practice.
Because to know anything is to do things differently from before.
Life management is about being well adjusted. … being able to stand against the wind of disappointment. Time is not really the important element. It is what time represents that matters. Time management is not about a list of things in order of priority that must be completed… Time management is about life management.
Given that life is mostly about intangible things, does it not make sense to learn to control them – things such as thoughts, desires, anger, curiosity, ambition, motivation, sadness, hurt and sorrow? Althought we live in a tangible world, life itself occurs within our mind, spirit and soul.
Jonar C. Nader, How to Lose Friends & Infuriate People, a controversial book for thinkers.
For me, this is the essence of what I am reminded of when I read Proverbs – self-awareness and then the option for self-control.
The wisdom of Proverbs
One of the many things that I’ve had on my “I wish I had time to do” list is to deep dive back into Proverbs. Of all the books of the Bible, this is one of the two that most resonates with me. The other one is the book of James.
Proverbs has a special place in my heart because I remember my dad reading it to me every night before bed. Occasionally, we would talk about what a verse meant. But more often than not, it was just a reading of a chapter or a portion of a chapter.
I was left with many more questions than answers.
Of course, many times, we try to read Proverbs literally, and not all of it can be understood with a literal meaning.
My experience with Proverbs is that different ones “jump out at me” at different moments in life. Moreover, I’ve interpreted them differently, depending on what I’ve been learning at the time.
As with any proverbs, many of them take time to digest and understand.
The usefulness of Proverbs
In the very first chapter of Proverbs, there is a small introduction, although there is debate as to how much of the book of Proverbs this introduction applies to.
I find it irrelevant who the author of Proverbs was: I don’t read the book of Proverbs because of who wrote it.
Throughout my life, I’ve turned to Proverbs when I’m in turmoil. And these last three years have had their fair share of inner (and outer) turmoil.
Consider how other translations present the introduction to Proverbs:
These are the wise sayings of Solomon, David’s son, Israel’s king— Written down so we’ll know how to live well and right, to understand what life means and where it’s going; A manual for living, for learning what’s right and just and fair; To teach the inexperienced the ropes and give our young people a grasp on reality. There’s something here also for seasoned men and women, still a thing or two for the experienced to learn— Fresh wisdom to probe and penetrate, the rhymes and reasons of wise men and women.
1 The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel;
2 To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; 3 To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; 4 To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion. 5 A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels: 6 To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.
The place of Proverbs
Proverbs is one of the five books of Wisdom of the Bible, together with Job, Psalms, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon.
I find it interesting that two of these books are poetry and psalms, rather than writings of wisdom, per se. And yet, all five of the books offer unique perspectives on life and the experiences of life.
But, as you will have noticed from the introduction to Proverbs, it has lofty goals:
the discipline of wise thoughtfulness
astute common sense
a manual for living
to understand what life means
lead others to the truth
The road to wisdom
So, over the coming weeks and months, I intend to take a new journey through Proverbs and re-examine how it impacts my life. What new wisdom can I glean from these pages?
In the exercises for week 4 of the Artist’s Way (by Julia Cameron) one of the tasks is to write your own Artist’s Prayer.
AN ARTIST’S PRAYER
O Great Creator, We are gathered together in your name That we may be of greater service to you And to our fellows. We offer ourselves to you as instruments. We open ourselves to your creativity in our lives. We surrender to you our old ideas. We welcome your new and more expansive ideas. We trust that you will lead us. We trust that it is safe to follow you. We know you created us and that creativity Is your nature and our own. We ask you to unfold our lives According to your plan, not our low self-worth. Help us to believe that it is not too late And that we are not too small or too flawed To be healed— By you and through each other—and made whole. Help us to love one another, To nurture each other’s unfolding, To encourage each other’s growth, And understand each other’s fears. Help us to know that we are not alone, That we are loved and lovable. Help us to create as an act of worship to you.
Of course, we’re now in Week 8, and I haven’t done it yet.
So, perhaps it’s time to really look at how I wish to co-create with the Creator.
Great Creator and Spirit within, I rest easy knowing that my purpose is to share my learnings and that when I lean into you, I know enough. I acknowledge and accept that all my creative urges and yearnings are Divine, So today, I offer myself into the flow of your creative energy. I open myself to co-create with Divine Love, welcoming new ideas and new ways of connecting and working with old ideas. I am willing to let go of the need to know it all now before I get started. I trust that it is safe to explore my creative yearnings, trying new methods and ways. I dare to ask that you supply all my needs: emotional, mental, creative, health, and even financial. I am learning to trust and surrender. I am perfectly made and created; I am healthy and whole. Allow me to be a vessel for your Divine and Creative love to flow to others, accepting Divine Love to fill me and overflow. Let my creativity be my act of worship. And so it is.
I took a moment today to reread one of my posts from ten years ago: The Lord is my shepherd. It was a collection of thoughts about Psalm 23 and what it means to feel safe in the presence of God.
For these last ten years, I’ve come to understand that our English Bible translation uses “the Lord” as the standard translation wherever the original used YHWH. I’ve distanced myself from the idea of God being a man sitting Santa-like on his sky-throne.
Somehow distant and looking down on us all – rather than Spirit and in each and every one of us. Over these past 22 months, I realise that what has kept me going strong is the Divine presence of inner peace, abundance, and compassion, despite living in a time of turmoil.
So, today I want to share my thoughts on what it means to allow the Infinite to flow through us as Divine Wisdom, peace and love, taking thoughts and ideas from Psalm 23.
Divine Wisdom shepherds me
One of the things about sheep and shepherds is that the sheep get used to the shepherd because the shepherd lives with them twenty-four hours a day. They recognise the shepherd by the sound of their voice and the scent.
