Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Value of Truth Telling


She raised her hand and said¸“I don’t have a question, but I do have a comment.”

“That’s fine,” I said. “I’m listening.” I had just finished speaking to a doctoral class for about 40 minutes on the piece I had titled: “White in America: Can I Get a Witness?” The Georgia Southern class on “Ethics and Diversity” was being taught in Savannah to doctoral students in an educational leadership program. Their professor invited me to come speak after hearing her husband share about a conversation we had at a social gathering. And, although I’ve pretty much taken my professor hat off for good, I was happy to share on this topic. This class had 12 African American students and four white students. And the person who had raised her hand was a middle aged African American woman. She paused before going on, as if trying to think about the best way to make the comment. And I breathed deeply and waited for whatever she had to say. Then it came….

“I have never heard a white person talk like you have just talked. I mean, I never have heard white people really tell the truth about themselves and about race like that before.” Others nearby shook their heads in agreement.

“Well,” I said, “I’m very sorry. It’s taken most of us a while to even tell ourselves the truth.”

Then we went on to other questions. One white student made a point of sharing that her experiences were very different than mine, since the schools integrated before she started school – and she had not experienced the Jim Crow era. It was as if, in some ways, she was letting herself off the hook. I let her slip off gently – and just said, “Well, yes, your experiences have been different, but we still have much to work on.”

The discussion turned to efforts to make a difference, including the recent decision by congress to compensate black farmers pursuant to a decade-old settlement with the United States government. The case addressed allegations that the farmers were unjustly denied benefits by the Department of Agriculture.  The Claims Settlement Act of 2010 will fund the agreements reached in the Pigford II lawsuit in the amount of $1.15 billion. The bill also includes a $3.4 billion fund to settle charges from the Cobell lawsuit brought by Native Americans claiming that the government mishandled money from the Native American Land Trust. I also shared a bit of information with them from my economist husband’s article on “The Cost of Being Black.”

Then I said, “But it’s not all about money. Money means something, but it’s about much, much more.” I looked at the woman with the initial comment and walked up to her desk and said. “I bet if I gave you a $100 dollar bill tonight, you could put that to good use and would like to have it.”

She smiled coyly and replied, “Oh yes.”

Then I said, “But I’m also willing to bet that what you heard me share earlier tonight was worth more than that.”

And she smiled broadly and said, “Oh YES! That was PRICELESS!”

“Yes, Priceless,” chimed in the student sitting by her.

Now that’s not because I delivered a great or entertaining speech. It was simply because I shared the truth. I shared the truth about my upbringing, my deep prejudices, my fears, my struggle to overcome these difficulties, and my continuing struggles as I strive to contribute what I can to help others who are committed to anti-racism, anti-oppression, and multiculturalism.

My time was up. The professor gave me a thank-you note as I left the class. Before I turned on my car, I opened the note. It included a $50 honorarium. When I returned home, I emailed the professor, thanking her for the honorarium and sharing that it would be put to good use helping others via our emergency relief fund. Indeed, that money would be helpful, but her invitation and the experiences we all shared that evening provided an awesome experience for me too. Oh yes, money helps – but the value of truth telling, it is priceless, indeed!

I am currently reading a book entitled, The Arc of the Universe is Long: Unitarian Universalists, Anti-Racism and the Journey from Calgary by Leslie Takahasi Morris, Chip Roush, and our own Leon Spencer. It is a very comprehensive examination of what we have been through as an association, with some historical summation of efforts prior to the 1992 General Assembly resolution related to anti-racism, and a very thorough examination of what we’ve been through since that time. (I will share more about this perhaps in a workshop format this summer.) Some of the passages are painful to read. Sometimes the truth hurts. But then, it is also what sets us free.

We will celebrate that struggle and that freedom as we march with others in the Martin Luther King, Jr. parade on January 17. Some may say that marches don’t mean anything. And I certainly agree if that is all we do. But marching should serve as a reminder to us and to others that we have not forgotten King’s dream, and that we are willing to march in the light of truth as we work for justice. The title of the book I’m reading comes from a quote that you may have heard attributed to Martin Luther King, Jr. King's often repeated expression that "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice" was his own succinct summation of sentiments echoing those of Unitarian minister Theodore Parker, who, in "Of Justice and the Conscience" (1853) asserted: "I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice."

In April of 2008 on the 40th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination, then candidate Barak Obama said, “Dr. King once said that the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice. It bends towards justice, but here is the thing: (and this is crucially important) it does not bend on its own. It bends because each of us in our own ways put our hands on that arc and we bend it in the direction of justice….” Will we folks at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Statesboro put our hands on this arc? I challenge you to join us as we do this work. You might begin with just marching, marching “on the side of LOVE” – moving with us through the streets of Statesboro as we unite with others hoping to make this world a better place. The chairperson for our MLK parade entry is Greg Brock. You may contact him or me (for I have his ear) for suggestions and information.

And may your new year be filled with peace, love, joy, and that priceless truth that sets us all free!

Standing on the Side of Love!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Without the Dark, There is No Light

In Ric Masten’s song “Let it be a dance” that we sang for our gathering song, you heard these words, “Without the dark, there is no light.” My original intention was to highlight the holidays from various cultures that occur during this time period which emphasize light – and the return of the light. But the light is not what Masten is lifting up here. He’s lifting up the darkness. And I’m trying to lift that up in my own mind too. And in doing so, another song came to my mind.

(Let me get my air guitar.)

(Sing) I woke up this morning – had them Statesboro Blues,
Yeah, I woke up this morning – had them Statesboro Blues,
Looked over in the corner – grandpa and grandma – they had’em too.

Blind Willie McTell – from Thomson Georgia – a traveling blues singer, declared after being rejected by some Statesboro woman, that he was putting on his traveling shoes, cause he had them Statesboro Blues. And the song was later popularized by the Allman Brothers.

Since the Allman Brothers put Statesboro on their fans map, I’ve been bothered by the implications of that song. It’s not good to be from a town that is best known by some for giving you the Blues. But if you listen to the song, it’s not the location that is Blind Willie’s problem. And Statesboro not my problem either. This town is not what gets me down. But I do find that when December rolls around, I often sing the Blues.

The days get short,
The nights get long,
My heart gets to hurtin’
And I sing a sad song.

December is not my favorite month. And the Christmas Season doesn’t bring the joy with it that I’m supposed to feel. I think that’s part of the problem – that it is supposed to be the season of joy and happiness – and when you have difficulties, when you or a family member is sick or hurting from physical problems, financial problems, or mental, emotional, or spiritual problems -- that is juxtaposed against all that shiny tinsel and glitter of the season --- and it’s hard to reconcile.

And I’ve found that I’m not the only one who gets a little sad at this time of year. In fact there’s a special diagnosis that goes with the blue feeling that some folks get in the wintertime. It’s called Seasonal Affective Disorder – or SAD for short. So I decided, rather than talk about the holidays today – because you’ll get plenty of that… I wanted to address something that many of us face at some times in our lives ---- depression, sadness, the dark times, the blues.

Now I’m one of the lucky ones in that I’m fortunate not to have a kind of clinical depression which is not a seasonal disorder – but a chronic illness. And my blue Christmas feeling is probably more related to extremely difficult events that have occurred in my life on or near Christmas. So mine may not even be diagnosed as SAD – which may bemore related to the diminishing sunlight. But I did attempt to find out a little more about this diagnosis – which may affect some of you as well.

SAD was first formally described and named in 1984 by Norman E. Rosenthal and colleagues at the National Institute of Mental Health. It’s described as “a mood disorder in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year experience depressive symptoms in the winter or, less frequently, in the summer, spring, or autumn, repeatedly, year after year.” Now in the Diasgnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders (also known as the DSM-IV), SAD is not a unique mood disorder, but is “a specifier of major depression.” So there is some disagreement about this disorder – and some folks are still skeptics. However studies now estimate that its prevalence in the adult population of the US ranges from 1.4 percent in Florida to almost 10% of the population in New Hampshire. (
I suppose that’s a good reason to appreciate living in Statesboro.

Subsyndromal Seasonal Affective Disorder is a milder form of SAD experienced by an estimated 14.3% of the U.S. population. And according to the experts cited in one of the articles I read, the blue feeling experienced by both SAD and SSAD sufferers can usually be dampened or extinguished by exercise and increased outdoor activity, particularly on sunny days, resulting in increased solar exposure. And I personally can vouch for that! In any case, connections between human mood, as well as energy levels, and the seasons are well documented, even in healthy individuals.

And if those things don’t work, there are other forms of therapy – especially in the climates where there is little natural light – including light therapy, medication, inonized-air administration, cognitive-behavioral therapy and carefully timed supplementation of the hormone melatonin.

There are those among us, however, who have a more chronic kind of depression, and I’m familiar with this as well – having family members who suffer. And you know, most of us don’t realize what folks are going through in their lives. We look at some folks and they seem to have it all together. But my reading and my experiences tell me a different story. The Rev. Barbara Meyers is a Unitarian Universalist community minister and the creator of “Mental Health Matters,” a public access TV show focusing on mental health issues in her community. Her story is included in one of our issues of UU World. Meyers is a regular speaker in churches and at community forums. Her involvement with mental health was stimulated by her own struggles with depression. She does an interesting thing when she speaks to congregations. She says: “First I tell my own story. And then I ask people to stand up if they or someone they love is living with mental illness. Invariably 80 to 100 percent of people stand up.”

