Sermons by Rev. Bonnie
When God Sends Us An Invitation to Grow—RSVP
December 14, 2008
I don’t know about you, but I love invitations. When I receive an invitation I feel seen and appreciated and part of a community. An invitation says to me come be with others, have some good food, listen to some great tunes, and let’s Par-Tay. And given this time of year—-there are lots of opportunities for Par-Tays—Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanza, Devali, Solstice, and of course New Year’s. An invitation means I get to wear some nice clothes, meet some new people, and stay out later than I usually do. What’s not to like?
Getting an invitation from God is a bit different. To be totally honest here, sometimes I wish I wasn’t on God’s invitation list. When I see an invitation from God coming my way I want to run and hide and wish it away. I want to take the invitation and stamp on it “Return to Sender” or “Addressee Unknown”. I want to disguise myself and say, “Zees Rev Bonnie—-I’ve never heard of her. You must have ze wrong person. Bye-Bye!”
And I’ve learned that God knows exactly who S/he is sending the invitation to and knows exactly the perfect time for it to be received. God’s invitations are not usually filled with holiday cheer—-yet they are filled with the promise of growth and healing and Divine love.
And I know that I’m not the only one who gets weary from God’s invitation to grow and expand. How many times have we jokingly said to one another that what appears in our lives as a big mess is really an “opportunity”? Oy—-opportunity shmoppertunity!! And we know that our choice of words is very powerful and impacts how we deal with the situation. So we call it an opportunity to take the sting out of it and hope upon hope that what is at the moment a huge challenge will indeed turn out to be a growth experience.
The good news is that, with God’s help—-growth is a promise. Healing is a promise. Divine love is a promise. I have come up with a four-point process for answering God’s invitations—-RSVP. What RSVP doesn’t stand for is Run Swear Vomit and Pout. Trust me-—I have done that before. Run Swear Vomit and Pout. And the result was that I felt miserable, alone, lonely, and did I mention miserable? The four ways to answer God’s numerous invitations is Respond, Surrender, Victory, and Praise.
Now before I go on with my RSVP definitions, I want to confess that I am in the midst of one of God’s invitations in my life. I lost a beloved 4-legged family member the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. I knew she had had a cough for a week or so, and figured it was a cold or allergy. So the Monday of Thanksgiving week I took her to the doctor. That morning all was well, she had a hearty breakfast, we played together, and all seemed normal. At the doctor’s office, she was weighed—-and though a bit overweight at 16 pounds-—she was healthy looking. You see—-the family member I am speaking of was my cat Shayna—-a beautiful feisty orange and white girl whose name—-Shayna—-means pretty in Yiddish. Long story short—-x rays found fluid around her lungs. Off to the emergency animal hospital where they were able to extract some of the fluid for testing. Shayna was put into a kitty oxygen tent to help her be more comfortable. Later that evening the vet called to inform me that the fluid was filled with cancer cells. Shayna had lung cancer—-and as far as I know she never had a cigarette in her life!
My partner flew in the next morning and we drove to the hospital. There the vet brought Shayna out and she looked very rested after a night in the oxygen tent. Yet the vet told us that her cancer wasn’t treatable. She said I could take her home, but that at some point she wouldn’t be able to breathe comfortably and there was no guarantee when that would be. I was clear that I did not want Shayna to struggle or suffer. I made the painful decision to allow her to be released from her physical body. I kissed her goodbye and left the room. My partner held Shayna as her transition took place.
And here came God’s invitation to me. First class. Fed Ex. Hand delivered. Run Swear Vomit Pout—-yes, that’s how I remembered handling past losses. And on that day I knew I could make a different choice. Respond Surrender Victory Praise.
R Respond. Choice is a powerful tool. I was aware that one of my old tapes was “People (or animals) that I love leave me”. I could have easily succumbed to that tape and moved into a huge victim pity party. Not quite the Par-Tay I was looking for! The tape had never served me well in the past, but it was familiar. Just like a familiar pair of shoes that I have outgrown but am still drawn to, I momentarily considered trying to fit into that old tape. And I soon realized that as that tape had not served me well in the past, it would certainly not serve me well this time. The Course in Miracles states that “every thought we hold manifests somewhere”. Whatever we hold in our minds—-that is whichever voice or tape–I chose to form my thoughts would determine how I would experience this loss. How we respond is a direct reflection of the level of conscious awareness we bring to our choice. When we react we are lacking this conscious awareness. Response brings forth response-ability i.e. the ability to respond. As we own our response-ability we are in a powerful position to create and transform any experience. We are pro-actively involved in being willing and ready to interact, participate, and contribute for the good of all involved.
So I made the conscious choice to release that old tape and step in faith that all was well and that I was embraced by a loving God who was sending me the perfect invitation at the perfect time. Whew!! I made the conscious choice to reject victimization and any sense of abandonment to embrace a divine knowing that Universal Love was and is abundant and surrounding me. Of course I was deeply saddened by Shayna’s passing and I knew that I would not be devastated. I knew my heart hurt, yet I knew it was not irreparably broken. I was ready and willing to be response-able. The R of RSVP: Respond to God’s invitations.