And so, as I learn to live in the presence of the Divine, I learn to listen to that still, small voice of Divine Wisdom. It’s often hushed, although occasionally, I get a brutal shake or prod!
Shepherding is about being led, surrendering to the path of Divine Will, rather than what my ego would have me do. And when I listen and surrender, I recognise that I have everything I need.
Everything I need: all the time I could possibly need to get things done, all the love and affection that my heart desires, and all the resources that I need at this moment.
In fact, when I sit with my God Box, which I made at the beginning of this year, I am in awe! All the worries and concerns that I put in my God Box were taken care of. All of them. Not a single one of those worries came to pass this year! I took all those things that were beyond my control and simply said, “you handle this for now, and when I’m ready, gently place it on my plate to take care of”.
Resting in the presence of the Divine
Most of us remember that the shepherd makes us lie down in green pastures; there’s a lushness to this imagery. In addition to having our fill – an all you can eat banquet – do you experience the softness and gentleness of lying down and resting?
How have you rested in 2021?
Are you resting gently and deeply, or do you stay up at night with worries?
To quote my previous post on Psalm 23:
“We have found both provender and peace, rest and refreshment, serenity and satisfaction.”
In addition to surrendering to rest and relaxation, we are offered our fill of living water – to be cleansed, refreshed and revitalised.
Can you allow the Infinite to flow through you?
My soul is restored and renewed
I wear myself out trying to do it all from my own strength and under my own steam. I forget – regularly – to allow Divine Presence to flow through me and empower me. But, as I let it, my soul and spirit are restored and renewed.
All I have to do is step away from staying business – holding and grasping desperately to doing it all myself.
When I’m doing it all alone, it’s empty and incomplete. My ego’s happy – for a while until it falls and fails. Then it throws a tantrum when I realise that I am not perfect and complete unless I am open to the presence of the Divine.
I am complete when I am One with Spirit. But when I allow myself to be guided by Divine Wisdom, I find myself facing anything and everything. The path takes me back to wholeness.
But it is a soft allowing and opening up. It is surrender and trusting, which I still find challenging.
How are you allowing the Divine Creator to complete you?
A time of turmoil in the world
Walking through the valley of the shadow of death
These two years have felt like a walk through the valley of the shadow of death. The foreboding of “it’s out there” could be terrifying, and yet I have discovered this fantastic, deep well within me of inner peace. One that genuinely has surpassed all my understanding.
I know, without a doubt, that we are walking through this valley. That means that there is a light at the end: there will be a moment when we are no longer under the shadow of death.
But I feel an intense peace and calm within me. I haven’t feared for myself or those I love in these two years of uncertainty. I have felt deeply protected and shielded despite all the turmoil.
Some of the changes have been harrowing – as an introvert with a slightly extroverted child, I cannot begin to explain the challenges of two years of home-schooling while working from home. And yet, this too shall pass.
And every time she says that these have been the best two years of her life, I am blown away. In my mind, I have focused on my shortcomings rather than how resilient we have both been!
We have been abundantly protected and shielded. We’ve grown and changed with the changing times.
And in so many ways, I have been miraculously comforted and found safety.
Making time for self-care
Despite the challenges of these times – the enemies that surround us – Divine Wisdom reminds me to take time out. To sit quietly and eat calmly. To enjoy the food before me.
These past two years have been about re-encountering a relationship with gratitude and pausing, especially around food. I’ve made more time cooking and sitting down to eat, with grace before meals, rather than eating on the run.
And what I’ve realised is that this has a very practical application in our digestive system: as we switch over from “fight & flight mode” to “rest and digest”. It’s a crucial physiological distinction. Divine Wisdom reminds me regularly: stop what you’re doing and just eat. It’s okay to take time for nourishing your body without multi-tasking.
I am also reminded that I have a purpose and calling – and that does not require multi-tasking either! It’s becoming more single-minded about “the one thing” and focusing my energy and attention on what I am called to be and do.
The more I follow this, I count my many blessings! My cup indeed does run over!
Guided by Divine Wisdom, with goodness & mercy watching my back
Who has your back?
We’re promised that both goodness and mercy will follow us wherever we go. Mercy sweeps along behind me, forgiving my mistakes and weaknesses, allowing me to forgive myself.
Can I let go of the guilt and shame that I’ve carried and allow it to be swept away by goodness and mercy?
The final part of Psalm 23 reminds us that we dwell forever with Divine Presence, finally reaching that place of complete Oneness with Spirit.
I belong. I am loved and cherished, with an everlasting love.
This is what it means for Divine Wisdom to be omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent.
Will you allow the Infinite to flow through you until you are One with Spirit?
Over recent weeks, in my healing journey, I have been examining my relationship with trust. It first came to my attention when I looked at my business decisions, especially mistakes that I have made over the past 20 years. But, in recent days, I noticed a pattern emerge.
The beauty of recognising patterns of behaviour is that it opens the door for change and transformation. What I’ve noticed is a swinging pendulum in my life between distrust and blind trust. This pattern has cost me thousands of dollars, as well as relationships and creating heartbreak.
It is in seeing my actions and omissions accurately that the doors open.
The truth sets us free.
Let me provide you with some concrete examples:
In my early business days, I hired a friend to run one of my companies. Because I was overwhelmed and swamped with the growth in business and hiring new staff, I failed to supervise her properly. She was struggling in getting everything done, and I wasn’t available to support her. I didn’t ask how things were going, instead choosing to focus exclusively on my own overwhelm. Unfortunately, while she was getting the client work done, she wasn’t invoicing the client for it! By the time I realised the mess in accounts receivable and payable, the client had accrued some $40,000.00 in services they hadn’t paid for. Thankfully, the client eventually paid all outstanding invoices. But it took years to get fully up to date, and I bore the financial brunt of being caught between suppliers and financing a client. When I’m overwhelmed, I shut down, dissociate from the present, and turn to blind trust.
