New Year New You

“And suddenly you know: It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.” ~ Meister Eckhart

The new year provides a wonderful opportunity to start something new, and make changes that will take us in the direction we would like to go.

The problem is that the vast majority of new year’s resolutions don’t make it through the first year. In fact, according to U.S. News & World Report, approximately 80% of resolutions fail by the second week of February. This is largely due to the fact that we often create unrealistic goals, and we try to do too much too fast.

So what can we do instead?

Here are some simple pointers that will help you create lasting change:

WHAT: Find one area of your life that you feel especially passionate about changing. Make sure it’s something you care about – not because you have have to, but because you want to. Narrow it down to one small, simple thing you can change in this area.

WHY: Identify why you want to make this change. This will help you stay motivated when things get challenging. Keep returning to your why.

HOW: Set a realistic goal that will help you get where you want to go. Write it down somewhere you will see often. Phrase it in a positive way in the present tense. For extra credit, add “I commit to” before your goal.

WHEN: Start right away and commit to doing it every day for 66 days in a row. That’s right, a 2009 study showed it takes 66 days to form a new habit, not 21 or 28 like we previously thought. We have to commit, and recommit, and recommit…

REFINE: If you get tripped up, use it as a learning opportunity instead of beating yourself up or giving up completely. What went wrong? What can you do differently? Then, start again with the new knowledge you acquired. Keep refining as needed.

CELEBRATE: Studies show that positive reinforcement is one of the most effective tools in creating lasting change. Celebrate your successes, large or small. This could be treating yourself to a new outfit, a massage, a home spa day, or whatever your little heart desires!

KEEP GOING because change begets change. Soon you will find that it wasn’t so bad, and you can start to tackle other “projects” you’d like to explore.

Before you know it, you will be a whole NEW YOU with new, healthier habits and a new outlook on life.

Remember, you can do it, and you are so WORTH IT!

Inspiritus Yoga Gives The Gift of Joy

The Gift of Joy

“We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try.” ~ Roger Ebert

One of my favorite scenes from any Christmas movie was the scene where Linus tells Charlie Brown the real meaning of Christmas. It goes like this…

Charlie Brown: “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”

Linus Van Pelt: “Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about. [Linus moves toward the center of the stage.] Lights, please. [A spotlight shines on Linus.] And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were so afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: [Linus drops his security blanket on purpose.] for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’ [Linus picks up his blanket and walks back towards Charlie Brown.] That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

Like Charlie Brown, we can easily lose sight of the real meaning of Christmas. We can get caught up in the trappings of the season, and forget the story behind all of the decorations, gifts, and gatherings. This can leave us feeling melancholy, stressed, unfulfilled, and unhappy, like Charlie Brown. But, like Linus said to Charlie Brown, we have to remember the what Christmas is all about…

A baby. Wrapped in swaddling clothes. Laying in a manger. Tidings of great joy to all people. On earth, peace and good will to all.

So, what about joy? Is it really for all people?

I’ve often said, “Happiness is happenstance, but the joy of Jesus transcends circumstance.” The fact of the matter is that happiness is elusive and fickle. It is dependent on circumstances and as a result, it is fleeting. Charlie Brown experienced this. So do we sometimes.

But the joy that Jesus represents is something all together different. This joy is a spirit-filled, everlasting joy that knows no bounds. It is a joy that transcends circumstances and has the power to change us and the World around us. And it is meant for everyone. It is why we sing “Joy to the World, the Lord has come!”

Roger Ebert said, “We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems. Our health, our circumstances. We must try.”

It is our responsibility and our calling to share joy with the world. And in so doing, we are elevated in joy ourselves! It helps us to rise above our problems, our health, and our circumstances. And it helps others to do the same.

This year, can we unwrap the real gift of Christmas – the gift of joy? A gift that isn’t under the tree but exists within our hearts. Then, can we share this most precious gift with those around us, and in so doing, share joy to the World?

We must try.

May you abound in joy this holiday season and in the New Year!

