In the musical Wicked, Elphaba, the “wicked” witch sings a song called “Defying Gravity.” In it she sings a wonderful line: “Unlimited, . . . My future is unlimited!” Later in the play she sings that line again, but instead of singing “unlimited,” having experienced some hard knocks, she sings “I’m limited.” However, despite the fact that she is feeling limited at that moment, she holds fast to her original vision of being “unlimited” and life is transformed for her.
How often we get bogged down with thoughts and feelings of our limitations. Instead of keeping our focus on our dreams and visions, we so often focus on the day to day things that we all must do to live in “reality.”
Does living in “reality” preclude us from feeling unlimited and keeping our focus there?
It is those who have not allowed themselves to be bogged down, or held down by the way things are that have been the movers and shakers in our world. It is those who have constantly stretched the limits imposed by “reality” who have created new spiritualities, new cures, new technologies and new ways of being. Where would we be without such unlimited thinkers?
I was reading Wayne Dyer’s new book Excuses Be Gone. In chapter 4 he reminds us that we are unlimited. “Know that you are a soul with a body rather than the reverse” (p.75). That is, our souls are from eternity and are eternal – where there are no limitations. Remember this! If I could be or do anything I would want, without any current limitations imposed on me – what would it be? Ask yourself this question. And when you get the answer, this is what we need to keep before our eyes – not the limitations of “reality!”
Acts 6: 8-15
“We’ve heard that Jesus will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses handed on to us.”
These people felt threatened! They didn’t want the system to change. When we feel threatened, when life begins to shift for whatever reason we will go to any length to keep things the way they are. The folks in Jesus’ day resorted to murder – Jesus’ murder and that of many of his followers. We have a tendency to want to silence the prophets even in our own day.
We don’t like change. But we have a choice. In some situations, we don’t have to change. Someone may be forcing a change on us against our will that is unhealthy. In such a situation we have the perfect right to refuse to change. However, many situations of change might be good for us and those we love – but we go kicking and screaming! In such situations, can I see change as an opportunity instead of a dark, negative place?
A few years ago I broke up with my boyfriend. I loved him very much and I went kicking and screaming into this breakup. I didn’t want it. However, as my Momma used to say: “hindsight is 20/20!” Looking back, that break up was needed. That very difficult change in my life threw me into a tailspin – yet opened doors and places within me that were closed while I was with him. Something seemingly negative became the doorway to new life.
Are you in the midst of a change in your life? Can we see the silver lining in the cloud and the positive things that just might unfold as a result of it?
“No prophet gains acceptance in his native place.” (See Luke 4: 24)
Ain’t it true?
I know of a minister who voluntarily left a large church at which he served as Pastor for a number of years. He no longer could agree with the teachings of his church, especially regarding women, gay people, divorce and re-marriage and, in his case, mandatory celibacy as a requirement for ministry. He no longer could agree with official teaching on who was acceptable at the table and who was not, who was acceptable as a minister and who was not, who could get married and who could not, who could adopt and who could not. He left, and hearing the call of a number of people to continue his ministry, he started his own church. It is a small, fledgling church in a humble chapel, but one can calmly feel the presence of Spirit in that gathering of people. Unfortunately, this very minister, whose compassion and genuine interest in people is palatable, and whose desire is to someday be a good husband and father – in addition to being a minister – is being called a “sinner” and people are being warned of his “grave error.”
Prophets are indeed not accepted in their own place. I pray for this man and admire his courage in the face of religious officials who now shun him.
OK, let’s bring it home. It’s easy for me to admire someone who stands in agreement with my opinions. But let’s take someone in my life who has had the courage to lovingly, but firmly, challenge me to get back on the path and deal with an issue in my life. My first reaction usually isn’t that good. Those of you who have a partner (friend or other family member) know that sometimes your partner can challenge you – hopefully in love. And oftentimes our first reaction isn’t so loving in return. BUT, if we sit back and take the time to reflect on what they are saying – we just might find that instead of being rude, insensitive, arrogant jerks – they may have been speaking the truth out of love and concern. And maybe if I heed their call and make some changes, I just might be a happier, more fulfilled person.
Who are the prophets in your life? Instead of demonizing them, can I step back and hear the truth that they are speaking to me in love?
Jonah 3: 1-10
If someone told you that if you didn’t stop doing something you would soon be dead, would you stop doing that thing which is destroying you? I think most of us, if given the chance would indeed stop and choose to live! Jonah called out to the people, telling them that if they didn’t change they would soon be dead; and the people quickly turned from their death dealing ways and chose life.
Most of the time, we don’t have a Jonah though. We don’t have someone telling us to stop some negative pattern of behavior so that we might experience the best Life has to offer. Or if we do, we take their call to us as a personal affront, instead of seeing it as a gesture of love and concern for our well being. Most of the time we go about our negative habits or patterns of thinking or behavior totally denying how they are affecting us and those around us.
Don’t you want to really live? Don’t you want to get out there and drink life in?
When we’re caught in some bad habit, some negative pattern it literally sucks the life out of us, doesn’t it? Think about some negative thinking you might have, some negative behavior, some ingrained bad habit. Doesn’t it sap the life out of you, not to mention those around you?