In March 2009, I left on holiday for three weeks to New Zealand. I chose the dates based on the weather (end of summer) and flight costs (cheaper because summer holidays were over and it wasn’t yet Easter). I was overwhelmed and exhausted after restructuring staff following the 2008 markets crash. Unfortunately, March 31st is the end of tax season – which meant that my company tax returns were prepared and presented in my absence. The company accountant and external accountants included a refundable expense in “income”, an extra $54,000 in ghost income! As a result, my income tax bill that year was $27,000.00 when it should have been less than $9,000.00. But, you prepay taxes for the next year, based on the estimates of what you paid the previous year! So, not only was I hit with the current tax bill, but my estimated taxes for the next year were identical, giving me a tax credit for years to come. My blind trust created a substantial financial pinch.
I could provide you with many more examples in my professional life where I have distrusted, micro-managed and controlled every aspect of an employee’s performance, to those moments where I am overwhelmed and shut down, leading to no involvement or supervision at all.
Trust = firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something
Distrust = the feeling that someone or something cannot be relied upon.
Blind faith or blind trust: “unquestioning belief in something, even when it’s unreasonable or wrong”. I take it to mean “trust in spite of evidence to the contrary” or blindly ignoring evidence that perhaps they are undeserving of your complete trust.
How trauma informs our state of mind
Unfortunately, this pattern is not something I learned as an adult, and I’ve been using this pattern since early childhood. When I get overwhelmed, the easiest solution is to shut down and freeze, and this takes me into dissociation from the present moment and avoidance. In these cases, blind faith and trust in others become the only option, and I can’t trust myself.
Hypervigilance at the other end of the pendulum presents itself as distrust, micro-managing every situation as I attempt to control the outcome. Of course, this is exhausting, making me angry (an emotion that I was taught not to acknowledge as a child) and frustrated. To avoid anger, I would rebound into dissociation and shut down.
I never learned how to stay in the middle: in balance, calm and being alert. I struggle on so many levels with trust, and this shows up in my life on every level:
I could choose to sit in victimhood: “this is how I am, because of my childhood“. But I choose not to. I started to look at my patterns as generative learning – an opportunity to grow and change. And I share these learnings with you, because I want you to recognise that you have options and choices available to you.
As I have begun to experience inner peace, the wisdom of trust has become available.
The human experiences that break trust, building distrust
Years ago, I denied being traumatised at boarding school because I wasn’t regularly beaten and abused. Anger and speaking up would earn you a beating, being labelled a Jezebel, or having a rebellious spirit.
I avoided beatings by being “a good girl”, knowing when to shut my mouth and swallowing any anger I felt. The survival skills I learned were to shut down, dissociate, and walk away. Unfortunately, those skills are not very resourceful and helpful in my life anymore.
There are many moments that I wish I were rebellious, angry & unruly. How I wish I had been the wild child that baulked the system and stood up against injustices, daring to question unfair authority. Instead, I chose the safety and security of apathy, withdrawal and indifference. Unfortunately, as an adult, I still struggle with dealing with my anger, boundaries and injustice. As a lawyer, it’s easy to stand up for others. But I shrink instead of standing up for myself. I avoid confrontations of a personal nature, even when they would clear the air.
Through it all, I am entrenched in my independence. Of course, as I know now – hyper-independence is merely a symptom of trauma: unable to ask for help because I can’t trust others. Can I even trust myself?
Taught to obey Church leaders without question:
We had verses drummed into us, which in themselves were not wrong. But was the interpretation of these verses rightly applied?
Under no circumstances were we, children, to question those in authority because they were “appointed by God”. And if God wanted to remove them for wrongdoing, then it was merely our duty to “pray about it” rather than to do anything.
Even the hymns we sang reminded us that we were to “Trust and Obey” rather than stand up for ourselves or others. Helplessness was ingrained, and anything that was not as it “should be” was “God’s will”, and we were to endure it.
Biblical teachings: the human heart
But that wasn’t the only weapon in the arsenal of submission. In reading the below verses, repeatedly we heard: “The heart is deceitful above all things”. Divine Justice prevailing, to each according to their ways, patterns and actions received little mention. Instead, beatings were justified because our hearts were deceitful.
Those in power were above all of that.
How can I trust myself if I believe that my heart is deceitful? What relationship or trust can I build with others if they are devious and incurably sick in their hearts?
If you question what I am telling you, you lack faith. Instead, you should “pray about it” and “trust God” to solve this for you.
If the prevalent attitude about human nature is one of sin and depravity, then there is no trust.
Maureen Murdock, “The Heroine’s Journey”
Divide and conquer has worked for centuries, both within the church and politics, and it’s as quickly at work today as it always has been. Even today, we hear who to distrust and then expected to place blind trust in authority.
But blind faith means that you have no ownership of your spiritual path or will. It relieves you of responsibility, creating victimhood. And victims are powerless, easy to manipulate.
I am so grateful for learning a new way: what it means to have a healthy trust.
As much as I would like to say that my journey back to trust began with trusting Divine Presence in my life, that’s not the truth of my journey. My transformation started with an exploration of self-awareness for personal growth, and spiritual healing occurred after learning and personal development.
The first step back to trust was:
In noticing my patterns of distrust and blind trust, I could explore what healthy trust means. Emotional and spiritual healing have come together as I worked with forgiveness of myself and others.