Inspiritus Yoga Gives Thanks

Happy Thanks-giving!

“Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.” ~ W.J. Cameron

The word Thanksgiving (thanks-giving), is about GIVING Thanks.

Did you know that Thanks-giving is good for you? Studies show that those who focus on gratitude are happier, view things in a more positive manner, and are healthier overall. It’s true! Gratitude has a profound and positive effect on our health, mood, and the survival of our relationships.

That’s right…our RELATIONSHIPS!

John Gottman, a marriage and relationship researcher, found that the “magic formula” for a healthy successful relationship is 5 appreciations (expressions of thanks) for every 1 criticism. A follow up study done by Zenger & Folleman concluded it’s more like 5.6 to 1. This applies not only to our relationships with others. It also applies to the most important relationship of all – our relationship with ourselves!

Gratitude isn’t just a feeling, it’s an attitude and an ACTION. It’s not enough to FEEL thankful, we need to express our gratitude. For what (and whom) are you thankful? Can you now direct it toward yourself as well? The breath in your lungs? Your amazing body and all it can do? Your gifts and talents? Your character? Your growth? The way you love and care for others?

Practicing gratitude helps us shift from lack to abundance. The more we practice it, the more opportunities we will see to be thankful! So, put on your “gratitude goggles” and get busy giving thanks.

This year, I am more thankful (thank-full) than ever – for this beautiful life I have been given, the restoration and healing of my body, the love of my family and friends, the gift of being able to do what I love every day, and so much more. I’m also thankful for you!

Happy Thanksgiving! May you abound in the abundance that gratitude creates!

Pink Phoenix Rising

On February 14 (Valentine’s Day), I was diagnosed with DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) breast cancer after going for my routine mammogram. To say that I was in shock was an understatement. My brain went down the “what if” rabbit hole in every direction, but I was resolved to “deal with it” even if that meant a bilateral mastectomy, radiation, chemo, or whatever. Both of my grandmothers overcame breast cancer and lived to be 99 and 101 years old, so I decided that my story would be no different. To further motivate me, my husband had lost his first wife to ovarian cancer back in 2013, leaving him and their two daughters behind. That gave me even more reason to have a victory story, and a story of overcoming, like my grandmothers before me.

Because of the size and the dispersement pattern of the DCIS, the doctor told me he was going to be unable to spare my left breast and it was likely that he would not be able to spare my left nipple either. I opted to do a bilateral mastectomy (with reconstruction) to rule out the possibility of ever having to deal with breast cancer (or mammograms) again. I felt convicted about my decision and started looking for breast tattoos to cover my former nipple area and my left breast (more on that later).

My surgery was on March 15, just two days before St. Patty’s day (which also happens to be the anniversary of our first date). Right before surgery, my doctor told me he thought he would be able to spare my left nipple. I was so relieved, as you can imagine! The surgery was supposed to take about 3 1/2 hours but only took 2 1/2 due to the skill and precision of my amazing surgeons. My nipple was spared and everything went off without a hitch. Victory #1.

After my pathology came back, I had a follow up appointment with my doctor. He shared with me that the cancer was not HER-2 positive, it was not invasive, and it had not spread to my lymph nodes. Because of that, I would not need radiation or chemo therapy. Victories #2, 3, 4, and 5. But, there was something else my doctor told me. He said, “you’re very lucky to have opted to do a bilateral mastectomy, young lady.” As it turned out, my pathology on the right breast indicated that I had an ADH (atypical ductal hyperplasia) a precancerous situation which had a high likelihood of becoming cancer later. As he put it, “we would have been dealing with cancer on the right in a matter of time.”

To say that I KNEW I was supposed to have the right breast removed was an understatement. Every fiber of my being felt resolved, and to find out that I had a pre-cancerous condition on the right only affirmed that. Victory #6. I went and saw the oncologist upon the request of the doctor to confirm what he suspected and she agreed that no radiation or chemo would be needed. They got it early and they got it all. I would just need to go for ultrasounds and blood testing every 6 months. Victory #7. A few weeks later, my genetic testing came back negative, which meant I wouldn’t need to worry about the possibility of developing other female cancers. Victory #8. A few weeks ago, I went for my 6 month follow up ultrasound and blood testing. I was told that I am CANCER FREE and that we will just keep monitoring things from this point forward! Victory #9.

