Category Archives: Personal Growth & Spiritual Development

Heart & Soul

Heart & Soul

Rev. Annie Kopko

 

We begin with an excerpt from The Butterfly Effect by Andy An- drews.

There are generations yet unborn whose very lives will be shifted and shaped by the moves you make and the actions you take today. And to- morrow. And the next day. And the next.

Every single thing you do matters. You have been created as one of a kind. On the planet Earth, there has never been one like you …and there will never be again. Your spirit, your thoughts and feelings, your ability to reason and act all exist in no one else. The rarities that make you special are no mere accident or quirk of fate. You have been created in order that you might make a difference. You have within you the power to change the world. Know that your actions cannot be hoarded, saved for later, or used selectively. By your hand, millions—billions—of lives will be altered, caught up in a chain of events begun by you this day. The very beating of your heart has meaning and purpose. Your actions have value far greater than silver or gold. Your life… And what you do with it today …matters forever.

So how do we live, knowing this is true? We live consciously, gently, respectfully, purposefully, grateful and considerate of all things, per- ceived and not perceived. I call this leadership. And if you do not think you are a leader, think again. Everything you do, say, feel, and think matters and has consequences. We are in relationship with all living beings. Each of us pays attention to another.

So how do we live knowing we will die?  We live lovingly, knowing that what we do, think, and say fulfills a destiny we planned long before this lifetime.

We live consciously, knowing that what we think matters. We know we have the power to create change all around us.

We live deliberately, knowing that what moves us affects everyone. The love we give is the love we live.

We live with purpose, choosing what we love, and following that star.

When we love ourselves enough to choose happiness, we lift up our- selves and everyone who comes in contact with us. Happiness is not a goal, it is the way to live.

We may as well do this for ourselves and others, to honor our spirit. No one else can do it for us. That is why I write, it makes me happy and moves my life in positive ways that I don’t even know.

We are not our pain, but painful opportunities will present themselves to us, because we are spirits that have bodies. There are negative experi- ences in abundance in the world around us. When we sit up straight and take some deep breaths, we feel better physically and mentally. We might even choose to resist getting involved in our own opportunities for drama, and we automatically create the will and courage that it takes to face and embrace anything and everything.

It takes a lot of love, beginning with loving ourselves. There are a few things I recommend:

  • There is no need to judge everything you do or do not do. You are perfect in your imperfection. Let go expectations and open to unexpected inspiration.
  • Forgive yourself and others. We are all doing our best. Connect with your inner light. You have deep within unrec- ognized resources. Acknowledge the presence of your soul power and possibility. You can use this power, but first you must recognize, and accept it, then use it to heal your past.
  • Respect all people and their choices. What is most yours is your choice of your attitude. Do not let your own negative attitude or the attitude of another be your prison. Nourish your soul with beauty around you. We try to keep flowers in our house all the time.
  • Eventually everything must be given up. Letting go releases us to the self organizing power of the universe.

Don’t you want to see what is possible? I love the last part of this poem.

 

 The Summer Day

by Mary Oliver

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down,

Into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

How to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

With you one wild and precious life?

 

Snapshot of Associate Minister Annie Kopko of the Interfaith Center in Ann Arbor.

 

 

 

 

by Rev. Annie Kopko 

Gender Jam Begins at ICSG!

Contributed by Robert Fagerlund
What is Gender Jam, you ask? It is a regular meeting group to provide a nonjudgmental, supportive, not scary forum to discuss and share on gender issues, social sexual roles and expectations, women’s issues, men’s issues, LGBTQ issues, straight issues, and any other related topics. There will be no agenda, no predetermined topic or issue. Conversation will arise from whatever attendees wish to talk about. This will be open to everyone in the community. Attendees participation in sharing or commenting is not required. No one will ever be “put on the spot” or made to feel uncomfortable about speaking or about not speaking.
The first Gender Jam will be on Tuesday, March 13 from 7:00–9:00p. Come on and check it out! Gender Jam is free. Donations to the Interfaith Center will be accepted. 
To get the conversation started, here is a message from Rob Fagerlund, the creator of the group:
Feminism is the best thing that ever happened to men.
Why do I say that? One thing feminism set in motion (and I mean long ago, at least as far back Susan B. Anthony and the other nineteenth century feminists who fought for women’s rights) is a challenge to destructive and oppressive gender roles and expectations for everyone.
And no, the feminist struggle is far from over. But that’s not really my focus here. I would like to make a few observations about feminism and men.

Continue reading Gender Jam Begins at ICSG!