My trust in the Divine grows as I let go of my need to micro-manage and control every tiny detail. And in living in the Spirit, I trust my insight and intuition to build relationships with others.
What does it mean to trust me, others and Divine Presence?
The elements of trust
Trust is not something we do from a place of apathy, withdrawal or dissociation. It is active and engaged: trust requires relaxed courage, curiosity, and calm presence.
According to Grant Soosalu & Marvin Oka, in their book mBraining, they identify the four elements of trust (learning to trust yourself):
Other authors and writers similarly identify the basic requirements of trust as:
These authors point towards the same essential characteristics and requirements of trust. As difficult as it is, I have tried to group these together in a simple explanation:
Is all about listening as well as sharing
As Covey says: “Seek first to understand, and then to be understood”
To build trust, it’s necessary to voice your wants, needs, desires and motives. It’s okay to have self-interest, but be open about what those interests are
“intimacy refers to your willingness to share appropriate information about the things that truly matter.”
Trust begins when we are open & transparent – even with ourselves
It is recognising my value and the value of others, leading to genuine empathy & understanding
Clear & heartfelt commitment to my personal wellbeing and the wellbeing of others
Only then can we build trusted relationships
Actions – Consistency & Character:
In order to build trust, there has to be congruence and alignment between what I say and do! This applies as much to promises I make to myself as what I promise others.
Predictable, reliable, & full of integrity
Loyalty, honour & duty
Respect and selfless service
Oriented to values and the vision – not just selfish interest
Clear set of principles, so you can be on the same wavelength
Can be counted upon
Ability – Competency & Credibility:
Mastery – skilled & knowledgeable
Has a domain of expertise and performs their functions well
Will speak up and give their point of view on the matter at hand from a point of knowledge
Stays current & up to date
Self-assured in their competence
Demonstrating progress towards goals
Emotional and spiritual healing: rebuilding trust
When I look back at boarding school and these four qualities of trust, I find those in authority sorely lacking. If they had known better, they would have done better. But they lacked communication skills; they were authoritarian rather than compassionate. When I look at their actions, looking for consistency and character, I find them predictable, but I couldn’t count on them. They were not always congruent in what they said and did, as the rules did not apply equally to all. Perhaps worst of all, they were not skilled and knowledgeable, although they believed themselves to be.
We were left with an expectation of blind faith and trust in authority because the essential elements of a healthy trust were missing.
I now recognise that I have a proactive role in building relationships: I listen to the desires of my heart and trust my gut. I stay engaged and curious, rather than withdrawing. Instead of seeing myself as helpless and needing to be rescued, I recognise that I must play a part in building my future.
True faith is an inner alignment with yourself and with God. It’s a balance of trusting the universe to provide and doing your part to co-create with the Creator.
Letting the Infinite flow in my life: rebuilding trust
The road back to faith, trust and hope is uneven and rocky. Sometimes, it’s the procession of three steps forward and two steps back as I fall into habitual patterns of blind trust or distrust.
I am learning to communicate and listen. As I consistently practise the presence of the Divine in my life, I hear the small, still voice of Spirit. It requires that I quiet my mind – that I sit in Silence and allow my heart to be still. It’s a daily practice in which my mastery builds up each day.
I have to choose to be open and transparent; it doesn’t happen naturally. There are times I want to shut down, and I have to make a conscious choice to be vulnerable and compassionate. When I commit to building relationships with myself, others, and the Divine, trusting relationships open up for me.
I sit in the Silence each morning to reconnect and refill my heart with the faithful love of Divine Presence, for I trust in Divine Love. Each morning I listen to how I should walk and allow my Spirit to submit fully to Spirit
Ps. 143: 8
My understanding of what it means to rely on the Divine entirely has changed: it is no longer helplessness. I am not frozen in fear, unable to think logically or approach life with curiosity. I’m not keeping myself safe by being emotionally disengaged or apathetic. Instead, I am choosing to be fully present and connected.
From this place, I still choose trust, faith and hope.
Place your trust in the Eternal; rely on the Divine completely; never depend upon your own ideas and inventions. Give the Great Creator the credit for everything you accomplish, trusting that Divine Love will smooth out and straighten the road that lies ahead.
Prov. 3: 5-6
Other posts your might find interesting on Blind Faith:
I recently saw an image posted on social media: “Worry is worshipping the problem”. And without a doubt, I believe that where attention goes, energy flows. I have to regularly stop myself and ask: “Where are you focussing your attention – on the problem or the solution?”
More than this, however, I bring myself back to the reminder that I live in the presence of the Divine. And if I claim to be practising Divine Presence in my life, how is it expressed when faced with problems or challenges?
Am I keeping my attention and focus on the Great Creator, allowing creative solutions to flow to me?
When my mind is focused and stayed on the Divine, perfect peace holds me. I trust in both the process and the outcome.
The effects of worry
When we stay worried – in a stressed state – this impacts us on several levels. One of the primary organs hit by stress and worry is your heart, including your arteries and blood vessels. Consequently, your heart beats faster and harder, resulting in inflamed arterial walls. This inflammation impacts your health:
hardening of the arteries
unhealthy cholesterol levels
high blood pressure
Even in the Bible, we read:
Anxiety weighs down the heart
So then, banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body
Other impacts of anxiety:
When we are anxious and worrying, it’s more than just our heart that gets hit. Blood sugar levels also rise, with the need for more energy caused by adrenaline and then cortisol. We don’t burn off this extra energy; we have passive worry and anxiety. So, those high blood sugar levels, intended to help us escape danger, stay in the body without being burned up for energy.
