My COI

“ COI. That’s a big goldfish, right?”

“No, that’s Koi. COI is my ‘Circle of Influence.’”

“ oh.”

Over the past 24 hours, I have received much wisdom through the words of members of my family, fellow bloggers, and the priest at St. George’s.  I am applying these words of wisdom, here, to the focus and extent of what I call my ministry.

My sister (wise beyond her years) pointed out to me that I cannot save the world.  I am reminded of the story of the old man and the starfish. The old man was walking along a shore with his grandson at dawn when they came upon thousands of starfish scattered on the beach. The old man gently picked up one starfish and released it in the surf. A few steps later, he picked up another and let it loose carefully into the water. “What are you doing?” asked the young boy. The old man replied, “When the sun rises, these starfish will be stranded out of water; they will dry out and die.” “But, Grandfather, there are so many! You can not put them all back. What difference will it make?” The old man smiled, released another, and said, “It made a difference to that one.”

Last night, my brother (also, very wise) explained that to change the hearts of people who carry hatred around with them, takes a great deal of effort on the part of parents, schools, preachers, the media, etc.  In other words, it takes a village. My brother would not say “it takes a village;” that would be too Hillary, for him, but I know and agree with what he said. A while back, I wrote, All I Need to Do is Show Up; it is about how I plant seeds and sand and God does the rest.

Add to that, something my nephew said at lunch, yesterday…namely, that I don’t need to influence the whole world but just the people around me…and that that includes and starts with Me.  His point is well-taken, particularly his emphasis that I must address my own character and faith before I can rightfully and adequately address others’.  I call those other people around me, my Circle of Influence, or COI.

That circle is defined by my location and circumstances.  Physically, I am located in rural upstate South Carolina, surrounded by people who often feel strongly about certain issues; some of those issues are subjects I often write about.  However, I am also located on the internet and reach out to people who have somehow stumbled upon my writings.  But, this morning, the priest at St. George’s caused me to rethink the whole concept of MY circle of influence.

(Before I pass on to you what the priest said, I must insert that my personal, spiritual ‘location’… which requires regular mid-course correction and is therefore not fixed…does hopefully draw deeply in the Spirit…at least that is my prayer.)

The priest addressed the way we typically handle challenges in life.  I apply it to the challenge of my ‘ministry.’  He asked, “What is the first thing you do, religiously?”* He suggested that we usually try and try again, using our own effort. A fellow blogger addressed this same issue using the example of golf. As he put it, “There is the effort equals outcome approach, and there is the wisdom equals results approach….On the simplistic side of the effort equals outcome approach, we will line up the putt with the hole as best we can and putt the thing as many times as it takes to get the ball in the hole.” I daresay, that approach is not the best one, score-wise.  (You may find the rest of his thoughts in his essay,  Arriving…Effortlessly.)

The priest’s very wise suggestion for the Best way, was to get out of the way. He pointed out that the center of my efforts is usually ME. (I think that is exactly what I admitted to, above.) His sermon was about the Trinity…since this is Trinity Sunday…and he described the three aspects of God as 1) God, the Creator; 2) God, the Redeemer; and 3) God, the Reveal-er: the Reveal-er of the Revelation of God. (I like that.)

Furthermore, he added, it is not what we accomplish that makes us Christians, it is what the Holy Spirit accomplishes with respect to us. But we (by ‘we,’ I mean ‘I’) must get out of the way.  Instead of praying, “God give me the strength and wisdom to…(whatever),” I should pray “Lord, it is in your hands. I turn it over to you. Let me (help me) get out of the way.”

It is about trust, he asserted.  Religion, he said, is not doctrine, creed, rules, and regulations. Religion is “trusting God in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit works in us (me) to trust God.”  That’s profound.  I have to repeat that: The Holy Spirit works in me to trust God. So, I pray, “Lord, help me to trust.”

