Monday, December 9, 2013

Celebrating Rohatsu! The Enlightenment of the Buddha

Message delivered on December 8, 2013 at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Statesboro by Rev. Jane Page

Wake-up!

You may say – “Jane, I’ve been awake since 7 a.m.”
But are you really awake?  Are you seeing things as they are? 

Most of us go through our days thinking we are awake and viewing the world realistically.  But eastern religions (and now psychologists and brain scientists) are telling us that what we take in through our senses is heavily filtered by the time we make meaning out of it.  Many of those filters are there because we don’t want to change.  We want things to be the way we see them now – and we make them fit into that subconsciously.  Occasionally though – some of those filters may be lifted, and we have an epiphany – an awakening.  Sometimes those awakenings are gradual.  But sometimes they come all at once and we wonder – "wow, why didn’t I see that before."

Most of my awakenings have been gradual, but I had one of those pivotal moments.  As I have shared with you all before, Decembers and Christmas time have sometimes been difficult for me.  For all practical purposes, my marriage of almost 30 years ended on Christmas Day in 1997.  But I am very grateful for that day too.  Because until then, I had been blinded by tradition, by my own image of myself, by family views, and quite frankly – by love.  I took my marriage vows very seriously and never thought that I would get a divorce.  Whatever it took – I would be there, no matter what.  But that Christmas was different.  I remember the spot where I was standing when I "woke up."  I was holding grandson JD who was almost a year old on my hip.  It was his very first Christmas.  My parents were there, and my sons John and Fred, and JD’s mom Michelle.  But my husband wasn’t there.  He had left the night before saying he was just too severely depressed to be with us.  I don’t need to go into details regarding why he was depressed, but his life was considerably troubled, especially because he was married to me but his love for me was gone.  It’s more complicated than that…but that description will suffice.  In any case, we were just continuing our marriage as we were supposed to do – and we were all depressed.  And it was Christmas.  My son – JD’s dad - was on the sofa in a fetal position.  I had my Santa hat on my head – trying to be joyful – but there was no joy.  Then... It just fell on me.  I woke up.  And for the first time in my life I realized that we didn’t have to live that way.  And I said it out loud. 

“You know what?  We don’t have to live this way.  We are going to get a divorce.” 

My marriage was already over – had been for about a decade -- and I felt like a fool for not being able to see it.  But I woke up that day.  It was a painful awakening.  But I'm so glad I was able to see more clearly.  Hallelujah!

So – because of that experience – I know this can happen.  I KNOW that we can be BLINDED – and just not SEE things as they are!  And I know that we can wake up.  So I have great appreciation for Buddhism. 

Now you heard the story of Siddhartha in our Time for All Ages – and you know that after lots of journeying, he finally woke up to some Truths that had been hard for him to see before then.  He called them the four Noble Truths.  Let me review them quickly for you.

1st – Ordinary Life brings about suffering.  Sh…. It happens.

2nd – The origin of suffering is attachment.
The joke goes – Why don’t Buddhists vacuum in the corners of their rooms?  The answer is they don’t have attachments. 
Now we know that attachments are necessary for survival.  If parents (humans and other mammals) didn’t become attached to their children, they would dessert them.  But some attachments are just unhealthy.  Even some that may have at one time good nurturing for us. 

The 3rd noble truth is --- the cessation of suffering is attainable.  Things can get better.

And 4th – there is an eightfold path to end the cessation of suffering.

Now this path is not linear --- sometimes you have to do two or three of these together, so perhaps path is not the best metaphor.  But it’s the one the Buddha used, so who am I to complain.

Here’s a graph that shows them in circles surrounding the Buddha.

Right View, Right Intentions, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Concentration, Right Mindfulness

Of course – Erk Russell boiled it down to one rule – Do Right!

These noble truths and paths to enlightenment are lifted up in all Buddhist traditions – but they do have lots of different ideas about these, just as there are many ideas about other religions and philosophies.  Rev. Doug Taylor explains it well.  He says:

In the Theravada Buddhist tradition, your affliction due to attachment and ignorance will successively be burned away through stages of enlightening experiences until the final stage when full enlightenment is achieved.  At this point Nirvana has been reached and the material “world of Forms ceases to arise.”  Which means a fully enlightened being will cease to exist from our perspective – and we will cease to ‘arise’ from their perspective.  Only a very few can achieve this state.  In this version of how it works, none of us here are ‘fully enlightened’ or anywhere close.