Our worry also impacts our immune system, weakening it. Our bodies struggle to defend against illness and disease. Additionally, we contend with gut and digestive issues. That knot in your stomach becomes an ulcer or indigestion. Your worries might even impact bowel motility.
We hold this worry and anxiety in our bodies, as well as impacting the central nervous system. To cope, we create:
eating disorders – not eating or over-eating;
bad habits & addictions, and
insomnia and disturbed sleep patterns.
Worry also impacts our relationships, job performance and the ability to make decisions.
Despite knowing all this: we continue to worry and focus on the problem, not the solutions.
The problem with staying anxious & worried:
Anxiety is a state of distraction and prolonged suffering. Our worrying creates a physical and emotional response, in the present moment, regarding a future possibility. It is not an inevitable future outcome but uncertain. You are trying to predict the future and possibly are catastrophising. It may not turn out as you create it in your imagination. And it is indeed not happening right now.
Worry stems from fear. Typically, this is our fear of not being enough or having enough talent, resources, or abilities to face life’s challenges.
This anxiety creates less focus, where you can no longer concentrate on the task at hand. You might become irritable and easily thrown off balance. It’s easy to become disengaged, showing up either as fight and flight or being withdrawn.
Worry reduces your ability to weed out distractions, making it easy to fall into:
a train of worrying thoughts
meaningless tasks & chores that could wait
All of this comes together to impair decision-making.
Unfortunately, part of your brain got unplugged and disengaged by worry! Worry and anxiety lead you towards what might seem (from a limited perspective) the safest choice. But the safest option is not always the best solution.
Good decision-making requires flexibility in your thinking and looking at the problem and solutions from various perspectives. Do you have the ability to look above and beyond the present moment and conditions?
Weigh up the consequences
Plan for the future
Use logical processing
Another challenge when you are worried is that you might not talk about your fears. It’s more than asking for Divine help and guidance. Sometimes you need to talk to people. Perhaps you ask the Divine to get the right people to show up for you.
Finally, when we are worried and overwhelmed, we respond in two opposing ways:
We consider too few options and become fixated.
We overthink all the available options under the sun, a scattered mind that is unable to focus. Because there are too many options, we get overwhelmed.
In both cases, we procrastinate. Then, as we run out of time, we pick the first solution because we want to escape the overwhelming feelings. Of course, if we had proactively studied the options earlier, a different outcome would emerge.
Where are you focused when times are hard?
The Divine invites us to trust: to set a divine intention and then hold that intention as being true. Perhaps the intention is as simple as:
I am capable of making good decisions, guided by Spirit.
We challenge the worry and anxiety and get present in this moment – here and now. Right now, I am safe and secure.
The purpose of doing this is to focus our energy and attention on the direction we should go. Worry tricks us into avoiding what we don’t want: any direction is a good direction, as long as it takes me away from ____. A good decision, on the other hand, takes us in the bearing we want to go. We have a purpose, and we turn towards our goal.
Watch your heart with all diligence: from your heart flows the spring of life.
It’s easy to get caught up worrying about all the things that are beyond our control. But it is when we focus our attention on what we can control that we get anything done.
Things I can control:
my choice to get organised
where to spend and invest my time and energy
how I respond to the challenge before me
how I communicate with others
whether or not I choose to share with others and ask for help
You control whether or not you make a plan, getting specific about which steps to take in the coming days. You put time and energy into this and what you can do and who you can talk to.
Alternatively, sometimes the best choice is to take a break:
The God Box
Everything else – beyond your control – where do you put that?
I put those things in my “God Box”. The God Box is a little cardboard box, hand painted and decorated on the shelf above my desk. All my worries get written on a bit of paper, folded up, and placed in the box.
I place those worries out of sight and mind. At the end of the year, as part of my end of year routine, I’ll paint a new one for 2022 with little miss and we’ll burn the 2021 box and say farewell to the worries we put away.
The power of holding an intention with faith
As a child, my prayers to God were much like asking Santa Claus at Christmas. There was wishing as well as negotiation. As an adult, however, I believe in personal responsibility and accountability for an outcome. And yet, I believe in miracles.
I believe in “be anxious for nothing”. And so, in every situation, I hold an intention and gratitude in my heart. I present every request for my highest good to the Divine Creator. And as a result, my heart is flooded with a peace that I cannot begin to comprehend.
It’s more than a helpless prayer.
It is a proactive prayer, one in which I believe that what I have asked for will come to pass, and therefore it is safe to take steps forward on that path!
Believe that you have received it and it will be yours!
But it is asking with single-mindedness, without a shadow of a doubt. Can you believe that Divine Love cradles you? Are you confident that when you hold an intention for the highest good and possible outcome – daring to pour your time and energy into achieving this – it will come to pass?
It’s more than just faith: aligned action.
They say that if you want to walk on water, you’ve got to start by hopping out of the boat! While that might take the example to an extreme, for me, that is the definition of faith and believing: your actions fully align with what you profess to believe.
My biggest mistakes have been made in blind faith: the faith of sitting waiting without any corresponding action.
My definition of blind faith: I expect a perfect crop without having planted any seeds, watered or weeded. Unless I have grounds to believe that someone else actually planted, watered and weeded, that’s merely blindness. It’s not faith.
Faith is stepping out and putting my plan into effect.
Faith believes that the Divine accompanies me on every step of my path. It allows me to trust that I can listen to the still, small voice of Spirit, make a plan, and then take action.
Keeping the faith that what you’ve planted will grow
Sometimes, faith shows up in patience. Trust is waiting for results without growing anxious. It is confidence in the results that I hope for, resting in the assurance of what I cannot yet see.