The story I shared so far is clearly a victory story. A story of overcoming breast cancer. But the REAL victory is not revealed in those details. Of all of the victories I had throughout my journey with breast cancer, the greatest was the victory I had in my SOUL. At first, I wanted to run away and hide. I battled with fear. I held it in, determined not to let anyone see it. Then, I went to war with my own flesh, and decided I was going to “kick cancer’s ass.” I vacillated in these two realms – kicking ass, and running and hiding. Fight or flight. As a yoga instructor and yoga therapist, I KNEW that my body could not heal in a state of fight or flight. I also knew that “whatever we resist persists” – that resistance creates more resistance. And, I knew that whatever we focus on expands, and that by focusing on my cancer, I was only giving it more power. But, I didn’t know how to end the struggle.

One day, after one of my yoga classes, a dear friend and one of my first yoga students (who is a three-time cancer survivor) said to me, “Love your cancer, Dawn.” It was like the heavens opened up to deliver me a message and it changed EVERYTHING. Because love changes everything. I had an ah-ha moment that changed me from the inside-out and changed the way I felt about my cancer. I started looking for opportunities to be grateful, and let me tell you, there were more than I could recount here! I started asking the cancer what it had to teach me, knowing that pain can be one of our greatest teachers if we allow it to be. I decided to love my cancer and love myself through it.

I starting looking for a tattoo that would help me seal this experience in my flesh. (Don’t judge!) I Googled “pink” and “Phoenix Rising” and found this on Pinterest.

Credit to: Dogwood Pink Phoenix Rising Arte Original

The Phoenix Rising has always been a “spirit animal” of mine because of what it represents. Refiner’s fire. Beauty from ashes. Overcoming and victory over fear and death. Rising above. Rebirth and regeneration. Transformation. My faith in Jesus. The color pink represents my journey with cancer and honors my grandmothers who were also victorious. I want to have something like this over my heart (where my breast cancer was found) as a permanent reminder of my journey and who I want to be when I face future trials, pain, loss, or anything that feels like “fire”.  I want it as a reminder to thank God for all that all that I am, all of my blessings, and all of the “second chances” I have been given. It is a symbol of this new life I have been given. And that, my friends, is the biggest victory of them all.

The fact of the matter is that each of us will go through various forms of “fire” during our lifetimes. We can choose whether we are going to be victims and go up in flames, or to persevere and come out the other side as a stronger, wiser, more beautiful version of ourselves. We can in fact embrace the death of the “old self” and resurrect as a new creation.

We can all choose to be the Phoenix Rising. No matter what our circumstances, we can choose to be victorious. We can allow the fire to transform us, and reveal our inner essence, strength, and beauty. We can look for the beauty amidst the ash – hidden blessings, opportunities to be grateful, the small and large victories. We can love our “cancers” and in loving them, we can heal. And, we can begin again.

The choice is ours to make. And, that choice changes EVERYTHING.

Back Off Busy-Shamers

I recently had an experience that left me feeling shamed and bullied. I wasn’t bullied in the way that we frequently hear about on social media. I was shamed because I’m “too busy” and I was made to feel like I have a problem.

In the past, as a recovering people pleaser, I would have succumbed to the guilt and shame, and bent over backwards to “fix” the situation. But, this time was different. I felt bullied and manipulated. And, it wasn’t okay.

What is busy shaming? Basically, it’s when a person lays guilt or shame on another person because of their “busy” schedule. I believe that it crosses over into bullying when it’s done to hurt someone or to manipulate them to get more of their time.