Mahayana Buddhism, on the other hand, is not interested in such a goal.  Or, more specifically, the goal is seen as unachievable until all sentient beings are ready and we can all transcend together.  However, the possibility of this being achieved by all sentient beings is, from our current perspective, so minimal that we can say this final goal is not really an attainable goal; therefore Mahayana Buddhism is not interested in such a goal.  Instead we say enlightenment is ongoing; there is no final point when someone can say, “I am fully enlightened.”  If you are enlightened, there will continue to be more breakthrough experiences because life is always evolving.  Or, as philosopher Ken Wilbur says, “In this sense, you are never ‘fully’ enlightened, anymore than you could say that you are ‘fully educated.’  It has no meaning.”  (Wilbur, Ken, A Brief History of Everything p216)


I can go along with that I think.  What I have a harder time going along with is any of the assertions of reincarnation or afterlife.  I’m not saying “it’s not so.”  I’m just saying – “I don’t know.”  I believe in life BEFORE death – and one is enough for me to work on. 


In any case, many of the values and ideals that we lift up as Unitarian Universalists – are good Buddhist ideals.  Of course Christians would say they are Christian ideals as well, and that they are.  But I think what we do not do in western religions very well – is the practice of letting go that Buddhism encourages.  We mainly suffer because we think that things are enduring – when things are really changing.   So how do we get to this state where we can see more realistically and let go.   

The best way to let go and really be able to take that first step of waking up is to do what the Buddha did – NOTHING.  He just sat down and did nothing.  And he attempted to think nothing as well. 

I came to understand this better while having trouble with using the internet.  If there are problems with my computer – or my modem – or my router – sometimes I just need to UNPLUG them – turn the power off – let them rest – then turn them on and allow them to RESET, so that they can allow me to see and connect. 

My brain is like that too – often with several programs running at once.  While I’m preaching this sermon, I’m listening out for the kids, and thinking about whether or not I’m wearing the best shoes for standing for a long time, etc. and noticing all kinds of things about all of you out there.  We know what happens to our computers when we are running to many programs.  Our brains are like that as well.  And sometimes we need to unplug.
 
Now I’m the first to confess that I am not a good meditator.  I’ve tried all kinds of things – even spending lots of money to go out to California and get trained by Deepak Chopra and get my own special mantra.  (Don’t bother.)  I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m one of those folks who needs a little help to allow my mind to slow down. 

Occasionally Greg has come into our bedroom and found me with the Catholic channel on listening to the nuns recite the rosary.  I don’t believe what they are saying.  But that repetition and drone helps me let that monkey mind go.  So does Buddhist monk chanting and meditation music.

There are some great tools on YouTube for this – and I thought I’d share one of my favorites today.  This includes monks chanting, bells chiming, and some music and nature sounds as well --- but it’s also woven into an enchanting meditation piece.  You can experience it with your eyes closed – or if you prefer, you can open them as be drawn in by the beautiful visuals of nature that are offered. 

So take deep breath.  Breathe in and out.  Place your feet on the floor for some grounding and for about several minutes – just be – just witness – just notice, your breath or the sounds – and just let go. 

Buddhist monk chanting meditation  (Yeah, you should really click this and do it.)

As we end this sermon time, I invite you to close join with me in another Buddhist ritual – sending loving kindness to ourselves and others.  First to ourselves – repeat after me.

May I be happy.
May I be healthy.
May I be safe.
May I have peace.

Now I invite you to think of someone who especially needs some loving kindness today.  And as you have them in mind – repeat these words after me.
May you be happy.
May you be healthy.
May you be safe.
May you have peace.

Now let’s send loving kindness to this congregation gathered here today.  Repeat after me.
May we be happy.
May we be healthy.
May we be safe.
May we have peace.

And now – let us send loving kindness to the world.
May all beings be happy.
May all beings be healthy.
May all beings be safe.
May all beings have peace.

Namaste!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

SKELETONS!

Skeletons (in our buildings, in our bodies, and in our closets)!
Rev. Jane Page
October 27, 2013

My Primary Sermon Series this year is entitled, “Building Our Church; Building Our Faith” – and I’m attempting to use the building metaphor – especially as it relates to OUR building renovation process – and tie it to our Unitarian Universalist faith – and/or our personal faith.  So – since this is the Sunday before Halloween, I decided it would be a good Sunday to look at Skeletons (in our buildings, in our bodies, and in our closets).