From this point forward, therefore, it is my intention, within my ministry, within my circle of influence, to fall backwards into the waiting arms of God and say, “Lord, I trust You. Help me get out of the way.” May that be the revelation of the Holy Spirit in me.

 

(* I was struck by the clever use of the word ‘religiously’ in his question.  He could be asking what we do when we address a challenge in a religious sense, i.e., in our discussion of the issue with God; or he could be simply using the informal sense of doing something ‘regularly.’  Both apply.  Both are cause for thought.)

 

(The image at the top is a stained glass window made by a good friend of mine.)

12 thoughts on “My COI

  1. I’ll have to come back and comment on this in more depth, but for now, thanks for the link and the thoughts presented here are appreciated as well.
    See you when I get back. 🙂

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  2. Yesterday was a busy day for me because it was one of a lifelong celebration. I am not referring to church-going (in case that was being read into it). When your comment popped up, I was wrapping things up on the computer and making plans to head out the door.

    I knew this particular inquiry would take some thought and I don’t want to just skim over it. So now I am back with a little time.

    I’ll start with semantics because different words mean different things to different people. I’ll begin by saying I like the overall tenor of your post. Sometimes (actually always) we have to step back and let Almighty take over. This moves us into a different plane where we are not the ones working, but the ones being worked through. It is a completely different world. The first indicates the need to work in the salvation of others for our own salvation, and the second indicates our salvation is secure and our work in this regard is just a natural outflowing of our spiritual state.

    Surprisingly, the second condition here does not see other souls as something that we must personally try to pull out of the depths at any occasion where we might see an opportunity. The Spirit knows the condition of the individual souls in which we come in contact, and is very efficient in pointing us to the very few in which our influence may be of benefit. Actually it isn’t our influence at all. It is only the Spirit flowing through us.

    “Religion,” the priest said, “is not doctrine, creed, rules, and regulations. Religion is ‘trusting God in the Holy Spirit’.” In order for you to understand how I am defining religion, I would say that religion IS doctrine, creed, rules, and regulations. That is how I consistently define it. So one must sort out the difference, because it is defined 180 degrees different. I would say that Spirituality, which further defined, would be understanding our true nature, is trusting God in the Holy Spirit. So when I address the religion it is the works. When I address spirituality, it is the Spirit.

    I must say something in relation to the “locality” of Almighty. Religion constantly places the juxtaposition of God and us as here and there, as in I am here and God is there. After personally reading the scriptures through 20+ times, I find no basis for this belief in scripture. I do find a foundation for this belief in Babylonian thought and doctrine.

    The Scripture, whether Godhead or ourselves, points to the fact that the three offices of the Godhead are one in Spirit – not even necessarily three different beings, but three different offices. The three different beings concept comes again, once more, from Babylon. In the Spirit we are not distinct from Godhead either. The Spirit is the activating principle within us, and in us, it acts no differently than it does in the members of the Godhead. We are not separate from God if we are in Spirit. “Christ in you the hope of Glory.” Colossians 1:27. There are no works to accomplish. We are simply One in this arrangement. Your priest would probably call this blasphemy. I encourage you to look into it yourself. It is the dividing line between physical religion and heavenly spirituality. It moves one into a relationship where one experiences the power behind the religion. It is not a form, but a power.

    Then our COI changes. It is not the people we personally run into, associate, or congregate with that we minster to. Our souls are drawn only to other souls that the Spirit knows it can work with, and leaves those it can’t to deal with life’s issues on their own. The Spirit’s method is direct. It is all one thing. It arrives… effortlessly.