Messages From Joe

Hello Interfaith Family,

If you have not yet been to a service during which we are graced with Joe Johnson’s words, then I am happy to be introducing you to him through our blog. ICSG got connected to Joe through a new member of our community, Holly Honig-Josephson. Holly works with an organization called Humanity for Prisoners that provides a variety of problem-solving services for incarcerated persons in Michigan to alleviate suffering beyond the just administration of their sentences. Joe is one of those people and Holly met him through this work.

During their communications, Joe shared with Holly some of his spiritual insights and expressed his interest in being connected to a spiritual community, which led Holly to speak with me. Since then, via the prison email system, I have been sending Joe the topics for Sunday talks and he sends his reflections to be shared during open mic. This has been a truly inspiring experience for me, as I am always amazed by his reflections. I often reflect that he should have my job! Recently, because of its importance and profundity, I included a part of his message during my talk on The Great Turning. Below are some of the powerful messages he has shared so far. Maybe one day we’ll make a book, Messages From Joe. Enjoy.

Introduction

Allow me this opportunity to introduce myself. My name is Joseph Johnson, I’ve been incarcerated for 37 years for a mistake that I made as a teenager. I along with my codefendant robbed two youths who were pushing an Ice Cream cart selling ice cream of $27.50 and some ice cream. For this I was sentenced to serve a parolable life term. My codefendant was sentence to 6 Months county jail and 5 years probation. I do not give this information expecting sympathy because what I did was wrong and I’m being held responsible and accountable for my actions.

I want to first thank Pastor Lauren and Holly for making this opportunity to communicate with you all possible and I’m so humbled to have this opportunity to reach out to you from where I sit. It furthers my belief that the strong arm of the ALL is most powerful.

Continue reading Messages From Joe

New Challenges, New Beginnings

by Senior Minister David T. Bell

A snapshot of founding minister Dave Bell, who attended the New Seminary in New York and founded the Interfaith Center for Spiritual Growth in Ann Arbor, MI.
David T. Bell

It is amazing to realize another year is about to unfold. There are quite a number of things that we would change about the year of 2016. Perhaps we should have enlarged the flash paper for the Burning Bowl service. 🙂 But seriously, we know that even as we feel resistance to what is occurring in the world, our true mission is to be the bringers of light. As bringers of light, it does not serve us to grumble and complain, to shake our heads in disbelief, or to express anger and frustration.

Every being, including those whom we might see as misguided or even evil, are expressions of divinity. As such, we cannot spend our time finding fault or criticizing them. The difficult task is to hold them in light, while finding ways to ensure that harm does not befall those who may be the subject of prejudice, if not out right hatred.

This will not be easy. Whatever actions we choose to take, anger should be left behind. As Jeshua said at our Christmas morning service, anger is never justified. He specifically said that his actions in driving the money changers from the Temple were not a result of anger.

There is no way that I or anyone can anticipate what situations will arise in the next year, or the next four years. What can be said, emphatically, is that guidance is available.

When faced with the opportunity to take some action, always pause a moment and ask for guidance.

Jeshua, the Holy Spirit, or your guardian angels will absolutely respond. Pausing a moment before acting is also a wonderful way to allow momentary anger to dissipate. So let us remember that we are the Bringers of Light as we ring in the New Year.

Ministerial Search Observations

The Ministerial Search Committee has been doing yeoman duty in attracting our next spiritual leader. They have established a working protocol that has served them well and they are sticking to it. I am optimistic that we will have a difficult choice to make amongst the excellent candidates. We will see how it unfolds.

Judy and I are heading for Florida toward the end of January. We are leaving a few days early so that we can scout out a new place to hang out. Our beloved Anna Maria Island has become too crowded and way too expensive. We still plan to be snow birds after I retire, but not Florida residents. I will be flying home for the month of March and we will both return to Michigan again in mid-April.

Blessings to all,

Dave

Opening our Minds & Hearts to the LGBTQ Community

by Rev. Annie Kopko, Associate Minister
Snapshot of Associate Minister Annie Kopko of the Interfaith Center in Ann Arbor.
Associate Minister Annie Kopko

We want to be a community that will “Welcome the strange, not just the stranger.”

The ministers at our beloved Center have been discussing this ever since Rev. Delyth and I attended a workshop last September. This workshop was organized to help faith communities come together and learn how we can become more inclusive and welcoming of LGBTQ individuals.