On November 10, we will caravan after a short service here to our new building to “claim our space” there.  And what you will be able to see when you walk into that big empty space is the SKELETON of our building.  You won’t be able to see it later when we cover it up with walls, but you WILL be able to see it then.  Now we are fortunate in that we have a STURDY skeleton.  In fact, our building skeleton is made of STEEL. The skeleton (or steel frame) provides the framework for keeping this building up right and in shape.  Just as the skeletons in our bodies do for us
.
Actually the skeletons in our bodies do more than just provide us structure.  According to my sources, there are six primary functions of our skeletons:  support, movement, protection, production of blood cells, storage of ions and endocrine regulation.  Our Skeletons are super-important.  And if you’ve ever broken a bone, or had some skeletal problem, you know this!  Then why are skeletons scary!
Well, of course, skeletons represent death.  Because when we die, our bodies return to dust leaving nothing but the skeleton.

The most famous use of skeletons to scare folks were the Jolly Roger flags pirates used to scare their victim ships, hoping when folks saw these they would go ahead and surrender everything.  If they did not, they next would put up a blood red flag that meant that all would die.
Here are some other scary skeletons. 
 But not all images of skeletons are scary.  The skeleton images used in Latino Day of the Dead celebrations are quite happy.  You’ll hear more about the Day of the Dead next week – but I’ll share a few of the images with you now.
 

Why is there a difference in these images with other more traditional scary images?   Well, I suppose it has to do with how we all VIEW death.  And the Mexican view of death seems to be a whole lot happier!

Then what about that common phrase “Skeletons in the Closet.”  What’s that about?  It was first used in England.  Then when they started having water closets in the houses, they changed it to Skeleton in the Cupboard.  We still say “Skeletons in the Closet” here.  In any case, it implies that you are hiding dead bodies that you don’t want folks to find out about.  And it has come to represent anything in a family or group that you keep hidden.

Since we Unitarian Universalists are folks who more likely like to COME OUT of closets – or at least curious enough to explore them, I decided I’d take a look in our famous Unitarian Universalists and see what’s in the[JP1]ir closets and share that with you today.  Because, yes, we have some skeletons in our UU closet!


Now we are very proud to have some of the founding fathers claim Unitarian as their theology.  And they did some great things that we can be proud of.  Here’s one of them.  This is John Adams, second president of the United States.  And here is his wife Abigail, also claimed by the Unitarian Universalists.  Indeed, they held both Unitarian and Universalist ideas.  Some have called them the grandparents of our country for the many, many good things they did for this young democracy.  But that is not what this sermon is about.  What we don’t lift up about Adams is his support of the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798.

At the time, America was threatened by war with France, and Congress was attempting to pass laws that would give more authority to the federal government, and the president in particular, to deal with suspicious persons, especially foreign nationals.  So disgusted was Jefferson with Adams' enthusiastic support of the Naturalization law that he could no longer support the president and left Washington during the Congressional vote.  The first three of these acts were more related to aliens – strengthening citizenship requirements and making it easier for the administration to deport folks. There was much opposition to those, but the 4th act – the sedition act – was the one that really got him into trouble.  And the outcry reminds me of those who now feel their rights are being abused in the name of security.  This Sedition act gave Adams tremendous power to define treasonable activity including any false, scandalous and malicious writing. The intended targets of the Sedition Act were newspaper, pamphlet and broadside publishers who printed what he considered to be libelous articles aimed primarily at his administration. And many were arrested, including Benjamin Franklin’s grandson. Citing Adams' abuse of presidential powers and threats to free speech, Jefferson's party took control of Congress and the presidency in 1800.

So we say – YAY to Thomas Jefferson for standing up for our rights – right?  Well we do applaud Thomas Jefferson for many great things that he did.  Because of his Unitarian sympathies and theology, we claim Thomas Jefferson as a Unitarian and include him in the “Famous Unitarians and Universalists” on the UUA web page.  And our UUA district was even named the Thomas Jefferson District before finally being changed in recent years, after considerable struggle, to the Southeast District.  After lauding his grand contributions, the UUA page devoted to him ends with this paragraph outing the skeletons from the closet.