It’s not the first time this has happened to me, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. I can recall a time many years ago when a well-meaning Christian mentor told me I was “too B.U.S.Y.” and that it stood for “Bound Under Satan’s Yoke”. It left me questioning my spirituality, and wondering if my being busy truly was evil? I now know better. When we throw religiosity into the mix, we have now entered the realm of spiritual abuse. Being busy isn’t inherently bad or evil. And, it is not okay for others to make assumptions, shame us, manipulate us, or bully us about it.

We all go through busy seasons in our life where there are a lot of demands on our time, or when life events throw us curve-balls and we aren’t as available as we would like to be.

I would admit that my life is fuller than most. I have a husband, a blended family consisting of four children at various stages of life, a grandbaby, a business, and I am blessed with many friends. I enjoy being involved in groups and organizations that I find fulfilling. I try to maintain a regular practice of self-care. And beyond that, “life happens” as it does to all of us.

The truth of the matter is I like my life. In fact, I love it. I feel that I am living a life of purpose and passion and I will not apologize or be shamed for it. Nor should you. We should never have to apologize for who we are or the lives we have chosen. Nor should we apologize for the way we choose to spend our time.

That said, there definitely are times when busyness becomes a challenge. When we are busy for the sake of being busy and/or our schedule becomes so imbalanced that it doesn’t allow for rest, self-care, relaxation, then we need to re-evaluate. We certainly don’t want to become hamsters on a wheel and fall victim to the effects of chronic stress on our bodies. I believe this is one of the reasons why being busy has gotten a bad rap. Most of the articles you read about being busy address the issue of being busy from this standpoint. (But, I also think that we are getting mixed and conflicting messages all of the time from society and the media on this and many other topics. That will be the subject of an upcoming blog.) I wholeheartedly agree that we need to examine this possibility in our lives and strive for balance when we see that things have gotten out of whack. We also need to intentionally build some margin or breathing room in our schedules to allow for “life” to happen and prevent potential burn-out. But, our busyness is our business. Only we know when that’s happening, and only we know how to remedy it.

We must be mindful of what we say and how we say it. When we busy shame somebody, there is nowhere to go. It can be hurtful, polarizing, manipulative, and result in degradation of the relationship. Busy shaming is counterproductive. It shuts people down and closes doors. It is a form of bullying and we need to be aware of the times that we do it. There is no grace, there is no compassion, there is no understanding. And, that’s simply not how healthy relationships work.

There are people in my life who just “get it”. They too have full lives, and we have a mutual understanding. We make time when we can, but when schedules get crazy, we don’t take it personally. We hold space and know that when things clear, we will reconnect. And when we do, we share all of the wonderful (and not so wonderful) things we have been up to. It is welcomed and refreshing. And, it is so appreciated.

Grace, compassion, kindness always go along way. And, certainly the golden rule applies in every circumstance we find ourselves in.

Rather than shaming and shutting people down, what if we understood? What if we held space? If we are worried about them being out of balance, what if we asked questions and even offered help from a space of love and concern? What if we didn’t give up on friendships because people have full lives or are dealing with circumstances that make them unavailable for stretches of time? What if we extended some grace and applied the golden rule?

So “busy shamers”, I invite you to choose a different way…or back off.

Yoga Sutra 2.46: sthira sukham asanam

Yoga, especially in the West, has evolved into a largely physical practice. We see photos of people in acrobatic and pretzel-like shapes on the cover of Yoga Journal and all over the Interwebs. And we think to ourselves, “There’s no way I can do THAT!”

Needless to say, this has caused confusion about what yoga is and why we would want to practice it. It also has caused people to avoid yoga classes because they don’t think they are “bendy” or strong enough.

It’s time for a little Yoga 101…

The word yoga originates from the root word yuj, which means union. As such, it is a wholistic practice that joins together the body, mind, heart, and spirit.

The practice of yoga has been around for more than 4,000. It was practiced before long before written history and organized religion existed.