LGBTQIA = LESBIAN, BI-SEXUAL, GAY, TRANSGENDER, INTERSEX, OR ASEXUAL

As a follow-up to what we learned at the September workshop, our Center will welcome Rev. Dr. Julie Nemecek to speak at the Sunday service on January 15.  Reverend Julie is both an ordained Baptist minister and one of Michigan’s leading voices on transgender issues. She has worked with many churches on becoming an open and affirming church (inclusive of LGBTQIA people).  Continue reading Opening our Minds & Hearts to the LGBTQ Community

This is the Time

Here is challenge as well as some words of encouragement for everyone in the turbulence following the presidential election. May the challenges facing us all serve our collective awakening.

There are three parts to this post:

1) A video of the Sunday service with guest speaker Rev. Holly Makimaa.

2) A copy of the text Rev. Holly quoted at the end of her talk, “Now is Your Time” by L’Erin Alta.

3) A spiritual reading given by member Carol Bardenstein, “We Were Made for These Times” by Dr.  Clarissa Pinkola Estes:

Sunday Service with Interfaith Minister Holly Makimaa

“Now is Your Time,” by L’Erin Alta

If you ever felt called to be a healer, a teacher, a salve for the people, now is your time to come forward.

If you are a word weaver, or a light worker, or a lender of ears, now is your time to come forward.

If you have been hiding medicine in your pockets, behind your eyes, beneath your tongue, waiting for the ‘right’ time to share it, now is your time to come forward. Continue reading This is the Time

Embodying Higher Consciousness in Turbulent Times

post-election-spirituality resourcesHow do people on a conscious spiritual path embrace our spiritual power in a time of great fear and divisiveness?

What is the middle way, between falling victim to fear on the one hand, and spiritual bypassing on the other?

Here are two perspectives from wise American teachers:

  1.  Marianne Williamson, author of Return to Love and Healing the Soul of America  (1998), speaks on wise engagement as citizens in a democracy, from the point of view of A Course in Miracles, here. This talk includes a challenge for New Thought people to take a hard look at the temptation to avoid difficult topics by judging them as “negative.” She says now is an opportunity for “girls to become women and boys to become men” in our spiritual lives. (video)
  2.  Tara Brach, spiritual director at the Insight Meditation Center in Washington, DC, suggests how we can “Play a Greater Part,” in a post-retreat talk here. (audio)

Continue reading Embodying Higher Consciousness in Turbulent Times

Letting Joy Lead

by Scott Kalechstein Grace

scott-grace_free-hugsI do what I love. For a living. Full time. Have done so for twenty six years.

Lately I’ve had a few months in a row of practically no income, and Mr. Fix It (my mind) has stepped up to the plate with a very familiar solution involving two steps:

1) Freak out.

2) Use the adrenaline gained from freaking out to make things happen.

Mr. Fix It has given me this advice my entire adult life. He has glimpsed the future, and assures me that it will suck unless I let a sense of urgency push me to do things that have generated income for me in the past : Continue reading Letting Joy Lead

Our Senior Minister Job Announcement Has Taken Flight!

Candles honoring our search for a part-time interfaith minister with interspiritual and New Thought leanings.How does a minister find the perfect community in which to unfold their gifts? How does a spiritual community connect to the right and perfect minister to lead them in their next stage of growth?

These are some of the questions the Search Committee has entertained in recent months. And now, after eight months of self-study, visioning, and refinement, we are posting the Job Announcement inviting applications for the role of part-time Senior Minister, starting when David Bell retires in June of 2017.

Help Us Give Wings to our Announcement

Now, it’s your turn again. We are asking that each of you pause now, close your eyes, and feel exactly how you want to feel when our new minister is among us.  With the right and perfect person leading us in our next stage of collective and individual spiritual growth, how do you feel?

Thrilled?  Grateful?  Relieved?  Excited to support them?  Excited about the support they provide you? What do you most want to feel in the presence of our new minister ? Invoke that feeling now, and let it fill your body for a moment or two. Energize that feeling as a way of helping our Job Announcement fly to the minister who is, at this very moment, seeking us.   Continue reading Our Senior Minister Job Announcement Has Taken Flight!

Feeling the Presence of Spirit in Times of Loss

river - change heron_dance

“There is a river flowing now very fast.

It is so great and swift that there are those

who will be afraid.

They will try to hold on to the shore.

They will feel they are torn apart, and will suffer greatly.”

~An unnamed Hopi elder

into-the-light-maciver
“With all your science can you tell how it is,

and whence it is,

that light comes into the soul?”

~ Henry David Thoreau

At the Interfaith Center we receive many wisdom teachings to help us through the inevitable losses in life. But sometimes, the river of change feels like a torrent. Then, despite all we have known in steadier times, we can be hard pressed to let go and allow the river to carry us. Continue reading Feeling the Presence of Spirit in Times of Loss