Thomas Jefferson's genius is everywhere apparent in his thirst for and his comprehension of the best enlightened philosophy, history, science, political theory, agriculture and religion of his age. Tragically, he failed utterly to engage, in any substantively practical way whatsoever, the massive realities of American racial oppression and injustice. Jefferson's writings display deep reservations as well as moral anguish concerning Negro slavery; yet he never freed his own slaves. Much attention, in Jefferson's time and in ours, has focused on his …relations with his …slave, Sally Hemings, the …half-sister of his wife. There is now compelling DNA evidence that Jefferson was the father of at least one of Hemings' children. He did free two of Hemings' children in his will and Hemings was given her freedom shortly thereafter. But millions of African Americans have had to suffer many more decades of cruel economic slavery, even after legal slavery was ended in the 1860s, because of the common, absurd notion, which Thomas Jefferson shared and only mildly questioned, that the "dark" races were inferior to the "white." Moreover, Jefferson's presidential removal policies proved horribly destructive to Native Americans. They set the pattern for the Bill for Indian Removal, signed by President Jackson in 1830, whose cruel enforcement resulted in the Trail of Tears of 1838-39 and other atrocities. Jefferson's prophetic advancement of human liberty is deeply tainted by his shameful legacy in matters of race.

South Carolinian Senator John C. Calhoun was a Unitarian and co-founder of All Souls Unitarian in Washington, DC. He was a leading American politician and political theorist during the first half of the 19th century.   He began his political career as a modernizer and he was a proponent of a strong national government. In fact, in 1957, a Senate Committee selected Calhoun as one of the five greatest U.S. Senators.

But here’s the skeleton – quoted from Wikipedia:
After 1830, his views evolved and he became a greater proponent of states' rights, limited government, nullification and free trade; as he saw these means as the only way to preserve the Union. He is best known for his intense and original defense of slavery as something positive, his distrust of majoritarianism, and for pointing the South toward secession from the Union.  And yes, he himself was a slave owner.  Whereas other Southern politicians had excused slavery as a necessary evil, in a famous speech on the Senate floor on February 6, 1837, Calhoun asserted that slavery was a "positive good." He rooted this claim on two grounds: white supremacy and paternalism. All societies, Calhoun claimed, are ruled by an elite group which enjoys the fruits of the labor of a less-privileged group.

Also, my friend and colleague Rev. Gordon Gibson pointed out this conundrum to me.  He said, “We can be proud that when the Amistad case was argued before the Supreme Court the men and women who had liberated themselves and taken control of the ship were represented by Unitarian John Quincy Adams; but we also need to own that opposing counsel was John C. Calhoun, also Unitarian.”

Well, enough of politicians! There are others like Millard Fillmore (who passed the fugitive slave act) and William Howard Taft, who frustrated some Unitarians when he served as the association’s president; – but we’ll leave them and their skeletons alone for now.

What about other figures we brag about?
Well, there’s the famous architect and Unitarian - Frank Lloyd Wright, who even designed some of our churches.  In addition to some unscrupulous business dealings, Wright abandoned his family and ran off to Europe with a women who was married to another man.

And there’s the popular showman, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and Universalist P.T. Barnum.  Barnum was credited with the phrase, “there’s a sucker born every minute,” and he used that understanding in his business and entertainment practices.  He rationalized that he used fraud and deceit as a way of getting attention – then gave folks the entertainment they desired.  One of his hoaxes was Tom Thumb, who traveled through Europe with him as a “little man.”  It was actually a little kid – that began his career at age four – and was taught how to act like a man, even smoking cigars and drinking.  Here’s a picture of the two together.

And what about the women?  Weren’t there Unitarian or Universalist women with skeletons in their closets?  Oh yes, and there still are—of course.  You can read my sermon on Julia Ward Howe to uncover some of hers.  But today I’d like to tell you about Lydia Pinkham, who began as a Quaker but became a Universalist.

You may not have heard of Lydia Pinkham but in the 1880’s, she was one of the most famous women in America.  Lydia Pinkham was a household name because she sold her famous vegetable tonic, a home brewed herbal remedy for female problems, under the name.  The elixir promised to cure every womanly ailment possible including infertility.  Advertisements claimed there was “a baby in every bottle.”  And some men took it for ailments too.  Lydia’s skeleton was uncovered, however, when the Food and Drug act had them reveal the ingredients and 20% of the tonic was alcohol.