“The theological basis for Meyers’s ministry starts with her belief in Unitarian Universalism’s First Principle about the inherent worth and dignity of all people. Her role model is Dorothea Dix, a Unitarian mental health reformer in the 1800s. ‘Most of what she did was to live out her religion in the world. That’s what I hope I’m doing,’ Meyers says.” And isn’t that what you and I want as well.

To those who don’t think their congregations have people with mental health issues, Meyer’s says, “Our congregations are full of these people. Many times they’re sitting there suffering in silence because they’re not sure if they’re welcome. When I ask people to stand up it’s a tremendously powerful message for those who are suffering silently.”

Well, I’m not going to ask you to stand up today if you or someone you love has suffered from depression. But I do not doubt that most of you here could respond in the affirmative to a question like that. One reason I’m pretty confident that we have lots of folks who have suffered from depression here is because our congregation has so many wondrously creative, talented people – and those gifts are often accompanied by possibilities for depression. And you are in good company --- or some may say talented company. Here are a few of the well-known folks who have spoken candidly about their struggles with depression: Adam Duritz (lead singer for Counting Crows), Ashley Judd, Billy Corgan (of Smashing Pumpkins), Billy Joel, Boris Yeltsin, Brooke Shields, Delta Burke, Princess Diana, Drew Carey, Emma Thompson, Harrison Ford, Heath Ledger, Hugh Laurie (that’s House), J.K. Rowling, Jeffrey Sebelia (from Project Runway), Jim Carey, John Denver, Marie Osburn, Mike Wallace, Olivia Newton John, Owen Wilson, Rodney Dangerfield, Rose O-Donnell, Sheryl Crow, Terry Bradshaw, and Thomas Eagleton – who you may remember left the Democratic ticket as McGovern’s VP nominee after revealing that he had suffered and been treated for depression. These are some of the folks that have been more open about it on talk show, in books and articles, etc. – but of course, there are many, many others.

Often when folks go through a difficult time, they emerge stronger and better able to face the future. One excellent example is President Abraham Lincoln. A recent [Houghton Mifflin, 2005] book by writer Joshua Wolf Shenk is entitled Lincoln's Melancholy - How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness.

“The sub-title of the book tells it all. Lincoln had throughout his life bouts of depression. He learned how to handle them with a variety of coping strategies, among them writing, especially writing poetry, and by reading poetry and the Bible and by storytelling, especially telling funny stories.” (

And many mental health professionals offer us great encouragement. They tell us that depression can be managed, if not cured, by medication and therapy. Sometimes it takes a while to find what works best for each person. There is no perfect recipe. Now some folks, like the Scientologists, are totally opposed to medication for mental conditions. I certainly do not agree with them. However, I do agree with William Finger, author of “The Healing Power of Community” in a 1999 UU World magazine article.

Finger states: “One blessing of our era is the pharmacological revolution, allowing medications to pinpoint brain chemistry, including the serotonin re-uptake process. But with this blessing comes a narrow view of healing.

“Medication can help manage symptoms and provide new energy. Therapy can offer a safe place for talking, grieving, healing, and developing hidden sides of one’s personality. But we need more if what we’re looking for is long-term transformation and behavior change. Depression can be like an old shoe, a familiar place to go during times of stress, life transitions, a particular time of the year, a family dynamic triggered in parenting, empty weekends, Sunday nights facing a new week. 

“The support of a community can help people recovering from depression to avoid falling back into old behavior patterns.” Finger then describes communities that have helped him, including his UU congregation.

I also wonder if some of us don’t run for the feel better pill a little too quickly. Now I’m especially talking to folks who may not have a really severe, critical situation. Sometimes we need to just be a little more comfortable with sadness.

Several years ago, I had my first trip to Womenspirit at the Mountain. And Pauline DeLaar encouraged me to go on the Trust Walk they were having. Now up in these Mountains – there are no street lights. It is truly dark. And we got into vans that took us to an area where we were going to walk down into a gorge – and eventually end up behind a water fall – and we were to just make our way by holding the hand of the person in front of us – with the all-knowing guide in front. She shared with us that after a while, our eyes would adjust to the dark – and we would be able to see well enough to find our way. And you know – she was right. It took a while of groping around at first – but my eyes did adjust – and I could see well enough that I felt more secure, especially knowing others were around.

I share this story, of course, to say that when the darkness of the blues falls on me, I don’t immediately look for the flashlight of a pill. I wait for my eyes to adjust – and I can usually see. I recognize it – call it by name – say-“Hey – there you are again. I was wondering when you would show up.” And I invite depression in like a good neighbor would do. But depression is a temporary visitor – at least for me, not a permanent house guest. I suppose if I did have chronic depression though – I would try to fix-up a room for her and hope that she would spend most of her time there and not take over the house.

When the blues come to call – I think also of Ric Masten, the fellow that wrote the song “Let it be a Dance” that I’m using for the themes for my sermons this year. I think of Ric– dancing with Life. And Ric himself suffered with bouts of depression during his illness. And¸ he would dance with despair. And the despair danced into his poetry, sometimes with great weight and sometimes lightly. But when the weight was too great, Ric (like William Finger) turned to others. Listen to his poem entitled:


Upon diagnosis I was informed
I was “inoperable, incurable, terminal”
Blunt lumbering thoughts
Immense as elephants
And “Don’t go there!”
Is like being told not to think about elephants
While lying among them trying to sleep

So like the five blind men
Describing an elephant
“a tree, a rope, a kite, a spear, a hose”
Just so
I ran my shocked and frightened mind
Along the big “C” beast
To understand what I was feeling
Gleason, PSA, neuroendocrine,
Carcinoma, palliative
Mysterious aspects of the monstrous thing

The Prostate Cancer Self-Help Group
Meets the first Wednesday of the month
And why I didn’t go at first who knows
I only know that till
I dragged my butt through that door
And joined my compatriots
I was utterly alone
And it was elephants elephants elephants
Night after night all night long

I must say it seems absurd
That it took so long to learn
About strength in numbers
And in gathering together
The elephant herds are driven away

And so I too will dance this year with my sadness for a bit. But it can’t have the whole dance card. And that is one reason I come here to UU – so that I can dance with you too – and we can share our joys and concerns, our hopes and dreams, our despair and our care and listen and commune with one another and welcome JOY into our lives together.

One of the so-called seven deadly sins is sloth. And I used to just think of this as laziness. But the way it’s used in the Bible is to refer to a lack of zeal in accepting the joy of the spirit. Now if we think of sin in it’s literal meaning of “missing the mark” – when we are not open to that JOY and healing spirit that is present among us, when we do not avail ourselves to it, then we are missing the mark – and our souls are sick and hurting.

When my spirit is really low – I think, I don’t know if I have enough left for even one day. But I remember the miracle of Chanukah, and commit myself to persevere, and watch the light burning that day, the next day, and the next, and the next, till I come to UU on Sunday morning or other times to refill my soul with the oil of gladness! This place is my Gilead, my community of healing, the source of that precious oil.

(Sing) “Sometimes I feel discouraged and think my work’s in vain,
But then that Holy Spirit revives my soul again.
There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.”

May it be so, this day, this season for us all.
Amen and Blessed Be

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Gift for You!

Rev. Jane Page

Here’s something about me that you may not know. I do not like to shop. In fact, I dread shopping. I admit that part of the reason that I don’t like to shop is that I don’t like to spend money. Although I’m a generous person – and don’t mind giving money, when it comes to shopping, I’m “frugal,” a characteristic inherited from my mom. And, even if someone GIVES me the money – or a gift certificate, I do not like to shop. So I avoid it if I can. Greg does the grocery shopping at our house, so I don’t even have to decide which detergent is the best for us.

Now this shopophobia that I have may be seen as a blessing, I suppose, by those who have to take out a second mortgage after a trip to the mall. But during this season of the year, it’s an extreme disadvantage. I know I should be making lists and looking online and in stores for that perfect gift for everyone. Sorry, it’s not going to happen. Yesterday was my mom’s 84th birthday, and I thought, “I really should give her a gift I suppose.” So I looked around the kitchen and picked up the fall centerpiece that I had purchased for our “Day of the Dead” celebration and took that to her. Shame on me! (And worse yet, I’ll probably “borrow” it back for our Thanksgiving meal.)

Now I really do appreciate that some folks are SO good at shopping. But it’s too hard for me – so I follow my dad’s example. He didn’t care to buy gifts either. But his gifts were always the right color – green. I’ll probably share some of that green stuff this holiday season with my family members. I know that this is the easy way out. Sorry, the agony of trying to find the right gift is just too frustrating. However, I do enjoy giving words of gratitude and love.

So here’s my gift for each of you for the holidays. It’s a little blessing.

May you sleep well, at least now and again.
May you also eat well – chocolate’s no sin.
May you share smiles with others, even if they frown.
May you get some smiles too, when you are down.
May you see lots of beauty every day.
May your heart be touched by a story or play.
May your troubles not be as bad as they seem.
May you grin in your sleep from a happy dream.
And when we’re together or when we’re apart,
May my love for you stay warm in your heart.