A sage named Patanjali delineated and systematized yoga into a 8-limbed path to yoga over 2,000 years ago that consisted of the following:

  1. Yama: Self-restraint, self-control or self discipline. The yamas
    represent a series of ethical rules for “right living”.
  2. Niyama: Observance or rule. The niymas represent additional
    ethical rules or personal disciplines for “right living” that compliment the yamas.
  3. Asana: The physical postures practiced in yoga. The word breaks down as = to be/breathe, san = to join with, and na = the eternal vibration.
  4. Pranayama: The practice of breath awareness and breath control Prana means breath, life, energy, spirit or soul. Ayama means to extend or draw out, so praynayamaliterally means “extension of the breath” or more accurately, “extension of the life”.
  5. Pratyahara: Withdrawal of the senses from external objects and transcendence beyond the physical body and its senses.
  6. Dharana: The practice of concentration and comes from the word dhri=attention. It is steady focus of the mind.
  7. Dhyana: The practice of focused attention through steadfast meditation or contemplation. It involves complete stillness of the mind where the mind is acutely aware without any particular focus.
  8. Samadhi: Complete oneness with the object of meditation, and results in the arrival at a state of bliss where the one meditating is completely absorbed into God or the divine.

It is interesting to note that the word asana (which relates to the physical postures practiced in yoga) is only mentioned ONE time in Patantali’s Yoga Sutras in Yoga Sutra 2.46 above ” sthira sukham asanam”, which means that our posture must be steady and comfortable. It also means that we must resolutely (steady) reside in a good (comfortable) space.

Yoga is NOT about the fancy poses. It is a practice of discovering what it means to resolutely reside in a good space. All of the other components – the physical postures, breathing, and meditation are vehicles to help you arrive in a space of bliss that goes far beyond anything we can experience by standing on our head. It is available to anyone and everyone, even if you’re not “bendy” and you can’t contort your body.

Come join us and see for yourself!

Dawn’s Birthday Blog

There really is something special about approaching a milestone birthday. Yeah, that’s right. I’m about the enter the half-century club! While I don’t feel like a different person, I do feel differently about this birthday. Maybe it’s because I’m half the age of my two grandmothers who passed last year at ages 99 and 101 – two women who left a legacy of love, wisdom, strength, tenacity, and resilience. Maybe it’s because I finally feel like I know who I am. Maybe it’s because I’m really starting to love myself and where I’m at in my life. Maybe it’s because I feel that I’m starting to accumulate some wisdom that might be worth sharing. So in honor of my birthday month, I want to share what 50 years on this earth has taught me (in no particular order). We will call them my 50 Dawn-isms…

  1. Study and know yourself. It’s the key to all wisdom.
  2. Be true to yourself.
  3. Find your passion and fuel it.
  4. Everything we do is a reflection of who we believe ourselves to be.
  5. Peace begins within, so make peace with yourself.
  6. Never be at war with your own body.
  7. Life is too short to diet or drink bad wine.
  8. Always color outside of the lines.
  9. Never fake anything.
  10. Don’t wait to start checking the boxes off your bucket list. Tomorrow is not guaranteed.
  11. Do what you love, love what you do, or change it.
  12. Don’t let your fears hold you back from creating the life you desire.
  13. Change is necessary for growth.
  14. Don’t resist change. It’s going to happen anyway.
  15. Desire is the greatest motivator.
  16. Don’t limit yourself. All things are possible.
  17. Perfectionism is a lie. Don’t believe it.
  18. Always speak your truth.
  19. Trust your gut. It’s often smarter than your brain.
  20. Things are rarely as they seem. Get curious and ask lots of questions.
  21. Yoga isn’t about the postures. It’s a way of thinking and being.
  22. We don’t need to have all of the answers. It’s impossible, and the answers only lead to more questions.
  23. Pain is a vehicle to self-discovery. Allow it to teach you.
  24. Whatever you seek, you will find.
  25. Know what’s yours to own. Own it, and let go of the rest.
  26. Listen to your heart. It’s wiser than you think.
  27. What you focus on really does expand. So mind your thoughts.
  28. Find your tribe and love them HARD.
  29. People will come in and out of your life and that doesn’t mean the time you spent with them didn’t matter.
  30. It doesn’t matter what people think of you. It’s none of your business.
  31. You can’t change people, nor should you try.
  32. It’s ok if people don’t like you.
  33. Never apologize for who you are.
  34. Humans are beautiful flawed. Don’t forget, you are one of them.
  35. Forgiveness is freedom. Forgive early and often. It gets harder the longer you hold onto it.
  36. True love really exists, but it never looks like you think it will.
  37. You have to love yourself in order to find true love.
  38. When you find your soul mate, you’ll know it.
  39. Two halves do not make a whole person.
  40. Marriage is about bringing out the best in yourself and your partner.
  41. Parenthood is not about you. It’s about them.
  42. Our children are among our greatest teachers.
  43. Grandparenting really is a blast!
  44. Religion and faith are not the same. Don’t throw faith out the window just because religion has betrayed or hurt you. (See items #34 and #35.)
  45. Things really do work themselves out in time. Trust the journey and let go.
  46. Find ways to be grateful, even for the trials in life. Gratitude truly heals and uplifts.
  47. Always be a student and never stop learning.
  48. Love is always the answer.
  49. When in doubt, just breathe.
  50. Create a legacy that leaves a large footprint.