Having faith means I am filled with joy and peace as I sit trusting in the Divine. It is overflowing with hope, knowing that the power of Spirit fuels me.
My attention, time, and energy focus on doing what I can. I let go of all aspects beyond my control. I focus on the peace that passes understanding because I place my attention on Divine Love.
Wisdom comes when we apply creative compassion to creative action. In fact:
Generative wisdom is far more than just having wise insights from your life experiences.
Soosalu & Oka, “mBraining”
It is not an end state of being wise, but rather an ongoing process, one that continually transforms who you are.
I cannot stress this enough: wisdom must be embodied in pragmatic action. The same way that we show our faith by our works and deeds, we embody our wisdom in action and the decisions that we make each and every day.
Most of us that were brought up in churches can easily recite that to love God is to love our neighbour and to love our brother, no matter who they might be. We are likewise challenged to bless those who curse us.
It’s easy to be at peace and in harmony with God and others when you are sitting quietly, meditating and in prayer. But true wisdom is being able to hold that same inner peace in the midst of the unrest of every day triggers and people who would typically anger us or make us feel fearful.
I’ll show you my faith by my works is not simply about doing good deeds: but rather it is living that life of faith and Divine Wisdom in all moments of challenge.
The process of acquiring true wisdom is not one of studying and memorisation (although that is no doubt where it begins): it is in changing our responses and choosing a new way of acting and reacting in the world.
The beginning of wisdom
This journey for me, into transformation and change, began with the search to understand “the fear of the Lord”. As a child, I had it hammered into me that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
Unfortunately, my understanding of “fear of the Lord” was heavily tainted by my understanding of the word “fear”. And my understanding of “the Lord” was much influenced by the descriptions of a terrible God sitting on a throne “in heaven” surrounded by “a host of angels” that were ready to send anyone and everyone to hell.
It was much more of a Machiavellian description of “tis better to be feared than loved”, than an understanding of awe, presence and communion. I certainly viewed God as being dangerous and painful. While I was perfectly capable of saying “God loves you”, it had quite the “domestic violence kind of love” written all over it. Unfortunately, I experienced a traumatic view of authority, which clouded and overwrote my views on God.
It has been hard for me to change and learn a new definition of Divine Love. One of the many reasons that you will find me referring more to “Divine” and “Source” rather than “God” and “the Lord” in this blog is that I am aware that I am not the only one that still has wounds to heal. I am perfectly clear in my mind that these are man-made wounds, by men (and women) who purported to be godly and “loving”. And horridly, wretchedly human.
It is so much easier to say “God did this” than to take the time to separate the humanity of (mostly) well-intentioned, badly misguided men and women, and simply turn your back on the Divine.
Finding my way back to accepting Divine Love and living in that Presence has been a challenge: one in which I have had to be open and vulnerable to healing and change over these past ten years.
Forgiveness and learning to love and accept myself have been difficult lessons to live by.
A peace that passes understanding
And yet, in 2020, I had a year in which to come to grips with “how far I’ve come”. You might notice that there has been a hiatus in posting (for months on end).
Part of this was overwhelm with all that was happening in the world. Another part was being drawn into the shadows of “This is where you need to shine more light in your life and allow healing to take place. This is what you are holding onto and it’s time to let go of.”
The beauty of 2020, for me, was that I discovered that somehow, over the last decade, I had discovered “a peace that passes all understanding”. Accidentally tripped over it in the midst of chaos.
While I contemplated questions like:
What is truly important?
How does the way I am living my life reflect my values?
What do I trust in and where is my faith place?
I discovered that I had come to a deeper understanding of the simplicity of Source versus channel.
The Source of abundance, health and well-being is the Divine. The channels through which I may receive abundance can be a job, independent contracting or even gifts.
When I found my channels placed in jeopardy by the chaos of 2020, I suddenly discovered the my faith and trust had moved. I was no longer trusting in myself and my ability to create income: I had an inner peace I had never experienced before of “my Source” will provide a new channel.
Likewise, I’ve had to face thoughts and challenges regarding my attitudes towards health and wellness. I live from a place of responsibility: I am 100% responsible for my health and wellness and taking care of myself.
Nonetheless, the question arose: but where am I putting my faith?
Is my faith limited to what I can control and what I am able to do for myself? Or is it in something bigger than me? Can I trust in my Creator that I am wonderfully made and that all my cells and organs respond and vibrate to a Divine vibration of health and wellness?
Letting go: moving with inspiration
For most of us, 2020 gave us the challenge and opportunity to let go of life as we knew it (and planned it), and to turn our trust into Divine purpose and process.
Most of can quote many a verse that reminds us that everything that is happening is for us. But what does wisdom really look and feel like in the face of uncertainty?
In part, we have to be willing to let go of what was in order to step into what could be. This requires changes at so many levels:
from the heart: starting with love and compassion for ourselves and for others around us;
in our heads: minding our thoughts, especially the doubts, awfulisations and catastrofising that we do;
and in our guts: being willing to gently release the tight grip we have on our identity “this is who I am” and grow into a new creation.
On a spiritual level, it requires that we be reminded that we are souls having a human experience. Our spirits are searching for Oneness with the Divine – living constantly in that Divine Presence, rather than separated from. And yet the human experience teaches us that we are individual and separate from each other and from God. We are constantly trying to get back to God.
Divine Love, especially in moments like these, invites us to get in touch with God’s plan and purpose in our lives. Each one of us has been given unique talents and gifts that are not shared by others.
Likewise, most of us have passed through levels of preparation. What life lessons have you learned that have moulded you into the person you are today?