Hope this season is blessed with goodness for you and yours!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Everybody Turn and Spin

(This is the fifth sermon in the "Let it be a Dance" series based on phrases from Ric Masten's popular song in our hymnal.)

In his song “Let it be a dance,” Ric Masten says…”Everybody Turn and Spin.”

In my interpretive dance this morning, the turning represented reasoned thoughts and actions while the spinning represented those connected with passion. Of course the dance is only beautiful and sustainable when both are present with the dancer. Gibran’s metaphorical prose provides another picture of this idea with the use of a ship’s rudder and sail. And though most of us would agree in the value of both reason and passion working and dancing in harmony together, these concepts are more often portrayed as enemy spirits – in a warfare for our souls.

This is prevalent even in the earliest Creation Stories. Adam and Eve certainly understood cause and effect, yet – of course – this passion fruit proved to be their (and some say our) downfall. On a side note --- those opposing marriage for gays and lesbians, often note – “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” One could reply – “So the downfall of mankind was caused by a heterosexual couple!”

Other ancient stories from the Bible and Koran magnify this continuous struggle. Here we see David struggling to keep his passions in toe. He fails, of course.

Ancient Greek playwrights also use these concepts in their dramas and comedies.
"In his plays The Bacchae and Medea, Greek playwright Euripides expresses his views quite clearly on the relationship between reason and passion in human life. Euripides believes that there is a constant struggle between the two elements, and people must be able to find the proper balance in order to exist peacefully, something his characters were unable to do. He expresses, via his characters, his belief that passion dominates this struggle in most cases, and when this occurs, proper logic is skewed. The lead role in each of these plays failed to find the proper balance of passion and reason, and in failure found death."

And the list of stories and dramas could go on and on, of course, including our the Chicken Little story you saw with the children. Here are just a few of the more famous quote regarding reason and passion.

"The law is reason free from passion"

"Reason is God’s crowning gift to man."

"Reason should direct and appetite obey."
"He only employs his passion who can make no use of his reason."

"We arrive at truth, not by reason only, but also by the heart."
Blaise Pascal

"Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear."
Thomas Jefferson

"Faith…must be enforced by reason…when faith becomes blind it dies."
Mohandas Gandhi

"I reject any religious doctrine that does not appeal to reason and is in conflict with morality."
Mohandas Gandhi

"The ultimate authority must always rest with the individual’s own reason and critical analysis."
Dala Lama

"Happiness is not an ideal of reason but of imagination."
Immanual Kant

"Mankind is governed more by feelings that by reason."
Samuel Adams

"Reason obeys itself, and ignorance does whatever is dictated to it."
Thomas Paine

"The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason."
G.K. Chesterton

"If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins."
Benjamin Franklin

And of course – one should not discuss the topic of reason without mentioning John Locke. So – “John Locke.”

And there are many women – including my hero – Elizabeth Cady Stanton – who were lovers of reason and many others as well who were lovers of passion – but enough of this Who’s Who! What about us!

Many of us were attracted to Unitarian Universalism because we didn’t have to leave our brains at the door. We lift up our 4th UU principle which says that our congregations affirm “A free and responsible search for truth and meaning.”

And we are especially glad that following is listed among the six sources for our faith is this statement:
“Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.”

YET – most of us want to gain more from our faith than knowledge and understanding – and we bring our whole selves into this faith – not just our reasoning.

We affirm with our Children each Sunday morning that “We are Unitarian Universalists: People of Open Minds, Loving Hearts, and Helping Hands.”

Although folks have noted this tension since ancient times, we now have the technology to actually see a little more about how this works – because we can monitor brain activity related to decision making. And what we are seeing is that folks may believe they have totally based decisions on logic – but indeed, they are using that “gut” aspect of thinking – then sometimes rationalizing to match it – or sometimes rejecting it based on more logical thinking.

According to Daniel Gardner, author of The Science of Fear,
“People process information primarily through two mental modes, or channels, that operate in parallel. The first mode of information processing occurs primarily on the subconscious level; the second, at the conscious level…. Gardner…refers to these two modes as Gut and Head, respectively.

"Gut processing is sophisticated, intuitive, and quick. Head processing, on the other hand, is analytical, slow, and rational. Each mode of mental processing has strengths and weaknesses, and each plays a distinct role in decision making.

"Gut makes decisions quickly. But Head can monitor Gut’s decisions and overrule them when necessary. According to Gardner, “Gut decides, Head reviews: This process is how most of our thoughts and decisions are made.” Essentially, we are of two minds, each of which works semi-independently of the other.

"What makes the interaction between Gut and Head so interesting is that, sometimes, Head doesn’t bother to monitor Gut. Sometimes, Head doesn’t step in at all. When this happens, decision making occurs automatically, under the radar of our conscious attention.

"So, although Gut enables an efficient way of navigating a complex world, it can also lead us astray. The challenge is that Head can’t look inside Gut to figure out how or why Gut operates the way it does. Our subconscious is much like a black box with no access doors. It’s strictly off limits to the conscious mind. All Head can do is monitor and override Gut; it can’t change or negate the influence of Gut.”

My gut tells me it’s time to get to the “So What” of this message. Well, there are lots of possible responses to the “So What” question – but I’m just going to concentrate on the “So What” for today.

At 11:45 today, our congregation will have our Annual Meeting. We will be asking you as members to consider and vote on some important recommendations from our board, finance committee, and nominating committee. Now – I am not ON the board, finance committee, or nominating committee, but I have observed them operate. And I can assure you that these recommendations are ones that incorporated reason and passion. These heads you see here have been hard at work --- envisioning, deliberating, imagining, calculating, gut-checking, exploring, analyzing, critiquing, engaging, and even a little dreaming.

At 11:45 today, they will share with you a record budget proposal based on a record canvass event – and they will share with you their visions for this wonderful congregation for the 2011. The nominating committee will also share a slate of officers for your consideration – folks who have generously agreed for their names to be put forward – with I’m sure much passion and reason going into that decision.

These are not easy times for many folks. We struggle in many ways. But I am so thankful that we have a congregation that recognizes the value of this fellowship and of Unitarian Universalism for themselves, their families and this community and stands on the side of Love.

May we be bold as we move into the future, balancing both passion and reason as we dance together.

"Let it be a dance we do,
May I have this dance with you,
In the good times and the bad times too,
Let it be a dance!"

Monday, October 25, 2010

An Old, Old, Story of a Man Called Job

As retold by Jane Page

Today I’m going to share a very old, old, old story with you about a man called Job. You can find this old story in a book called The Bible – and in a book called The Qu'ran. But it’s told a little differently in those two books – and actually – I’m going to tell it a little differently today. But it’s basically the same story.

So ----- Once upon a time, long, long ago – in the place called heaven, the Big Guy who some called God – but I’m going to call Big G – was sitting up on his throne. And Big G was enjoying listening to this praise concert that some of his heavenly guys and gals were singing -- -and in comes another heavenly guy who was always pestering Big G and challenging him and teasing him. Now some called this fellow the Adversary – and others called him Satan – and some called him Devil – but I’m just going to call him Little D.

So Little D said, “Hi Big G! I just got back from walking all around the earth. Had a good time down there watching all those creatures – especially the ones called people – they are sure a mess.”

And Big G said – “Oh – but you must have also seen my man Job. Now that Job – he’s one fine fellow. He works hard and follows all the rules and Job is always saying good things about me. He says – 'Blessed B to Big G.' He’s a fine fellow, that Job.”

But little D says – “Well no wonder Job says good stuff about you. Look what all you have given him. He’s a very rich man. Why he has seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred donkeys, and a big family with seven sons and three daughters. He only says all those good things about you because you protect him and his stuff. I’ll make you a bet that if you let me take away everything that belongs to him, he won’t be so good anymore – and will say bad things about you Big G.”

Big G said, “Little D – you got a bet. You have my permission to take away everything he has – but I’ll bet my man Job will have great patience and will still be a very good man and still say ‘Blessed Be to Big G.’”

So Little D teleports back down to the earth and begins to do his dirty work. And the next thing you know, one of Job’s servants comes up to him and said: “Oh my good master Job – I have bad news. Some thieves have come and stolen your camels and donkeys and oxen.”

And before he could finish talking – another servant came and said, “Oh my good master Job – I have bad news. A fire came and burned up all your sheep.”

And another servant came and said – “Oh my good master Job – I have bad news. A band of bad guys from another country came and stole all your camels.”

Then a fourth servant came and said – “Oh my good master Job – I have very bad news. Your sons and daughters were all eating together at the oldest son’s house and a great storm came with great winds and caused the roof to cave in on them – so now you have no more children.”

Well Little D was standing behind a tree watching all of this happen and waiting for Job to curse and say bad things about Big G.

And Job was very, very sad – and said “ I came into this world without anything – and I’ll go out without anything – but Blessed Be to Big G.”

So little D teleported back up to heaven. And Big G said, “See I told you so. My man Job is a very good man who still does not say bad things about me.”

And Little D said – "But he still has his good health. Let me take away that and make him sick and you will see that he will turn against you.”

So Big G said – "You got a bet. Go see."

And Little D teleports himself back to earth and causes Job to get very sick and big sores to come all over his body – and they itched and burned and Job was miserable. And Job’s wife came and tried to get him to say bad things about Big G – but he still said, “Blessed Be to Big G.” And his friends came and told him that he must have been a very bad man for these bad things to have happened to him – and they were bullying him to make him confess to bad things he had not done – but he did not – for he had not done these bad things. Job did complain though and ask why these bad things were happening to him.