SO – someone wrote a drinking song about her – and the Ballad of Lydia Pinkham became famous in the taverns.  I’ve got the chorus on the wall – and you can sing it with me when you catch on.

Ballad of Lydia Pinkham

Let us sing (let us sing) of Lydia Pinkham
   The benefactress of the human race.
She invented a vegetable compound,
   And now all papers print her face,

Mrs. Jones she had no children,
   And she loved them very dear.
So she took three bottles of Pinkham's
   Now she has twins every year.

Lottie Smyth ne'er had a lover,
   Blotchy pimples caused her plight;
But she took nine bottles of Pinkham's--
   Sweethearts swarm about her each night.

CHORUS

Oh Mrs. Murphy (Oh Mrs. Murphy)
     Was perturbed because she couldn't seem to pee
Till she took some of Lydia's compound
     And now they run a pipeline to the sea!

And Peter Whelan (Peter Whelan)
     He was sad because he only had one nut
Till he took some of Lydia's compound
     And now they grow in clusters 'round his butt.

CHORUS.

Well, enough of those so-called famous UUs.  What about US?  Do any of you have skeletons in your closet – things you are kind of ashamed of or don’t want folks to know?  Well, I hope so – or otherwise you may just not quality to BE a Unitarian Universalist!

I recently sent you all an article by my colleague Rev. Tony Larsen entitled, “Why You Should Not be a Unitarian Universalist.”  Did you read it?  Well, I’m going to close out this sermon by quoting Larsen in this article – because I think it speaks to the acceptance of the skeletons we have in our closets.  He says:

My friends, not everyone can be a Unitarian Universalist. Not everyone should be a Unitarian Universalist. Because the first criterion for getting into this church is: you've got to know how to sin. That's very important to us; and not everyone knows how to do it. We don't want people here who never do wicked things. We don't want people here who are holier than thee or thou. We don't want people who have made it in the salvation department and are just waiting around to get picked up. Because people with too much heaven in them are hell to live with. 

Now don't get me wrong. If there were any perfect human beings around, we might let them in. But since there aren't any, anyone who claims he/she doesn't do wicked things is either trying to fool others, or trying to fool themselves. It is the nature of the human to be evil as well as good. And you should not be a Unitarian Universalist if you're not willing to admit that about yourself.
As a matter of fact, recognition of your evil has great power for mobilizing compassion. I say that from my experience in counselling. Some of the best therapists are the ones who know how to sin a little - maybe a lot. They're more tolerant of the human condition. They react with compassion rather than self-righteousness, with understanding instead of judgement. 


Now, if you think you're too good - you won't like it here at UU.  But with a little bit of hypocrisy and selfishness and deceit, you'll do fine. We're not asking you to try to develop those qualities, because you don't need to. Each and everyone of you already has them. We're just asking you to recognize them in yourself. It'll do wonders for your tolerance of others' foibles.


So folks – look in your closets, examine the skeletons in there, and tell them how much you appreciate them keeping you humble.  And I’ll do the same.

Amen and Blessed Be.




Sunday, October 13, 2013

Tearing Down Walls

I’m not someone who gets excited about tearing things down.  I like to build up – not tear down.  And once something is there – I like to preserve it.  Maybe that’s just part of human nature.  But sometimes it’s not in the best interest of all. 

I was so excited when the congregation voted to accept the gift of the building on the corner of Cypress Lake Rd and the by-pass to renovate for our new home.  And I’m still very excited.  But I’ve had to overcome a little uncomfortableness along the way – and it’s related to our topic for today – tearing down walls.  You see there are some interior walls on the south end of the building where the office area was separating three rooms, a storage area and a bathroom.  In my own mind, I had envisioned that perhaps we could USE these rooms for RE space.  But while planning with the Building Committee, others pointed out the need to have the sanctuary meeting space on that end of the building – and Matt even pointed out that the spacing with the walls wasn’t best for our purposes even if the RE classes were on this side.  I knew they were right.  For us to best utilize that space for worship and teaching and other aspects of our mission, those walls would need to be demolished. 