Creative compassion invites us to have a look at everything we have to offer, as well as our heart’s desires, and ask:
This might include questions or thoughts of the following nature:
What might it be like to live in alignment with Divine Will?
How can I use all the gifts, talents and experiences I have been given to serve others?
Who am I drawn to serving?
Many of us, don’t have immediate clarity. Some, of course, get called similar to what we’ve read in the Bible:
Jonah – told exactly who to go to and what to say to them;
Jeremiah – given visions and messages
Peter – called by Jesus to leave his nets
Some of us might end up with an experience like Esther, put in a position where we only discover it’s purpose when there is a crisis “I was put here for such a time as this”. Others might experience hardship like Joseph, only to be called “when it’s time”.
Most of us, on the other hand, have nothing quite so concise. Life is much more mundane and subtle.
Are we listening for those callings?
Perhaps, like the Good Samaritan, we are simply called to go about our business and just help others anonymously when they are put in our path.
The only questions we have to ask ourselves is: am I living this life from a place of compassion for myself & others? Do I allow Divine Love to flow through me as a conduit and channel for others?
Sometimes the calling is simply to follow a new line of study or preparation, without knowing the end purpose. Can you trust the Divine to take that step without being able to see the full path ahead?
It takes courage to act when called:
As James said, it is not simply about hearing “the Word” or memorising it. It’s no good to spout it out to others or recite it.
The true change happens when we allow it to change our heart: to give up our heart of stone and allow it to be replace with a heart of flesh. A hear that is vulnerable, open, soft and gentle.
When this happens, we learn to think in new ways. And as we begin to think in new ways, we learn to talk differently. We see through new eyes, with compassion and empathy.
It takes courage to allow Divine Love to change and transform our lives. In many cases, this means letting go of any hatred or fear that we have been harbouring. To start to let go of fear, we have to acknowledge and accept that we are afraid.
When I’m honest with myself: fear is usually about situations beyond my control. Like most of the things that happened in 2020. Letting go of that fear requires that I learn “fear of the Lord” in a new way: trust in the invisible.
And only now am I discovering that level of courage to have faith. I haven’t figured out my “calling”, but for now, I’m willing just to take the one next step that is clear on the path ahead and trust that the rest will be revealed when I’m ready.
The fear of I AM THAT I AM is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge of the Divine One is understanding. For through wisdom your days will be many, and years will be added to your life.
Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.
5 Trust in I AM THAT I AM with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. 6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.
Proverbs 3: 5-6
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
So get rid of your feelings of hatred. Don’t just pretend to be good! Be done with dishonesty and jealousy and talking about others behind their backs.
In this first letter from Paul to the Corinthians, he reminds them that not only is he designated by the will of God, but rather that all of them are also called.
Leaving aside my personal bones to pick with Paul, I cannot ignore the deep learnings that are available to us from reading this passage. Each of us, even today, has a calling. These verses remind us that we are up to this task – the task of fulfilling our purpose – because the Divine enriches every aspect of our lives.
I want to explore:
What we are invited into?
Consider the tools and gifts we are each given to fulfil our life mission.
Your Divine purpose
Every tree, every blade of grass, each bird fulfils a purpose on this planet. When we take the time to simply sit and notice, we see how each living being on earth, whether plant, animal or human, fits into the bigger scheme of life.
Nonetheless, we also see a lot of confusion – internally and in society – about our purpose and callings. Many of us are merely “staying alive” and struggling to survive.
Growing up in a very evangelical church, I was brought up to believe that my purpose would be “a cross to carry”. I was terrified of discovering my purpose, hoping it would not be a calling to go to Africa as a missionary. In churches, we talk about “knowing the will of God in your life”, but most of the time it’s put on us as “you’re called into missions” or “you’re called to preach the word of God”.
But if we take a look at most of the “heroes” of the Bible, we find that they were ordinary people with ordinary jobs. They simply happened to be in the right place at the right time. And when they were asked to step into doing something “big”, their lives had already prepared them for this.
Consider Deborah, for example. While she was considered a prophet, she was busy doing her day-to-day responsibilities of being the local “judge”. I’m pretty sure that she didn’t see her job, most days, as anything out of the ordinary. Especially if you watch any episodes of traffic courts or have ever spent a couple of hours in your local magistrate’s court, you will see the everyday complaints that people bring. There was nothing remarkable about her calling — until there was.
Knowing your Divine purpose starts with recognising that we were already given the necessary gifts to fulfil our mission. Paul reminds the Corinthians of this:
“you are not ill-equipped or slighted on any necessary gifts”.
If you are unsure what your purpose and mission are, a great place to start is looking at your talents and natural gifts and abilities. You have everything you need to fulfil your purpose in life. Because a bird has wings, it flies (or if it’s a chicken, it tries to).
I doubt cherry trees complain to each other that they wish they were able to produce oranges, and yet we waste so much of our time lamenting the gifts and talents that we don’t have.
Today I want to invite you to do an inventory of your natural gifts and talents, and consider your calling and purpose in this light.
Set apart for service
Think for a moment of when you are arranging a table for dinner: you go to the cupboard, and you pick up the plates. If there are four of you for dinner, you don’t choose six plates, but only four. You set them aside for service: the ones that you need when you need them. The rest of the dishes sit in the cupboard, waiting to be shown when they will be required.
Know this: you have been set aside for service. Perhaps you feel like you are sitting in the cupboard – always on the shelf rather than in the game. I wonder if Deborah thought that she was on the shelf as she worked through listening to all the petty complaints that were brought before her.
But Paul reminds us that our purpose will be revealed.
There are two other callings, apart from our life purpose. We are called to be saints, and we are called into community.