Then Big G spoke to Job in a whirlwind (which was his favorite way to communicate) -- and Job heard him say – “JOB – who are you to complain about these bad things happening to you? Where were you when I made the world? You don’t control everything that happens to you. There will be bad things and good things – that’s the way the world is. But you have been patient and have not said bad things about me. So I will reward you.”

So Job gets well from his sores and gets back many, many, more sheep, and ox, and camels, and donkeys than he ever had before. And he also has seven more sons and three more daughters. Then Job lives to be a very old man. And he has bad times and good times like we all do. .. but he continued to say: “Blessed Be to Big G.”

And that’s the old, old story of a man called Job.

Take It As It Passes By

(This sermon is the fifth in Rev. Jane Page's "Let it be a Dance" series and was preached at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Statesboro on October 24, 2010.)

Ric Masten’s song says: “Take it as it passes by.”

He precedes that line by saying “A child is born, the old must die, A time for joy, a time to cry.”

– Take it as it passes by.

This is the old paradox that life is GOOD and BAD. Ric says we should take it all and dance with it.

This acceptance of the bad things in life reminds me of that popular bumper sticker – S-H-I-T Happens.

No one really knows where this famous proverb was originally uttered. One source said the phrase was first used as among students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Could be! A Wikipedia source reminded me that a fictitious explanation of the origin of this phrase occurs in the 1994 movie “Forrest Gump.” While he was on that long run, a bumper sticker salesman running alongside him points out to Forrest that he has just stepped in a pile of dog feces. When Forrest replies, "It happens," the man replies, "What, sh --it?" to which Forrest replies, "Sometimes". The man is then inspired to create that famous bumper sticker.

Then later all these lists came out that shared how this concept is expressed in all religions and world views. I’ll share a few of these. Now since I’m trying to be a “good girl” and not use bad language from the pulpit – instead of having to spell this word out, I’ll just say “bad stuff” instead.
* Taoism: Bad stuff happens, so flow with it.
* Buddhism: Life is bad stuff happening, so let go.
* Zen Buddhism: What is the sound of bad stuff happening?
* Islam: If bad stuff happens, it is the will of Allah.
* Hinduism: I’ve seen this bad stuff before.
* Presbyterian: Bad stuff is predestined to happen.
* Calvinism: Bad stuff happens because you don’t work hard enough.
* Episcopalian: It’s not so bad if bad stuff happens, as long as you serve the right wine with it.
* Catholicism: Bad stuff happens, but as long as you say your “Our Fathers” and “Hail Marys,” it’s OK.
* Wicca: What bad stuff goes round, comes around again.
* Agnosticism: How can we know if bad stuff really happens?
* Baptists: We’ll wash the bad stuff right off you.
* Judaism: Why does bad stuff always happen to US?
* Christian Fundamentalism: If bad stuff happens, you will go to hell, unless you are born again. (Amen!)
* Unitarian Universalism: Come let us reason together about this bad stuff and perhaps your minister will create an interpretive dance exploring it.

So the “it” that we take as it passes by – may really rhyme with it. But it can be many things. I asked on our listserv if you would share with me your concepts of what IT could be. And some of you did.

One of you said the “it” was Truth – and quoted that biblical passage that said that the Truth shall make you free.

Another shared that perhaps because of current happenings in his own life, he would say “the ‘it’ includes dealing with death, seizing the moments of friendship and connection, and recognizing that those moments also pass.”

Another shared that IT is “whatever calls to us -- our bliss -- opportunities that appeal.   Life is a smorgasbord, offering us many choices.   We choose what we take -- whatever will help us grow and mature and deepen – our soul work.”

One congregant said: “For me, the ‘it’ in this context might be the chance, the struggle, the risk. I also think of ‘it’ as love, as desire to live fully engaged with the beauty and force that connects all sentient beings.”

One person said the question reminded her of Walt Whitman’s poem – “Song of Myself” – and she quotes the line… "There is that in me---I don't know what it is but I know it is in me..." 

And our diverse congregation goes from one quoting Whitman to another quoting Country Singer Jerry Jeff Walker – who croons:

Well, I'm takin' it as it comes
And you know – that it comes to everyone
I'm just sittin' back here
Gettin' high and drinking beer
And I'm just takin' it as it comes

And then last – but not least, there is the one who says there are some “its” that he doesn’t want to take anymore and joins with Twisted Sister in singing (and you can join me):

We’re not gonna take it,
We’re not gonna take it,
We’re not gonna take it – anymore.

So we all feel like that now and then – and should – but then we are also reminded of Paul McCartney sharing that when he felt very frustrated, he remembered a dream he had of his mother Mary – who died when he was just 14 – coming to him and saying, "It will be all right, just let it be." And of course, that was the inspiration for the Beatle’s song,

Let it be, let it be, let it be let it be… Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

Many of these ideas that you all presented on the listserv bring to mind --- well they bring to mind – the mind! Mindfulness is also a concept that we began to hear more about in the 70’s – and the idea that we needed to be mindful of the “here and now.”

I can close my eyes and see the words in yellow chalk on that green chalkboard now. I was taking a graduate education class in the Carroll building at Georgia Southern. I honestly don’t remember what class it was, or the name of the teacher – but I do remember that night we had a guest speaker --- and that speaker went to the board and wrote in HUGE letters this simple phrase: BE HERE NOW! And perhaps like many others who heard those words – that was an “aha” moment for me.

The author of the book titled Be Here Now published in 1971 was a fellow by the name of …… Ram Dass. Here’s some information about him from his website biography:

Ram Dass first went to India in 1967. He was still Dr. Richard Alpert, an already eminent Harvard psychologist and psychedelic pioneer with Dr.Timothy Leary. He had continued his psychedelic research until that fateful Eastern trip in 1967, when he traveled to India. In India, he met his guru, Neem Karoli Baba, affectionately known as Maharajji, who gave Ram Dass his name, which means "servant of God." Everything changed then - his intense dharmic life started, and he became a pivotal influence on a culture that has reverberated with the words “Be Here Now” ever since.

On February 19th 1997, Ram Dass suffered a near-fatal stroke, which left him paralyzed on the right side of his body and expressive aphasia limiting his ability to speak, along with other challenging ailments. The after effects of the stroke have once again changed his life and vastly altered his day, but he has been able to resume teaching and continues to share and teach. In 2004, following a life threatening infection, Ram Dass was forced to curtail travel and focus on recovering his health. Ram Dass now resides on Maui. The Internet is a new vehicle for Ram Dass to share his being.

I’ve read other reports that indicate that although he has had ups and downs, Ram Dass has continued to practice what he preaches. And he has readily moved to a stage where he has to have lots of physical help to function day to day – but he’s taking it as it comes. He is being “here now” with those challenges and still contributing with the help of others.

I haven’t read his latest book. It’s entitled: Be Love Now: The Path to the Heart. Ah, so in the end, “it” comes round to love for Ram Dass --- and for many of us as well.

Of course Ram Dass is just one of many prophets and gurus through the ages who have tried to address the paradoxes of the world – including the principal problems of theodicy, the conundrum of why, if the universe was created and is governed by an all powerful God who is of a good and loving nature, there is nonetheless so much suffering and pain in it.

Another famous author is Jewish Rabbi Harold Kushner. I had the privilege of hearing him speak here at Georgia Southern a few years ago. Of course Kushner is the author of the best seller, When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Kushner struggles in the book with the story of Job. And in the end, he ends up reinterpreting the story – and letting go of the idea of an all powerful God in order for the world to make sense to him. But he holds on to the loving God. Some of us here have let go of Job’s God altogether as we have tried to make sense of the world. But we all can learn from Job’s story. One reason I told the story of Job to the children is because they need it just for cultural literacy. When someone tells them they will need the patience of Job, they need to understand the character of this man who persevered through tremendous suffering. And they (and we) need to have models of perseverance from ancient stories and from today!

Last month – September 2010 – there were at least 9 suicides of teenagers who were gay or who were perceived as gay after intense bullying. You know those stories if you’ve read or seen any of the news – so I shall not recount them. What I do want to share, though, is how uplifted I’ve been by the “It gets better” campaign.

According to a USA story (10-09-2010) by Elizabeth Weise, the “It gets better” project was started last month by Dan Savage. The Seattle-based writer and columnist was waiting for a plane at JFK airport when he read about 15-year-old Billy Lucas in Indiana, who committed suicide after being bullied in high school because his classmates thought he was gay. Savage said: "I thought, 'If I could only have talked to him for five minutes, to tell him it gets better, maybe he wouldn't be dead.' "

Sitting at the airport, Savage realized he was waiting for someone's permission to talk to these kids — but he didn't need to. When he got home, he and his husband, Terry Miller, made a video about their 16 years together and uploaded it to YouTube. In it, they tell gay and lesbian teens that life gets wonderful. The couple, married in Canada, live in Seattle with their 12-year-old adopted son, D.J.

Miller says in the video, which has been viewed over a million times, "If you can live through high school, which you can ... you're going to have a great life. It's going to be the envy of all those people that picked on you.”