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    1. I will start by assuring you that I know the distinction between spirituality and religion. I also understand your use of the word, ‘religion.’ For one thing, I grew up in the 60s and 70s and from about age 15 to 58.9, I considered myself “spiritual but not religious.” For another, I have spent 35 years in Asheville, North Carolina, where everyone is “spiritual but not religious.” I have been an avid reader and follower of it ALL. But since you address my ‘ministry,’ I will clarify one thing: I am not attempting to save souls; I am trying to subtly, gently, and carefully nudge people away from hate and have them consider alternatives. I was raised Presbyterian long enough to accept the likelihood that not everyone will ‘get it.’ But I find myself with the abilities, insights, and sensitivities to reach certain people where they are. I relate a good day in my post “What do people do, who don’t have Jesus.” That is a quote from one of the people I talked at length with that day. (BTW, what I am finding here, which is no surprise if you think about history, is the black people here ‘get it;’ they see life and events in terms of spirituality, not scripture or doctrine. It is the white people who are holding on to their hate and justifying it with doctrine and scripture.) I do not proselytize; I am disgusted with ‘the church’ and have no intention of telling people they need to go to church, etc. Everybody here knows about Jesus; everybody knows about the second commandment; they just don’t know that ‘their neighbor is everybody else…everybody else.’ But the black people have the spirituality part down.

      I have had other bloggers reprimand me because I do not address issues like Christians being persecuted in Nigeria or abortion. Well, I don’t feel compelled to. My hands are full trying to keep my neighbors from killing each other and my family members speaking to one another.

      Yes, I am intuitive enough to dwell in the spiritual and to be aware of the power behind the veil; I read and understand my dreams; and I have also been blessed with the ability to converse with the divine and have had visions. (No, I am not psychotic; I am intuitive, as you say.) But the Holy Spirit has led me here and has given me the heart to speak to people and they open up to me and they often leave with a softer more loving attitude.

      It could be that I am one of those who will be left behind. I don’t know. But I do not feel called to spend my days in communion with the Spirit; there is some of that, but there is also a large part of my heart that understands all sides of the hate issue, the mental health issue, the fear and guilt issue, …and I have been given the patience and the words to reach out to people…not for their eternal salvation but to help them open their eyes and let go of some hate before they die.

      Oh, and the priest…he ‘gets it.’ I’ve listened to him enough to feel very confident that he does. His use of the word ‘religion,’ is because he was addressing a group of about 13 people, the average age of which is about 65. This is Upstate South Carolina; this is not Asheville. Like myself, he serves people who likely do not have the depth of understanding he has…but he loves them and is attempting to show them a better way…one step at a time.

      If I may, I would suggest you might consider the possibility that not everyone in ‘the church,’ is of ‘the church.’ I daresay, he has a broader mind than you suspect. I cannot see him saying any of this is blesphemy; he might suggest, however, that what you say would be difficult for those 13 to accept…so he speaks so they can hear him….like Jesus did in the parables.

      You may not be able to understand why I do not spend my days praying the Kingdom into existence but I am no longer in this for my own enlightenment; I am a servant, washing the feet of my neighbor.

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      1. Wait a minute. I sense a little bit of a disconnect. Sorry about that. I was concerned about semantics, which means the way people interpret words. All I was saying was that the definition that the priest gave about what is and what isn’t religion is the 180 degree opposite of how I use this word and I did not want that to cause confusion. Apparently it has anyway. Again, I am sorry about that confusion.

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    1. What kind words! Thank you. I had a little trouble finding your writing beyond your welcome but when you post something new, I’ll get an email and I’ll find it.

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  3. I can see I am going to have to make the journey to your blog more often! You make me think and that is always good. Have you read the book “It’s Not About Me.” by Max Lucado? He makes some of the very same points you do about getting out of the way.

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  4. I’m a non-believer and generally I shrink away from blogs that focus on religion, spirituality or anything that entails a so-called higher entity. However, your blog and posts contain such profound thoughts, pondering on which becomes inevitable and necessary, they offer multiple perspectives even for a non-believer like me. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Your timing is impeccable; I’m getting ready to put up a piece on what I didn’t know about Muhammad Ali and how I am (only recently) enjoying learning about things I didn’t know before…but certainly should have.

      Having just reread your words, I am humbled….

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