What I did not admit to the building committee – or even to myself – was that my initial hesitancy about tearing down the walls was probably more related to my personal history of having been involved with putting them up in the first place when we built that building with the hopes of my son having a successful body shop business there.  All those shelves back in that storage area,… I put them up myself.  But that dream died.  Fortunately, there is new life and purpose for that building, and those walls WILL come down. 

The theme for this series of sermons is “Building Our Church; Building Our Faith.”   And sometimes, that does require tearing down walls. 

Now I’m not hesitant about tearing down all walls.  I love tearing some down.  We Unitarian Universalists have worked on removing walls for decades – especially those that unnecessarily divide us and lead to oppression – all those ism walls:  racism, sexism, classism, and also phobia walls, built with bricks of FEAR: xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, Islamaphobia, and on and on…  Yes, all those walls that prevent folks from honoring that first principle of respecting the inherent worth and dignity of all.  And we celebrate the success we’ve had working with others to knock down some of these walls today.  Many of you are wearing Rainbow colors in honor of 25 years of National Coming Out Days.   Brick by brick we are tearing down those walls and we will continue to do so.  I don’t have the same kind of hesitancy about tearing down those walls that are clearly obstructing a loving future. 

But there are others that bring that same feeling of hesitancy to me that I felt about tearing the walls down in our building.  That’s the same feeling of hesitancy I had when I first heard of some new ideas about the future of Unitarian Universalism proposed by our current president Peter Morales.  Now – you know, we have congregational polity.  And just because our president says something – doesn’t mean it’s so.  But we did democratically elect him, so I thought I should listen to what he had to say.  Let me share a little about this vision he has for Unitarian Universalism.   

It starts with a look at the rapid change in our religious culture as discussed in a sermon he preached called “Breaking Down the Walls.”  Peter is just a little older than me so I can also relate to much of this.  He says:
"When I went off to college in the 1960s, only five percent of young adults said they had no religious identity. In other words, 19 out of 20 young adults at least claimed some religious label. By the year 2000, the number who said they had no religious affiliation had grown from five percent to 12 percent—from one in 20 to one in eight. That is significant, but nothing compared to what has happened since. The number of the “nones” (in this age category) has jumped to more than 30 percent today. The “nones” are, by a large margin, the fastest growing religion in America.… Make no mistake, this is a sea change in our culture."

Here’s more specific information I found from the Pew foundation.

The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.

In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults. Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6% of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14%).


Now Peter, with the help of some others, did a little research on these Nones to find out who they were.  And this is what they discovered: 

While the tens of millions of nones are skeptical of religious institutions, they are not hostile to spirituality. All kinds of surveys show that nones often describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” They want depth and meaning in their lives. They want to connect with ideals that transcend their narrow lives in service of something beyond the banality of consumer culture. In addition, the nones are open minded. They accept glbt people without a second thought. Marriage equality is no big deal.

The nones are also accepting of racial and ethnic diversity. They grew up among immigrants. And the nones are also accepting of cultural and religious diversity. They have no patience for a perspective that says one religion has all the truth and is the one and only way.

And the nones care about economic justice and the environment. We see their involvement in such things as the Occupy Wall Street movement. They care about issues like global warming and sustainability.


Who do they remind you of?

US!  They are US – but they are not here.  My initial thoughts are:  Well, let’s bring them in.  And we may be successful with some of them – but others aren’t coming here. And these nones are in addition to approximately 500,000 folks who IDENTIFY as UU’s but who are not affiliated with any congregation. All of these folks “out there” – beyond our walls – are like the WOLVES in our children’s story.  They may be starving for spiritual nourishment, but they will not come in our walls for fear of losing their freedom.  So what do we do to harness our resources with their resources and ideas to make a positive difference in the world and nourish one another spiritually?   

That’s what prompted Morales and others to take another look at the walls we have in our congregations – and encourage us to take some of them down or at least lower them.  These ideas are outlined in a document entitled “Congregations and Beyond.”  In this document Morales makes it clear that he still considers the congregation to be the base for what we do.  But to be effective today, we Unitarian Universalists need to move beyond our congregations.

The main gist of this is how we view ourselves.  We have long defined ourselves as an association of congregations. Morales says that instead – “we need to think of ourselves as a religious movement. The difference is potentially huge.”

Associations and institutions are just not sexy enough I guess.  Here’s an example of something that happened to Morales that probably affected his reasoning on this. 