The project has taken off, with probably more than a thousand videos posted now since September 22. I encourage you to watch some of these. These modern day Jobs demonstrate that if you can persevere – and get what help you can, it does get better. And that’s a message we can all use. These messages give youth and others something else to take as it passes by. They are already taking the crap – but with this project, now they can also take hope.

I know that many of you have also persevered through great difficulties, and others are trying to get through them now. And yes, we can “take the pain” – and “take the hope” – but we can do more. One problem I have with the phrase “take it as it passes by” – is that it seems to be too passive, as if life goes by and we just partake of it. But that is not the case. I believe that we don’t just partake of our lives – we make our lives, we create our lives. How we deal with difficulties and how we attempt to help others – does make a difference in the world. Did you know that our UUFS Feeding Statesboro team provided lunches for 86 people this past Tuesday? These folks, as well as our own volunteers and volunteers from that neighborhood, received a wonderful meal to nurture our bodies and genuine fellowship to nurture our souls. Yes, our actions change the course of our lives, for ourselves and for others. And when we work together with others – in a community like we have here at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Statesboro, we can and do make a difference.

(Note to Reader: Our story for all ages entitled, “An Old, Old, Story about a Man Called Job” was shared earlier in the service. In this story, I call God – Big G, and the adversary or devil – Little D. And though Little D wants to win his bet and have Job curse and say bad things about Big G; throughout the story – even when all the bad things happen, Job recites this praise phrase – “Blessed Be to Big G.”)

Now most of us don’t have the same theology as Job. But perhaps we have a Big G too. Some may call it God or Goddess – for others it may be the Goodness within each of us – or the Goodness in others that we connect to in life – or perhaps it’s the Grand Universe itself, or maybe it’s Gaia. (sing) “Gaia, oh Gaia, – living breathing earth” – that Great Grandmother Nature. Or maybe it’s simply Grace – that amazing Grace that we have just waking up each day and experiencing this life. And perhaps that leads us to the Big G of Gratitude. Regardless of what is sacred to you, through the good times and the bad, I hope that today you can recite with Job and with me – that praise phrase “Blessed Be to Big G.”

And so –
Let it be a dance with do!
May I have this dance with you?
In the good times and the bad times too!
Let it be a dance!


Sunday, October 10, 2010

What Time is It?

A Post-Menopausal Re-examination of Ecclesiastes 3 (offered the day after my 60th birthday)

Responsive Reading UU Hymnal # 558 in UU Hymnal

There is a time for everything,
And a season for every activity under heaven:

A to be born and a time to die,
A time to plant and a time to uproot,

A time to kill and a time to heal,
A time to tear down and a time to build,

A time to weep and a time to laugh,
A time to mourn and a time to dance,

A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
A time to embrace and a time to refrain,

A time to search and a time to give up,
A time to keep and a time to throw away,

A time to tear and a time to mend,
A time to be silent and a time to speak,

A time to love and a time to hate,
A time for war and a time for peace.

Sermon: What Time is It? A Post-Menopausal Re-examination of Ecclesiastes 3.

Tick Tock
Tick Tock
What time is it?
Tick Tock
Look at the clock.
Away the hours slip.

Each fall I take time for an annual check-up. It’s not that I worry about my health – but after all, my health insurance pays for this check-up, and I should get my money’s worth and go. At the time of this particular visit back in 2003, I was terribly busy so as I sat in the waiting room, I was hoping that it didn’t take a lot of my time. I, of course, had to complete the paperwork telling them the same information that I had told them for years. As I checked off the list, I felt pretty good. “I’m a healthy woman,” I said to myself. “Well, except for my allergies, and my cholesterol, and a bit of a stomach problem now and then. But I have pills I take for that stuff. And I made it through menopause just fine. Quit taking those hormones a while back, and haven’t had hot flashes or anything.”

Finally I was called back to the room where the nurse takes your temperature and your blood pressure. She also weighs you. “You can take off your shoes,” she said.

“Good,” I thought, “I’ll weigh less.”

She weighed me and I started to step off the scales. “Wait,” she said, “I’m going to measure your height.”

“Measure my height? I haven’t been measured at the doctor’s office since I was in elementary school.”

“You’re 5 foot, 3 and a half inches,” she announced.

“Egads! Where did the other half inch go? I’m shrinking!” A bone scan revealed that I was not as healthy as I thought and two more medications were added to my regimen.

The next day I was at the University where I taught and found myself talking to another woman in her 50's about the medications we were on. My observer self watched this scene in horror. “Jane, what have you become!”

Tick Tock
Tick Tock
What Time is it?
Tick Tock
Look at the clock
Away the hours slip.

What Time is It? It was time for me to get to class! Since the 70’s, I had been a teacher and a teacher of teachers. But in 2001, I returned to the other side of the desk as a student working on my Master of Divinity degree at Meadville Lombard. My advisor, John Tolley, agreed to allow me to take my Old Testament class at Georgia Southern where I was employed as a Professor of Education. My Old Testament professor assigned some papers for us to do, and for one of them, I decided to do a close reading of the 3rd chapter of Ecclesiastes. I chose this text because it’s often used by Unitarian Universalist ministers in rites of passage ceremonies. In fact, I used it myself in memorial services. So I thought it would be good to pay a little closer attention to it. And I found that I really had not read it before in quite the same way. Perhaps it was because I had become very aware at that doctor’s office visit that the season of my life had changed.

SO, I’m going to share some of my findings with you here today. Now, I’m not going to share my entire paper. But I do want to share some of the things that I discovered and uncovered back in 2003.

Now you all are probably familiar with the first eight verses of this chapter. Those are the words we used for our reading beginning with “For everything there is a season.” And, the words were borrowed by Unitarian Universalist Songwriter Pete Singer for this song “Turn, Turn, Turn” made famous – back in the day -- by “The Byrds.” But those familiar words make up just part of this chapter in Ecclesiastes. Listen to the remaining verses of Chapter 3 beginning with verse 9.

What gain have the workers from their toil? I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God's gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil. I know that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has done this, so that all should stand in awe before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already is; and God seeks out what has gone by. Moreover I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, wickedness was there, and in the place of righteousness, wickedness was there as well. I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for he has appointed a time for every matter, and for every work. I said in my heart with regard to human beings that God is testing them to show that they are but animals. For the fate of humans and the fate of animals is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and humans have no advantage over the animals; for all is vanity. All go to one place; all are from the dust, and all turn to dust again. Who knows whether the human spirit goes upward and the spirit of animals goes downward to the earth? So I saw that there is nothing better than that all should enjoy their work, for that is their lot; who can bring them to see what will be after them?


One of the first questions Bible scholars ask about a Biblical work is: Who wrote it?

If you dust off the Family Bible you have at home and turn to Ecclesiastes, the preface to that book provided by the publishers may state that the book was written by Solomon. However literary analysis has indicated that this work was written much, much, later. The teachings included in this book are identified in the first verse as words of Qohelet - which is Hebrew for teacher or preacher. We get the word Ecclesiastes from the Greek word for teacher.

This unknown writer chooses to impart ideas, wisdom if you will, to the reader through a teacher who can be likened unto another important figure, Solomon. In fact, the author probably wants us to think of someone like Solomon when we read this work - someone who has obtained great knowledge and great possessions in his life and now - as he is growing old, he’s pondering what it all means and imparting his ideas to his students.

So we don’t know who wrote it. But somehow, it made it into the biblical canon. It’s very unusual in some ways that this book made the cut. The book is full of contradictions and, unlike some other contradictions in the Bible; these are obviously intended by the author.

The teacher in the book is clearly a man of great faith in God. He fears God and believes his students should fear God also. But he is a questioning man. He’s a philosopher who has looked at all the injustices in life and questioned how this can be. Yet, he holds onto the faith of his youth. And guess what? He’s somewhat depressed.

Many of us have been there for sure. We realize that life is full of contradictions. And sometimes it does seem absurd. In the passage that we read prior to the sermon, the teacher pairs the positive with the negative in a poem about time. This passage indicates that God has predetermined all. He has set the world in motion so that there are seasons and times for everything. In the teacher’s view, we have no control over this. The good things in life are canceled out by the bad things and it all adds up to zero. Nothing profited.

While doing the research for this paper, I discussed this passage over lunch with Trent, one of our UU friends who practices Zen Buddhism. Trent said that Buddhists like the poetry at the beginning of this chapter because it shows that life is balanced.
A time to weep, a time to laugh
A time to mourn, a time to dance

But that’s too optimistic for the teacher in Ecclesiastes. He is the quintessential pessimist. Perhaps he was in the mind of Robert Oppenheimer when he stated that, "The optimist thinks this is the best of all possible worlds, and the pessimist knows it."

This teacher thinks in quantitative terms. In fact, the bottom line is profit. In verse 9 he asks? "What gain have the workers from their toil?"

Moreover, he sees God as just keeping us busy and guessing.

Verses10 and 11 state:
"I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end."

He also provides us with a little extra humble pie - lest we think we are special. In verses 19-20, He states: "For the fate of humans and the fate of animals is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and humans have no advantage over the animals; for all is vanity. All go to one place; all are from the dust, and all turn to dust again."