So there it is – 50 years of wisdom through my eyes and experience. I’m looking forward to the lessons the second half of my life has to teach me. Don’t worry, I won’t wait another 50 years to share them with you!

Is fear holding you back?

It’s been said that FEAR stands for “False Evidence Appearing Real”, but the fact of the matter is that fear is a very real thing to the person experiencing it.

Fear generally falls into two categories – the fear that arises in response to a true threat to our survival, and the fear that we manufacture in our minds.

Most often, we are dealing with the second type of fear.

It can show up in many different forms – the fear of failure, the fear of success, the fear of rejection, the fear of the unknown, the fear of our own power, the fear of others reactions to us, and so much more…

Fear can prevent us from moving forward in whatever area it rears its ugly head. And, the fears we don’t address can ultimately become our limitations.

So how do we recognize fear?

Shortness of breath. Increased heart rate. Shallow, fast, irregular breathing. Butterflies in the stomach. Tremoring or shaking in the body. A sinking feeling. The desire to run, hide, numb out, avoid. Procrastination. You know the drill…

So here is a cool thing. Your body experiences the same sensations when it’s nervous and excited as it does when it’s afraid. Our brain tells our body if it’s afraid or excited. So we have to check in with our thoughts. Are they fear-based or are they simply arising from excitement? We can tell our body how to feel by changing our thoughts from fear to courage!

Fear tells the body to run away. Courage tells the body to press into fear to move forward.

Matthew Kelly said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to move beyond fear.” And in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, The Big Magic, she explains that courage cannot be present without fear.

For me, courage is looking fear square in the face and saying, “Oh no fear, not today!” When we courageously press into fear, it dissolves into nothingness. Courage releases us of the bondage to fear – the bondage to the unknown that fear creates.

Danger is real. But fear (the way we respond to real or perceived danger), is a choice. Sir Winston Churchill said, “Fear is a reaction. Courage is a decision.”

So when fear presents itself we have a choice. Do we, “Forget Everything and Run”, or do we “Face Everything and Rise”?

The choice is yours.

Living An Empowered Life

“God’s way is not a matter of mere talk: it’s an empowered life”. 1 Corinthians 4:20 (Message)

I believe that each and every one of us wants to feel truly empowered in what we do and the way we live. The problem with being human is that we view our empowerment very differently than God intended. You see, too often we view our worth and value with a “world view,” where the outside world and its values, norms, standards, and pressures determine our self worth and value.

In your mind, picture a funnel. Imagine the world and all of its influences entering the funnel at the top, and your self worth/self concept as the “net” result at the bottom. Everything that pours in through the top defines who we are and ultimately what we will become. You can think of examples – body image, job performance, our relationships, how we define success, how we fit into various groups or the “church”, etc. You can probably recall the pressure you have felt in each of these areas when you have been under the world’s “yoke” so to speak.