A couple of years ago, hundreds of Unitarian Universalists, all wearing their bold yellow “Standing on the Side of Love” t-shirts, joined in a huge protest of immigration policies in Arizona while they were at the Justice GA in Phoenix.  Morales said that the news media were there in full force. His assistant was trying to get him interviewed on television by asking if they wanted to interview the president of the Unitarian Universalist Association – but before she could get “association” out of her mouth – they were gone.  Then she had an inspiration and asked the CNN reporter if he’d like to interview the leader of the Yellow Love shirts --- and Morales was on live at the top of the hour. 

I’ve also found in many of the things I’m doing with others in Statesboro – that I can often get a WHOLE lot more done, if I’m willing for some larger movement to get the credit – rather that highlight my own church.  Now I’m still evangelizing for Unitarian Universalism – but I’m just sayin’…  Sometimes, you have to let that go and just flow for goodness sake. 

According to this “Congregations and Beyond” document, the implications of thinking of ourselves as a religious movement rather than only a collection of congregations are profound and liberating. Here is a few of the ways:

* We focus more on connection and less on “membership.” Paying attention to who our ministry serves, how many lives we change, and the difference we are making in the world can help us redirect our efforts outward.

* We invite people to connect to our UU movement whether or not they choose to join a congregation. We can reach out to young adults, students, snow birds, people living in foreign countries, linguistic and ethnic minorities, etc. They can all be part of the UU movement.
 
* We continue our efforts to connect with UU college students. We would make clear that they are still a part of our movement.

* We have a good way of taking in people through such portals as Standing on the Side of Love.

Now one reason I’m feeling better about this document and idea of lowering our walls is that our congregation is already doing it.  That really became evident to me as we prepared our chalice lighter grant.  Our Chalice Lighter Coordinator, Leon Spencer, suggested that we include a visual that showed our “footprint” – how we connected with others outside our own congregation.  Here’s the visual he came up with after getting input from committee members.



These are groups outside our congregation that we have worked with in the past or that we continue to connect with in many ways.  Indeed, we have lowered our walls at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Statesboro. 

We plan to be part of the bigger community this month by sharing our values in the upcoming Ogeechee Fair Parade – with our theme of growing our values. And we’ll also be sharing at the community Trick or Treat at Mill Creek on October 31. Of course our children will Trick or Treat for UNICEF on October 27 and we’ll pass on our gifts to the international community.   Yes, we’ll partner with Magnolia Baptist Church in Feeding loads of hungry folks on October 15 – that’s this Tuesday folks.  Your minister has also been invited for the very first time to take part in the Community Thanksgiving Service and she has enabled them to move it from the “main street churches” to the Averitt Center, so that it will truly be a community service.  We also plan to work with Voces Unidas in having another wonderful celebration of Las Posadas in early December. And we’ll work with the pagan community in the celebration of the solstice.  We’ve set up a “pagans in the boro” Facebook page for these folks to use to connect and make their planning easier.  Additionally we have a virtual study group that is open to all called the Statesboro New Jim Crow Study Group on Facebook.  Just this month alone, I’ll be representing you as your minister at two Georgia Southern events – presenting there at an LGBTQ conference and on a panel.  Plus – our virtual outreach is wider than you think.  Our “Just Jane” blog which has my sermons and other postings has had almost 23,000 pages viewed by folks from all over the world.  We HAVE moved beyond the walls are widening our outreach-- and if you are not doing it with us, we encourage you to get involved. 

Help us tear down any walls that are hindering us so that we can heal and nurture our congregation, our community, and the world. 

Oh, may it be so.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Building on the Foundation of our Liberal Faith: Five Smooth Stones

Building on the Foundation of our Liberal Faith:  Five Smooth Stones
Rev. Jane Page
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Statesboro
September 22, 2013

READING
Hear these words attributed in Matthew 7: 24-27 to that great teacher Jesus of Nazarath:

 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practce is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Meditation
May we rest in the foundation of our souls as we breathe in and out and prepare for hearing this message.

Sermon:
You know – Jesus was right of course. You can’t build on sand and expect your building to hold.  But sometimes there’s just not enough rock around and you have to make your own.  And that’s what folks learned to do.  When we want to build now --- we pour a concrete foundation.   We take broken stones, and gravel and sand and cement and water – and make new rocks to build upon. 