Yes – this teacher has come to the realization that - no matter how hard he works and how much he “gains” - - he’s just gonna die anyway. Now all of us KNOW that we are going to die from a very early age. We learned that little bedtime prayer that said, “If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

What is it about getting older that somehow makes us wake up to the reality of death! It usually happens in mid-life when someone we know or someone famous dies either at a young age or unexpectedly. For example, while I was initially working on this paper in 2003, John Ritter died. And you think – “Oh that could be me.”

The Ecclesiastes teacher had come to the conclusion, not only that he was going to die, but that he was getting old and would not be able to do the same things he had done before. So he encourages his students in this passage also. And what is this encouragement?

Verse 12-13 states:
"I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God's gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil."

In our lunchtime conversation, Trent shared with me that he has a Jewish friend who puts it this way: “Enjoy what you can in life and try not to piss off God.” Well, since my theology is not the same as the teacher in Ecclesiastes or Trent’s Jewish friend, I don’t have to worry about that last part. But I do connect in a way with the Teacher in Ecclesiastes. I believe we have some things in common. First, we’ve both lived a very productive life in many ways,yet we both suffer setbacks occasionally. Second, the Teacher and I are both anguished about the suffering in the world and the unfairness of it all. And third, we both have come to the conclusion that you should enjoy your life and your work as much as possible.

And there’s another thing: I believe that we are both probably in the same season of life. I obtained a word in 2003 to attach to that season for myself: That word was driven home with all of the literature sent with me from the doctor’s office visit I was telling you about. I’m post-menopausal! Well, maybe now – post post menopausal.

Tick Tock
Tick Tock
What Time is It?
Tick Tock
Look at the Clock
Away the hours slip!

Okay so I’m post-menopausal. But what does that mean today? Gail Sheehy has made a good living out of exploring and writing about the different seasons adults go through on their life journey. Her books about Passages are best sellers. She indicates on her web site, though, that these life stages are changing. Sheehy says: “There's a revolution in the life cycle. People today are taking longer to grow up and much longer to grow old.”According to Sheehy and others exploring adult development, there are some times of life that are more anxiety producing than others. For me, this was the decade of my 40's. And the lesson I learned through those experiences resembles the lesson taught by the teacher in Ecclesiastes. And that is that there are some things we just have to accept. Some things are not in our control. Now I don’t go as far as the Ecclesiastes teacher does with this. His philosophy is very deterministic. As indicated before, the Ecclesiastes teacher believes that God has it all mapped out. However, I believe that we can make a difference. We do have some things within our control and influence. My problem is that I have often wanted to expand that control and influence.

I’m a fixer – a problem solver. This is not a bad characteristic. For example, our toilet in the hall bath was not flushing unless you held the handle down for a five count. I had several options. One was to write a note on a yellow sticky sheet telling everyone to do just that. Another was to call a plumber. And the third was to figure out how to fix it. It took me a while but I figured it out. I just needed to shorten the chain for it to work right again. But people are not like toilets. – well we could take that simile further and see. BUT the point is I realized in my 40's that I would have to accept some things, especially people, like they are.

A book by William Glasser entitled, “How to Take Effective Control of Your Life,” and the first part of Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer helped me with this. Those words are:
"Grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference."
That third line is the hard part and still gives me trouble.

I believe that the advice given by the teacher in Ecclesiastes to his students shows that in his “post-menopausal” days, he had gained a bit of serenity as well. Might as well enjoy what you can --Cause there’s just no need in fretting bout stuff you can’t do anything about.

My dad used to tell me that he never lost sleep from worrying. He said if there was something he could DO about it, he would get up and do it. And if he couldn’t do anything about it – then he might as well sleep.

Well, as Greg can tell you – I’ve took that advice to heart – and so many nights – I’m up working on stuff in the middle of the night. Beats lying in bed awake and worrying.

Tick Tock
Tick Tock
What time is it?
Tick Tock
Look at the Clock
Away the hours slip.

What time is it? It’s time to get up! In addition to sometimes being a nocturnal person, I’m a “morning” person. For most of my life, I’ve awoken early and after a cup of coffee (or perhaps two), I’m off and running. I tend to have lots of energy in the morning hours and I can get a lot done. Then noon hits and I have to take stock of where things are, get a little nourishment, and see what’s left to do. I’ve found that I can still get a good bit done in the afternoon but I sometimes have to take a little break - maybe a power nap or perhaps go for some walking meditation on the rock labyrinth in the woods behind my house. Then I’m ready to move forward. By the time evening comes, I’m ready to relax a little and even put my feet up on the coffee table. Now I can still enjoy my relationship, my work, and my play – I just want to put my feet up and maybe have a glass of wine.

I came to the realization back in 2003 that the noon hour had passed for me in my life. I was not even menopausal. I was POST menopausal. That meant it was afternoon. And now it’s a little later in the afternoon. Problem is – I sometimes still try to live life at a morning pace. If I’m to have a GOOD afternoon, then I need to continue to work on slowing down a little– I’ve gotten a little better since 2003, but it’s kind of hard. Perhaps I even need to take a break occasionally. And there will come a time that I’ll need to put my feet up a little more too.

Like the teacher in Ecclesiastes, I’m getting older and realizing that I need to enjoy the good things of life. And yet, for me, one of those good things is work. I was fortunate to be able to shift a few years back, into a work that means even more to me and I hope to others as well.

And that is what happens when we hit the afternoon of our lives.

If we take that meditative walk or power nap –and take some time to reflect on what’s most important for us to do – we can renew ourselves and move into a time in which we can really do the things that are meaningful. For some that might mean changes in jobs or relationships. For others it means emphasizing new priorities right where they are. But it can be a wonderful time in life. The teacher in Ecclesiastes had also moved into a new role. He had done the “king” thing and he heard that clock ticking. So now he moved on to more important things: teaching and preaching and sharing with others.

Do you ever hear that clock ticking? If you do, that means it’s time to reflect on what’s important and meaningful and what brings joy and passion to your life.

Listen . . . (tick, tock)
I think I hear it now.
So you know what I’m going to do. . . I’m going to move my hips with the beat and declare to you all that “Hey - It Must Be Time to Dance!”

Let it be a dance we do!
May I have this dance with you?
In the good times and the bad times too,
Let it be a dance!

Amen, Blessed Be, and Cha Cha Cha!

Friday, October 1, 2010

A Welcome Relief for Welcome

Here is Welcome Page on her last day with us, in her favorite place (guarding my car) with her favorite person (my son John).

October 2010

Sometime in 1996, before the birth of my first grandson JD, his dad brought a puppy home to their mobile home (which was where the “Holey of Holeys” now stands near the labyrinth). It seems that one of Fred’s friends was raising bulldogs, and the Mama bulldog obviously had somehow had an encounter with some other pop than the one selected for breeding. One of the puppies had too many characteristics that didn’t match – especially that long white hair. So this friend told Fred he would just give him this mutt if he wanted it. And Fred brought this beautiful puppy home. The puppy’s favorite place to rest was on the stoop right in front of their door. So Michelle named her Welcome – because she was like the “Welcome mat” greeting you when you came in. Of course that later became quite a joke, because Welcome was anything but welcoming to the stranger.

Later when Fred and his family moved, Welcome became my son John’s dog – and they developed an especially strong bond when he nursed her back to health after she was hit by a car and had to undergo a difficult surgery. Welcome had a limp after that, but she could still run like the wind.

Welcome had been with us for 14 years. And like many of your own special pets, she was definitely a part of the family. A month ago, Greg came in after his morning bike ride and said, “Jane, I think we’ve got a problem.” Poor Welcome was lying in her urine and could not move. And she was not wagging her tail when I talked to her and petted her. My mother used to say that she would know when it was time to say goodbye to Brownie, their old dog. She said, “He’s still wagging his tail – so it’s not time yet.” Of course, eventually that time came for Brownie – and now it had come for Welcome. I made the appointment with the vet, and called my son John in Atlanta to let him know. Well, he called back after getting the message and said he was on the way to Statesboro. So we delayed the appointment till later in the day, then decided to let the doctor try during the night to see if there could be improvement. Actually we let Welcome spend two nights in intensive care. We picked her up in the day and just spent time with her, even doing her favorite thing, which was riding around with the windows down. But she didn’t even lift her head to the window. Finally, John was ready to let go. And we did. John and I shared our love with Welcome as the doctor administered the sacred, wondrous medication that would take her so gently and quickly away. And I sang one of our favorite UU songs: “Go now in peace, go now in peace. May the spirit of love surround you, everywhere, everywhere, you may go.” And she was gone.

We came home and buried her body in our little pet cemetery in the woods. Our little service included this modification of a poem by Thomas Nault:

Now these laughing eyes are closed in that long sleep
Which is the soundest and the last of all:
Shroud not my limbs with funeral pall
Nor mock my rest with vainest prayers, nor weep,
But take the husk of me to where the birds soar,
In dewy woods where critters play and love,
And there, when the sun peers through branches from above,
Bury the part of me which is no more.
And on those days you wander by that wooded trail again
Think of me as then shall be, a part
Of the sacred earth, and if you see the red
Of setting sun, or feel the clean soft rain
Or hear the wind blow in the trees,
Then let your heart beat fast for me,
And I shall live within it.

As I think back on this time, I am so very grateful that we were able to allow Welcome to have this welcome relief and not suffer anymore. Oh, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be as humane with our human family members. May it one day be so!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

To Reap the Harvest, Plant the Seed

Ric Masten’s song says: “To Reap the Harvest, Plant the Seed.”