S Surrender. There are probably folks reading this, who like me, grew up thinking that surrender was raising a white flag and admitting defeat to an enemy. In the spiritual realm, surrender is not giving up but giving over to a powerful higher presence which takes into account the interests and well being of all involved. Surrender is a mental and emotional demonstration of the ability and desire to release the need to be right, to have one’s way, and to know the outcome, all of which are demonstrations of faith. I didn’t know why Shayna’s time in the physical form was up. I didn’t know why now or for what reason. What I’ve learned is that surrender means being flexible, willing, and open to the flow, influence, energy, and power of Divine presence. The ability to surrender evolves from a faith-filled mind and heart. It indicates reliance on and compliance to the will of the Divine presence of life.
So I am getting out of my own way and giving it to God. I am releasing (I say ‘I am’ because I am still in the process) any second-guessing of my decision, any guilt, and any stories I am telling myself that are not serving my well-being. As I surrender I am opening myself up to receive Divine guidance. Thank you God for knowing what I need before I even know that I need it. Thank you God for bringing in the healing as I surrender my pain, fear, doubt, and confusion. The S of RSVP: Surrender.
Now, it was at this point when I was originally writing this sermon, that suddenly it disappeared from my computer screen. I called my computer guy up and pleaded with him to help me find it. To no avail. It was gone. Taking a few deep breaths I said, “God—what’s up with this? I thought my sermon was coming out pretty well. Why did you decide I needed to write it over again?” I was aggravated and upset. Now, I could have called up Rev Jim and said “Rev Jim, my sermon has disappeared and I just can’t bear to start over again. Find someone else to do the message.” Or, I could choose to start over, knowing that there was a reason, an invitation if you will, to find other ways to express myself or to continue my healing by writing about my loss again. I was being called to witness and experience yet again giving up attachment to a specific outcome and knowing that what is unfolding is divinely perfect.
And that is what I did—-I wrote it over—-partnering with God throughout.
V Victory. Name it and claim it! After we throw up our arms in surrender—we declare victory. Counterintuitive perhaps at first glance, and in the spiritual realm it makes perfect sense. Psalm 44:7-8 says, “I do not trust in my bow, my sword does not bring me victory; but you give us victory over our enemies, you put our adversaries to shame.” As we declare victory we affirm that the Universe has our best interests in mind and that all is truly well. I have been declaring victory by using affirmations. For example, “I am at peace; Shayna is at peace.” “I walk with God and know that I am well taken care of.” “I know that God has never left me and I affirm that God is with me now.” “I know that my healing is happening even now.” You get the idea. As I control my thoughts I create my reality. I’ve tried the solo approach before and know that it doesn’t work. With God as my partner I declare success. I declare that I am triumphant. I declare victory.
These invitations from God are not anything new. God has been extending invitations since the beginning of time. I think about the Hanukkah story… Hanukkah celebrates the victory of the Jewish people over the Asyrians about 150 years before Christ was born. As the story goes, the Asyrians were a pagan people while the Jewish people were the only people in the world at that time to believe in one God. The Asyrians forbid the Jews to practice their faith, and were instead forced to bow down to carved idols that were placed in the holy temple. A brave Jewish family called the Maccabees rose up and united the Jewish people against the Asyrians. The Maccabees were out-numbered, out-weaponed, and out-classed in war. The Jewish people should have been annihilated, but won because of courage, hope, and faith—-miracles that God made to support them.
After the Jews were triumphant they re-entered their temple and found it in a shambles. They cleaned it up and when it came time to re-light the Menorah—-the candelabra—-they searched the entire temple but only found one small jar of oil. Miraculously, the oil in that small jar burned for eight days, until a new supply of oil could be pressed.
From then on, the Jewish people have observed a holiday for eight days in honor of this historic victory and the miracle of the oil. This holiday is Hanukkah—-the Festival of Lights. In my mind, the real victory was not defeating a larger army, or that the oil lasted for eight days. The victory was that someone had enough faith to go ahead and light the oil after seeing that it would not be enough. The victory was having faith that the light would shine-—regardless of what it may have looked like.
There is a story about a Jewish woman in a concentration camp. Every year at Hanukkah time she would take her meager ration of one potato and a dab of butter and save it. She would then hollow out a small hole in the potato, put the dab of butter in and allow it to melt. Then she would take a thread off of her clothing, put it into the melted butter and light it with a match. It was her celebration of Hanukkah. It was her way to declare victory and see the light amidst terrible darkness.
P Praise. When I first started at the Inner Visions Institute for Spiritual Development I remember asking, “Why do we need to praise God? Is God so insecure that S/he needs to hear it all of the time?” Over the years I learned that I don’t praise God for God, I praise God for myself. I praise to remind myself of who God is, and thus who I am. I praise to keep my vibration high. I praise to fortify myself for the times I feel tired and forget that I am a beloved child of God. As we work our praise muscle we remind ourselves of all that God is-—and since we are created in God’s image—-of all that we are. As I remind myself of who I am, I know that I will make it through this “invitation” and that I will come out of it stronger, more faith-filled, and more available to serve others and to serve God. I give Praise, the P in RSVP.
I wish at times that I wasn’t so popular with God. I wish at times that God wasn’t such a party animal who keeps sending me invitations from above. At the same time, I am glad that God has enough faith in me that S/he knows I will step up and have faith in Her. I am honored that God so loves me that S/he sends me the invitations to grow. I am humbled that God so believes in me that S/he gives me opportunities to prove it.
I miss Shayna. The house is awfully quiet. But it isn’t empty. God lives there.
The next time you receive a God invitation—-RSVP. You’ll be glad you did.
© Bonnie J. Berger 2008
© 2019 Bonnie J. Berger. All rights reserved.