This view of self disconnects us from God, and can lead to worshipping false idols where our focus becomes the world’s values as we attempt to measure up to the world’s standards, or the standards of others who are not God. We give way to people pleasing. When we fail, we feel less-than, guilt, shame, or self-loathing. Because we value the opinion of others so much, criticism crushes us. When we “measure up,” we may find that the approval of others inflates our opinion of ourselves or we start to think that we have accomplished these things on our own and we may even boast of our abilities. It is a very oppressive system by which we are completely limited in our abilities because it’s entirely based on whether we measure up or we don’t. Under this pressure, we feel compelled to wear a mask of perfection, not wanting others to think we make mistakes or fall short of what is expected of us. In Ecclesiastes 4:4, King Solomon writes, “And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man’s envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” In Matthew 16:26 it says, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” Both verses illustrate an empty existence where we strive and toil to accomplish nothing of real eternal value. Heavy, limited, full of burdens where here is no freedom or joy.

The definition of the word “empower” as defined by the World English Dictionary is: to give or delegate power or authority to; to authorize; to give ability to; to enable or permit; to equip or supply with ability. Some synonyms include: sceptered, enabled, authorized, commissioned, qualified, entrusted, sanctioned.

As believers, we are inherently empowered by the spirit of God within us. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 says, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works in all of them in all men.” When we begin to recognize that God alone equips us with our gifts and talents, and places a calling on our lives, we can begin to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called” as Paul spoke about in Ephesians 4:1. It begins with moving from the “world view” discuss above to a “kingdom view” whereby our self concept and value comes from knowing our identity in Christ.

Turn the funnel upside down (we do live in an upside down kingdom!) and now imagine God at the top and His definition of who we are, our identity in Him flowing down from above with Him as the source. Look at the bottom of the funnel and see how broad and limitless the possibilities are and how light our burden becomes. With this view of ourselves, we have the freedom to live out our calling using our God-given gifts and talents. Fully connected to God, we are able to connect to others in a God-centered way where we are free to be authentic and transparent. Instead of people pleasers, we become God-pleasers, where we seek his approval and pleasure in what we do and how we live our lives. God gets the glory and we get affirmed in our calling. Exodus 9:16 says, “But I have raised you up for this purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name be proclaimed in all the earth.” World praise is filtered through a humble heart, and criticism is filtered through truth and provides opportunities for lessons and growth to occur. In this world-view, we are fully empowered to do ALL that God created us to do and more than we ever would be able to do on our own as Paul wrote in Phil 4:13, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Light, unlimited, taking the “yoke” of Christ onto our shoulders. Fully free, full of his divine joy where the joy of the lord is our strength (Nehemiah).

In Exodus 3, we see the story of Moses being called to the burning bush. A man in his 80s who was simply going about his business of being a shepherd of sheep, God calls to him and speaks to him from a burning bush. There, tells Moses to lead God’s people out of Egypt. Moses lists off a bunch of excuses – world view excuses. “Who am I to do this?” he says. “I will be with you,” God replies. “They won’t believe me,” he rebuts. God performs two miracles. First, He turns his staff into a snake and then back into a staff. Second He turns his hand into a leperous hand and back again. He even tells Moses he will give him a third miracle if he needs it. “I am not eloquent in speech,” he rebuts to which God replies, “I will be in you mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” “Please send someone else,” he begs. God gives him Aaron to speak for him. Finally Moses, a man in his 80s, obeys and God’s will is done. He is transformed from a shepherd of sheep to a shepherd of people and He manifests God’s glory and power within him.

Like Moses, God fashioned you for a purpose. He has given you talents and gifts. Know that when He calls you to something, He will equip you like He did with Moses. In fact, He already has! And when you realize that He never fails and He does not make any mistakes, you will begin to soar with possibilities and you will begin to act as if you cannot fail. Open your heart and invite Him in and begin to allow Him to manifest all that He created you to be. Live a truly empowered life.

To close, I would like to share a quote taken from Marianne Williamson, from “A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”