My strongest memories related to the concepts of reaping and harvesting come from listening to the radio late at night when I was about 10 or 11. My parents gave me a pink radio for my pink room – and I would tune that radio in to WWNS every night and listen to the DJs play the latest songs. Of course WWNS was our local a.m. radio station here in Statesboro. Here’s some Statesboro Trivia: What do those letters stand for? It’s “Welcome – Where Nature Smiles.” That was the first part of the Statesboro Motto. The whole motto was: “Statesboro: Where Nature Smiles and Progress has the Right Away.” So I listened to WWNS – 12:40 on my radio dial till the clock neared 10 p.m. That was when the radio went off the air. Of course the national anthem was always played right before the static came on. But in Statesboro – right before the National Anthem – we heard the Sower – Michael Guido, from Metter Ga, “with a seed for the garden of our hearts.” The song that they played on that old radio program went something like this: (sing) “A seed from the sower, though small it may be – will bring joy and blessings – just try – and you’ll see.” Then Michael Guido would share some heartwarming story with us that taught us a life lesson. Now Michael Guido was a conservative Christian man – but his stories could be relevant for anyone of any religion. Later, he moved his Sower spots to television, of course. And he recorded these from Guido Gardens in Metter GA till shortly before his death in 2009. You can still see them on TV and watch them on the internet. I went to his site and clicked on the TV spot for the day – and low and behold – Michael Guido was sharing a message about a Unitarian – though he didn’t identify him as such. Actually – it was someone who identified as a Unitarian Agnostic. And this message – I thought was perfect for what we are trying to convey today. So I’ve brought it here for you.

(Play one minute Sower video)

Alexander Graham Bell wanted to help his sister who was nearly deaf – and in turn, he ended up inventing the telephone and helping us all to communicate more easily. This reminds me of our sermon discussion last week after Tina shared information about the Mabon celebration – or 2nd Harvest. Many folks discussed the idea that when we put forward good stuff, good stuff is returned. What you sow, you reap. You plant a seed and nurture it – and it will be returned many times over. At least that’s the way the farmers among us count on it working. The law of harvest is to reap more than you sow. And of course, this is true beyond the farm fields. James Allen’s famous quote is: “Sow an act, and you reap a habit. Sow a habit and you reap a character. Sow a character and you reap a destiny.” And that’s what we hope is happening here at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Statesboro.

The first seeds of this congregation were planted 25 years ago – in 1985, when a handful of folks got together and decided that they would be the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Statesboro. They elected officers – and met monthly in their homes or places like the regional library to share and discuss matters of importance to them. Those few folks planted those seeds, and others weeded and watered and nurtured those plants – which are still bearing fruit – and WE are still reaping the harvest.

These and others worked to gain affiliation with the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1990 – and we have continued to nurture our membership in this association and our district association by paying our fair share dues and collaborating with other churches in many ways. Yes, these associational seeds planted in 1990 by wonderful folks – three who are still here – have born wonderful fruit, and WE are still reaping the harvest.

During the 1990’s the group met in a variety of rented spaces at Georgia Southern – carrying their materials in a boxes. But though they had no space of their own, they developed into a real congregation during that time – with worship services, and children’s religious education and music! They watered and weeded these programs for us – and WE are still reaping the harvest.

In 1998, they courageously decided to do what was necessary to have their own space – by meeting the president’s challenge to significantly increase their operating budget. That seed money – and the following money pledged to a capital campaign, and the many hours of dedicated work by these folks resulted in this wonderful home of our own which we moved into in fall of 1999 – and WE are still reaping the harvest.

And then in 2006 at its annual meeting, the fellowship voted to call me as their first settled minister to serve at least half time, beginning July 1 2006. The funds would come initially from our savings with the goal of increasing the operating budget within three years to fund this ministerial line. You, who were here, planted those seeds, watered and weeded, and nurtured that possibility --- and – you still have a minister, so We are still reaping the harvest.

And that all sounds great! But we find ourselves in this 25th year at an important time for making some crucial decisions. Here are seven factors to consider.
* We are growing and are attempting to make efficient use of our small space, knowing that we will need to change this space in the future if we are to continue to grow to meet the needs of our congregation.
* We are stretching “half-time” service of our minister far beyond the normal service of that label. We need to consider possibilities for moving toward 3/4 time in order to provide the many professional ministerial services we need.
* Some of our most faithful givers of time, talents, and treasures have moved away or plan to move soon. We will need to find ways to continue to do the good work that they have provided and supported.
* We have some exciting new programs for our children and youth and some faithful volunteers providing leadership. However, they will need our support and assistance to continue this good work and not face eventual burn-out. The addition of a part time professional director of religious education would provide strong leadership in this vital area.
* Our music ministry has great potential. Funding of part time leaders or musicians can make a vital difference.
* We are realizing what a strong liberal religious voice we can be for this community. We need to support those who “Stand on the Side of Love” with proper training for being leaders of this prophetic congregation.
* In association with other Unitarian Universalist congregations, we can make history – rather than just being pushed around by it. We believe that our principles are life-changing and world changing. We need to find ways to move this vision forward.

Here’s where we are! We have this wonderful garden – but the need for our fruit is great – both with those who are already here, and those who have not yet found this wonderful faith community. Are we going to be that old guy who builds a fence around his garden and says – “this is for me, my wife, my son John, his wife – us four and no more?” I hope not.

At our canvass time each year, we encourage you to consider providing a meaningful commitment for your time, talents, and treasure. As you do this, we remind you that our congregation is not some commercial enterprise where we come and consume our good fair trade coffee or consume by hearing a good message or consume by having our children taught our UU values. Yes, we do all those things. But there is something more than mere consumption going on here. This congregation is a faith community with a vision for changing ourselves and the world in positive, healing, energizing ways. And to do this, we all are going to need to move beyond a consumer mindset – and move to one in which we see ourselves INVESTING in this congregation and our vision for better selves, a better community and better world.

The Silver Anniversary Challenge
To honor the 25 years we have been together and to share in a commitment to our future, I suggested a challenge to our leadership and others who are in a position to make a significant increase in their pledge (fully realizing that some in our congregation are not in this position at this time). The challenge is to increase ones pledge by at least 25%.  Michael Durall (church consultant and author of Creating Congregations of Generous People as well as the Almost Church books we've been studying) says that the majority of Unitarian Universalists could double their pledges and not change the way they live significantly.  That may or may not be true -- but asking for a 25% increase should be doable for many of our folks. I am pleased to share that our all of our board members and finance committee members as well as your minister have met this challenge. We encourage you to consider joining us! And again, I fully know that this is a difficult time for some of you and you will not be able to do this. Whether or not you can join with this special challenge, we encourage you to give careful consideration to possibilities for sharing your time, talents, and treasures this year. So that our leaders can plan for 2011, we ask that you complete two forms for us.

The Pledge Card
In your packet is a UUFS Silver Anniversary Canvass Pledge Card. If you and other household members give as one pledge unit, you need to complete one card. Many do pledge separately, though, and will need to complete separate cards. You can email our administrator Shay Gibson if you need additional cards. Although the use of UUA’s guide (on the back) is optional, we do believe it is a fair way to determine your gift based on your level of involvement and your income level. If you are undergoing many hardships this year, you may not be able to give at the level that you would like to give. We encourage you to do what you can – and work toward that possibility in the future. While the giving guide is one way to determine an appropriate gift, there may be others. For example, one leadership consultant shares that he tells folks that their gift should be somewhere between their cable bill and their car payment! There is a blank on the card for you to share the total amount you plan to give in 2011. Please also let us know your planned giving increments (weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.). And please know that if anything happens that would prevent you from meeting this commitment, you need simply to call the treasurer and share information regarding the needed adjustment. We look forward to many of our folks making meaningful, generous pledges in support of this faith community.

The Volunteer Form
This congregation is very dependent on our wonderful volunteers. We desire to truly have a shared ministry and invite you to participate with us. We ask that you select one of the committees to serve on in 2011 and place a check mark in front of it. If there are specific activities under ANY of the committees that you could fulfill, we ask you to check that as well. (Note: you do not have to be on a committee to be involved with these specific roles.) If you have talents or time to give in an area that we have not identified, write it in! We need you! Your gifts of time and talent will be greatly appreciated.

Returning your Card and Form
There are two possibilities for returning your cards and forms. You can put them in the envelope provided and drop them in the designated basket during a Sunday service, or you can mail them to our PO Box. For your convenience this year (and to save stamps), you can mail them back in the same envelope. We hope that you can return these within two weeks, so that we can use this information in preparing our budget for our Annual Meeting in November. I am SO enthusiastic about our future here at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Statesboro and I hope you are as well! With your help, we can make a difference --- and dance together while we do it!

Let it be a dance we do,
May I have this dance with you!
In the good times and the bad times too,
Let it be a dance!

Oh, may it be so!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Learn to Follow; Learn to Lead

Note: This sermon was preached on September 14 and was the 2nd in the "Let it Be a Dance" series based on phrases from Ric Masten's song by that name.