I believe that God wants us to live, wants us to drink life in and get rid of those things that hold us from doing just that. Lent then really isn’t about gloom and doom. It’s about rising from the graves that we’ve built for ourselves. It’s about naming the lie that this or that behavior is going to make me feel better; when in reality it’s sucking the life out of me! It’s about letting go of that which has kept us mired in winter’s lifelessness. It’s about taking some small step away from something which is killing us or those around us and stepping into a new springtime of living!
I recently heard a talk in which the speaker described an animal that had been born in a zoo. After some years they built a multi-million dollar display, simulating the natural habitat for the animal, thinking that it would create a better, happier space for the animal. When it was released into its new space, much to their surprise, it stayed to one small area. It only walked the same path over and over, creating a rut in the ground, which got deeper as time went on. The animal had all this beautiful space, but it stayed in that one little rut and didn’t roam elsewhere! The speaker went on to say: aren’t we like that sometimes? We get in a rut, doing and thinking the same things over and over – missing so much of what could be if we just got out of the rut.
If you’ve read my last couple of meditations, you’ll know that I spoke of Lent as an opportunity to “get naked” to remove the “cloak” that holds us from being more present to life, to others and to God. When we, with the help of a Power greater than ourselves, remove whatever that is and stand naked in life, present, alive and aware – we get outa the rut and into the groove!
Suddenly, we begin to live again! Suddenly we look around and see so much of life around us. We slowly crawl out of that rut and begin, perhaps fearfully at first, to wander out into the beauty that we have been missing. All that beauty, all those people, all those possibilities suddenly open up before us – because we have had the courage to name that which keeps us all bound up, because we have had the courage to call on a Power greater than ourselves to free us.
Have you named the cloak that you need to remove, the cloak that keeps you separated from life, from others and from God? Have you called on a Higher Power to help you, trusting that the help WILL come? Is the cloak beginning to fall away?
Are you getting out of the rut, and into the groove?
So, . . . how’s it goin? You getting naked yet? Beginning to take off that cloak which separates you from God and others? Have you identified what it is? You could have several cloaks actually. Don’t get too ambitious. Just try taking off one. If you’re like me, I know the cloak that I need to remove. It’s glaringly obvious to me. But I begin to reach for the snap that will remove it; and suddenly I get frightened. What is life going to like without this cloak? I’ve worn it for such a long time! What will I say, how will I act without this cloak? What’s it going to be like to be naked? O my God, I can’t even believe that I’m thinking about removing this from my life and getting naked!
I remember when I was trying to quit smoking some years ago, I could NOT imagine what my life would be without cigarettes. How could I possibly enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning WITHOUT a cigarette? How could I possibly talk on the phone without a cigarette? How could I work, have a relaxing evening, clean, work on a project at home (the list goes on), WITHOUT having a cigarette??? It truly seemed unimaginable to me at the time. Now, I look back and say to myself, “what was I thinking??” The truth is, it’s glorious to have coffee in the morning WITHOUT a cigarette. It’s great working, relaxing, walking, talking with friends, WITHOUT a cigarette. It’s so freeing and I feel so much better.
Why then is it so difficult for me to envision my life without the cloak that I wear now? If we have been freed before, why is it difficult to imagine our life without lethargy and exercising? Why is it so difficult to imagine our life eating the right foods that will give us energy? Why is it so hard to imagine our life without so much internet, TV, without a negative attitude, more attentive to the needs of others?
Perhaps that’s the key. Imagination. Thinking. Envisioning. Can I begin to think in a new and exciting way about what life would be like without this cloak; instead of concentrating so negatively on what it would be like? Because the truth is this: Our lives will be IMMEASURABLY better WITHOUT this negative pattern of behavior! Perhaps that’s where we need to keep the focus of our thoughts.
God help me to imagine myself without this cloak that weighs me down! Help me to envision myself naked, happy and free!
I recently heard a wonderful conference in which the speaker used the example of the blind man Bartimaeus (Mark 10: 46-52) who cries out to Jesus “I want to see!” Two things that the presenter said about this story struck me that have bearing on my living and on the season of Lent.
First, notice that in the story many people tell Bartimaeus to be quiet! They try to shut him up! They don’t like what he’s saying. After all, according to the prevalent thought of the day, Bartimaeus would have been considered a “sinner,” an outsider, a nobody – someone to shun and avoid. He certainly would have held no status in the religious establishment. Notice what Bartimaeus does after being told to shut up. He speaks even louder!
Sometimes the institution, be it church, society, political, the workplace, family or friends – sometimes the institution tries to shut people up. Like Bartimaeus though, I pray for the courage to only speak louder! Notice too that Jesus does not shun Bartimaeus. If anything he ignores the people telling Bartimaeus to shut up, but looks with compassion upon Bartimaeus.
Secondly, notice what Bartimaeus does when Jesus calls him over. He removes his cloak and runs to Jesus – buck naked!! He removes anything which would hold him from being fully present to Jesus and to others.
This Lent, what “cloak” do I need to remove? What is it that keeps me from being fully present to God and others? It could be a variety of things from an addiction, to a negative attitude, to fear, a poor self image, self centeredness, etc. What needs to be removed so that I can be more fully alive and present to Life and others? In what way do I need to get naked?