Called to be saints
While Deborah might have been “a saint”, the first description of Deborah was that she was the wife of Lapidoth. I wonder if Lapidoth considered her to be “a saint”; probably not in the way that you and I imagine the word to mean.
So, today I invite you to rewrite your definition of what it means to be a saint!
The calling to be saints is about how we live our day-to-day lives. If I had to sum it up in one word, I would say it’s compassion:
Love for the Divine, with a constant connection that we are overflowing with love and compassion
Love for our neighbour as ourself
Compassion allows us to be kind and patient. It will enable us to live with love in our lives, as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13:
not envious, proud or boastful
not self-seeking or dishonouring others
it keeps no record of wrongs and is not easily angered
We are all called to live in this place of being fulling aligned with Divine Love. What is your personal definition of what it means to live as a saint? Make it realistic for you, rather than something so out of reach that you could not aspire to live each day in sainthood!
Called into community
You are also called into community: that we cannot live in isolation. Take a moment and consider what your community looks like:
hobbies and activities that you participate in
volunteering & community activities
your neighbourhood where you live
your spiritual community
What does your community look like?
God is enriching every aspect of your life
You are promised that nothing is lacking because you have all the gifts that you need. Paul describes this as
God is enriching every aspect of your lives.
He then goes on to explain what he means by this.
You are enriched in speech
This means, when you are in touch with the Divine and that deep inner knowing, you will have the right words to say. Enriched in speech is knowing what to say and when to say nothing.
Most of us want to think about what to say. We make up scenarios and speeches in our head, failing to listen to the still small voice of Spirit.
Consider silence and just going within to listen, confident that you are enriched in speech.
You are enriched in knowledge
Everything you need to know, you will know. Can you trust this?
My first “real job” at sixteen was working as a cashier at McDonald’s: “Would you like fries with that?”. Later in life, I have come to cherish what I learned from “would you like fries with that?” – because it is a lesson in upselling. McDonald’s sells millions of fries every year because of this simple phrase. The client is already there, and they have their wallet in their hand, ready to buy something. The cashier doesn’t know what the client wants, and often the result of the question is “no, but I will have…”. While they didn’t sell the fries, they got an additional sale from the client.
This mundane, everyday job taught me a skill that has served me well over the past thirty years. Am I always open to adding more value to someone else’s life?
You, too, are enriched with knowledge. You have life experiences, abilities and life lessons that you possibly haven’t tapped into. You might not be aware of everything you know.
But trust that you know everything that you need to know when you need it. You are enriched with knowledge.
Enriched with God’s grace, peace & faithfulness
Today I want to remind you that you are enriched with grace, peace and faithfulness. I don’t mean that you show others mercy, but instead that you accept grace, be open to a peace that transcends your understanding, and that you experience Divine faithfulness towards you.
“Grace is love that cares and stoops and rescues.”(John Stott)
It is said that the grace of God is the opposite of karma – it’s receiving the good that you do not deserve because you are a child of God. You are loved and cherished. In my life, I can see where I have blocked grace, continuing to believe that I deserve punishment and the consequences of my decisions and actions. Nonetheless, we are enriched with grace. Are you willing to accept more grace?
We are also enriched with peace: that peace that while we are waiting, we will be sustained emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. It’s the peace that we hold within us, even in the middle of the storm. This inner peace does not depend on what is happening in our environment. While we are aware of the situation and in touch with it – we are present – but we also connect with the Divine. It is that Divine that allows us to say
I am not overcome by the storm, because I am one with the storm.
Sometimes storms clear our path. Can you recognise this inner peace which sustains you while you wait?
Finally, the Divine is faithful, constant and true. When I say we are enriched with faithfulness, I am not referring to your faith in God, but rather how the Divine relates to you! It doesn’t matter how small your faith is, but rather that we know that Divine Love is faithful. We can trust that all things are working for our good and that we are enriched with all good things.
Our response to this is one of gratitude and thanksgiving.
If you are struggling to discover your purpose, consider a daily practice of gratitude, where you each day you focus your attention and thanksgiving on your talents, gifts, strengths and abilities. Start to notice the patterns and what you genuinely enjoy. Be grateful for the desires of your heart and the wisdom and insight that you gain from being present.
Take note of the times when you receive grace: when in spite of the natural consequences of your choices and decisions, you get a second chance! Practice thanksgiving for all those opportunities.
Start to notice when you are filled with peace, in spite of the situations and challenges you are facing. Be grateful for those moments.
Notice the presence of the Divine in your life in each moment of the day. Sit in silence and be thankful.
One of the reasons that I think Christians get such a bad rap, is that we only ever talk about our struggles behind closed doors – if we admit them at all! Perhaps if we admitted our struggles to those outside of Churches – especially the struggles with ego and learning to truly love, we would find that others were more accepting when we tried to share our journey with them!
But, if your upbringing in the church was anything like mine – God forbid that we admit to others that we have doubts about faith, God and “salvation”. You parrot off that you are sharing God’s love with the world, as you Bible-bash them into salvation.
A few months ago, I heard Dave Gieselman (on a Facebook Live) speaking about “faith in or access to” God/Source/Creator. It impacted me enough to make a note to myself – what do I believe? Do I have faith in? Or do I have “access to”?
A few weeks ago, Kain Ramsay – a coach and trainer that I follow online – asked this question:
What do you think might happen if everyone in the world stopped defining themselves by their vocational roles, how they feel, what they believe or their personal preferences? Also, if pursuing happiness was no longer an option, what might many people devote their lives to instead (and how might this be even better than happiness)? Let’s get this week off to a reflective start…