It was the summer of 1963. Are you old enough to remember? That’s my cousin Ann with me in the bikini and her little sister Nancy in the picture on the wall. In addition to enjoying activities like swimming with my cousins at Cypress Lake, I was old enough to go to the dances held at the Pav-a-lon at the Recreation Center. No – I’m not mispronouncing “pavilion.” The name of this structure WAS “The Pav-a-lon” spelled P A V (dash) A (dash) L O N ” -- named, I suppose, by someone who could not pronounce pavilion – and it stuck. There was even a sign with the name at the entrance for a while – but it was stolen, I suppose, a while back. Anyway – back to the summer of ’63……

The dances were record hops, – with Ray Classens spinning the records LIVE on WWNS radio, 12:40 on your dial – while the teens danced the twist, or the mashed potato, as well as some slow dances. Tuesday night was for the younger teens and Friday night was for the older teens. So this was a Tuesday evening that I’m especially remembering. And I was very excited to be at the dance, sitting at one of the picnic tables with my gal friends, wondering if any of the boys would ask us to dance.

Then I saw that really cute guy who was in the class ahead of us. His name was Bill Hook – and he was so suave looking. I knew he probably would not want to dance with any of us “sub-freshmen” though – so I looked around to see if there were others – that I would at least approach if DJ Ray Classens gave us a “girls choice” dance.

Then it happened. The DJ put on a slow dance – and YES – Bill Hook came up and asked ME – “Plain Jane ME” to dance. I had seen Bill dancing earlier with another girl and he looked like he was a good dancer. And I knew I could dance because lots of the girls at the girls’ Happy Go Lucky club like to dance with me. So we should be good together.

We went out onto the dance floor and my heart beat rapidly. We started dancing and it seemed a little awkward – but I thought it was just my nerves, and maybe Bill just wasn’t that good of a dancer after all. Maybe he just LOOKED so good that I thought he could dance. Then he just stopped dancing – just stopped – right there on the dance floor and looked at me and said, “Jane – you are leading! I’m the boy – I’m supposed to lead! You are the girl. You are supposed to follow me.” Oh. OOPS! So I tried to follow Bill, I really did – but both of us were glad when the dance was over. And Bill Hook never asked me to dance again.

Now, I’m just going to put my feminist analysis of this situation (and all the possible sociological and cultural aspects that we could deconstruct) into an imaginary box here and tie that up and put it on a shelf – perhaps examining later. Because in reality – for that time and place – and with the rules in place for social dancing, Bill Hook was right! Yes, I had learned how to dance. And I had even learned how to lead, but I somehow had failed to learn to follow.

In Ric Masten’s song about life entitled, “Let it be a Dance,” he encourages us to “Learn to follow – Learn to Lead.” In the dance of life, it’s important to be able to do both.

There are situations in which I HAVE to follow – I can’t lead, because I don’t have the expertise or knowledge to do so. And most of us know what our limitations are – though we can work on those skills. For example, we are going to be painting the interior of our church soon, and our friend Gaby Howett, who is a professional painter extraordinaire, has volunteered to lead us in this venture. Now there are those of you who are skilled at this – and can more easily follow Gaby’s direction. And we will let you know when we need this help – so hopefully you can volunteer. I, myself, will probably offer the contribution of transporting people or materials – because I don’t know that I can even follow well enough in this arena to participate. But if I do try, I know that I will need to listen carefully, watch what she does, take it slowly till I gain confidence, and ask for help if I run into problems. Since that dance with Bill Hook, I’ve worked hard to learn to follow. And we do need good followers, don’t we?!

Now I know I need to follow Gaby’s leadership if I try to paint. But I also know that I need to step back and follow – even when I have some special knowledge or expertise. That’s hard for some of us who are extroverts, but it’s an important skill to learn.

But what about leading?

There have been mountains of research articles written on various paradigms or theories of leadership. And depending on who you are reading, these categories are given different names. This morning, I’m going to share some names for these categories that are commonly used across many fields and I’m going to be drawing and quoting from a 2008 article by Jing and Avery. I promise not to give you a long leadership lecture – this is just a little review of possibilities. (Note: Direct quotes are in italics.)

Classical leadership is probably the oldest paradigm with its origins in antiquity, and is still used in contemporary organizations…. According to Avery, classical leadership refers to dominance by a pre-eminent person or an ‘elite’ group of people. This leadership can either be coercive or benevolent or a mixture of both. In the religious world, the Pope is a good example of Classical leadership.

Under the transactional leadership paradigm, leaders adopt a consultative style for making decisions. They engage in different degrees of consultation with individual followers, but the leaders remain the final decision-makers. If you are in an academic department at Georgia Southern or some of job with a supervisor, your chair or supervisor hopefully consults with you on lots of matters – even if she has the authority to make the decision – or more than likely – the recommendation to the next level in the hierarchy.

Visionary (or transformational) Leadership has gotten much attention in the last few decades. Here, the leader (appears to have) high competence and a vision to achieve success. Followers… respond with enthusiasm and commitment…. The leader also consults with and empowers followers. A local Example that worked: Legendary Coach Erk Russell.

According to Avery, visionary leadership has limitations, even with the current literature’s overwhelmingly positive view of it…. The unrealistic expectations followers often place on visionary leaders can create disappointment if things do not work out. Also, followers can become dependent on visionary leaders, believing that the leader has everything under control.

Then there is Organic Leadership. Organic leadership allows for people with different degrees of expertise on current issues to emerge and be accepted by the group as leaders. In addition, under organic leadership, there may be no formal leaders and the interaction of all organizational members can act as a form of leadership, held together by a shared vision…. However, Kanter argued that the downside of organic leadership is that it… may result in loss of control and greatly increased uncertainty. A possible current example of this would be the Tea Party Movement.

So which of these works better? Well of course the research says: It depends!! One thing that it depends on for sure is the followers!

I was a department chair at Georgia Southern for 12 years. And for most of those years, I felt pretty good about what we were doing. The department started out with a small group of guys that were about to retire – so I had the opportunity to do lots of hiring as we replaced them and grew. My idea was to hire the smartest and best people that I could – then listen to them and advocate for them. And we were able to accomplish some great things. But the culture of Georgia Southern as a whole changed to one where that model didn’t fit too well. And eventually, I and some other chairs were called into the Provost’s office. We thought perhaps he wanted to hear out concerns. But no – he immediately let us know that was not the purpose of our visit with him. He told us that he brought us in so that he could explain to us what our job was. He told me that my job was – and I quote – “to take direction and give direction.” And just to make sure we got it – he said it two or three times. He added for good measure that we needed to learn that “the faculty is not always right.” Fortunately for me, I had already entered seminary and was on my way to preparing for the ministry. Because you see --- even if I COULD change my ways – and become that “overseer” and TAKE direction – then GIVE direction; I knew that with the faculty that we had hired in our department – there was NO WAY!!

Which of these leadership styles works best for our churches? UU churches with our governance of congregational polity -- go overboard with empowering folks – so it seems that no one can ever make any decision without some committee or board approving it. Growth Consultant Michael Durall warns us against following this path as he looks at the success of newly formed non-denominational churches and the decline of mainstream churches, including many Unitarian Universalist churches. In his book “The Almost Church,” Durall states:

Strong Leadership is the core issue that distinguishes newly formed independent congregations from established churches….. The question at hand is whether we limit the effectiveness of capable clergy, lay leaders, and church members via outdated practices, policies, and structures.

SO – though we don’t need the structure of the Pope – perhaps we don’t need the tea party either. Actually – one of the metaphors for leading and following that makes the most sense to me is the one that I often witness visiting and leaving our pond. The geese! Here are some facts and lessons from the geese compiled by former Baltimore Public School Superintendent, Robert McNeir. (

As each goose flaps its wings it creates an "uplift" for the birds that follow. By flying in a "V" formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone.

People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.

When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it.

If we have as much sense as a goose we stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help and give our help to others.

When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies to the point position.

It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership. As with geese, people are interdependent on each other's skills, capabilities and unique arrangements of gifts, talents or resources.

The geese flying in formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

We need to make sure our honking is encouraging. In groups where there is encouragement, the production is much greater. The power of encouragement (to stand by one's heart or core values and encourage the heart and core of others) is the quality of honking we seek.

When a goose gets sick, wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with it until it dies or is able to fly again. Then, they launch out with another formation or catch up with the flock.

If we have as much sense as geese, we will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong.

I’m going to close this sermon by leading you in the chorus of a song by Amy Carol Webb. It can be our way of HONKING as we stand by each other, and lead and follow. The song is called “Stand.” And I invite you to stand in body or spirit. We can hum with Amy as she sings the verses and sing with her on the chorus.

I will stand with you! Will you stand with me?
And we will be the change that we hope to see,
in the name of love, in the name of peace,
Will you stand, will you stand with me?

When injustice raises up its fist,
and fights to stop us in our tracks.
We will rise, and as one resist.
No fear nor sorrow can turn us back!
(Repeat Chorus)

When pain and hatred churn up angry noise
and fight to drown out our freedom song,
we will rise, in one joyful voice
loud and clear and ever strong.
(Repeat Chorus)

When broken hearts come knocking on our doors,
lost and hungry, and so alone.
We will reach as we have reached before
for there is no stranger in this, our home.

I will stand with you! Will you stand with me?
And we will be the change that we hope to see,
in the name of love, in the name of peace,
Will you stand, will you stand with me?

Amen – and Blessed Be!