Now we are fortunate that we don’t have to do this for our new church home.  The foundation is already there – strong and sturdy.  And we are going to take that strong foundation and use that as the base for our new home.

I’m connected with this idea of foundations and concrete.  You might say I’m cemented to this idea through my own genes. Here’s a picture of two of my relatives – now deceased. 
It was probably taken in the 40’s or 50’s at a family reunion.  The man on the left is my grandfather – Theodore Roosevelt Rogers – and the man he is sitting by is his uncle John Rogers.  Both of them were CONCRETE men!  I mean literally – that’s what they did for a living.  They didn’t have a big concrete company – they did smaller jobs with those little concrete mixers – and they did all kinds of masonry work; including elaborate plastering of walls.  I don’t know WHO taught my Great, Great Uncle John to do this work --- but he taught his nephew, my granddaddy Theodore.  That’s how it was back then – no “Ogeechee Tech.”  So granddaddy was lucky to have learned a skill that could feed his family – just barely during the depression; but they survived. 

My granddaddy was a concrete man in other ways in my life too. He was a small man – sort of a David among Goliaths when it came to people doing construction – but he was strong and skillful.  I remember seeing and admiring his biceps.  And he was a quiet man and a loving man, devoted to his family.  Although he went to his adult men’s Sunday school class on Sunday – I don’t remember a lot of “God talk” from my granddaddy.  He was kind of a skeptic.  My mama told me that he didn’t believe in an afterlife – saying, “When you’re dead – you’re dead.”  I guess that also meant that “When you are ALIVE – you should be ALIVE” – and he tried his best to enjoy life – especially fishing.  He taught my son Fred to skin a catfish when Fred was just a boy – and Fred can still outskin most folks with his Great Granddaddy’s Rogers techniques.  SO – my granddad is really a part of me --- a foundation in my soul.  His quiet love for me and others is more than a firm example of how I should live my life.  It’s something I can build upon. 

Do you have some concrete – foundational folks who are a part of you?  Maybe relatives or teachers or spiritual leaders.  You got some in your head.  Say Thank You to them!

Now just as we have family members and others who have been foundational in our spiritual development, we have folks within our chosen faith of Unitarian Universalism that have been foundational in the formation of our faith tradition.  Here is one who was a contemporary of my granddaddy Rogers – although they never knew each other. 
James Luther Adams  was born in 1901 and died in 1994.  Adams was the most influential theologian among American Unitarian Universalists in the 20th century.  I never met him, but he had taught some of my professors at Meadville Lombard – and they said his ghost was walking those halls.

Adams was a great storyteller and liked to use stories, parables, and metaphors in his teaching.  He chose the story of the Five Smooth Stones to illustrate the foundations of liberalism.  As you remember in our Children’s message today – King Saul initially had David put on all his heavy armor.  But all of this weighed David down --- and he threw it off.  Likewise, many of us were weighed down with the heavy religious armor that we were handed down --- those doctrines and creeds which bound us tight and didn’t let us move and breathe freely.  And like David – many of us have thrown those to the side.  But what do we have in liberal religion to face those spiritual giants that we do have to face.  David picked up five smooth stones – and said – “This is what I need.”  Similarly, Adams shares five smooth stones that serve as the foundation for our liberal faith.  Adams’ writing is rather dense – so his students and others often translate these words into something they believe is more understandable --- and indeed, before the sermon is over – we’ll reduce them to one word each for you to remember.  But for now – I want you to see them just the way he wrote them.

1.  "Religious liberalism depends on the principle that 'revelation' is continuous."

Our religious tradition is a living tradition because we are always learning new truths.  We Unitarian Universalists LOVE to learn – and we know that we don’t know it all and that’s okay with us.  Now where is this “revelation” coming to us from if it’s continuous?  Do we just pray and it comes?  Well, that may be true for some – but most of us rely on other sources – like authorities and the scientific method.  We are always seeking the truth.  And that’s not the kind of truth that Stephen Colbert is talking about when he shares about the word truthiness.  Do you know what truthiness is?  You can look it up.

The United Church of Christ had an ad campaign that spoke to this same concept a while back from their more theistic perspective and the words they used were “God is still speaking.”  And you know--- I think I even heard something akin to that from the Pope this week.  This liberal idea of continuous revelation is spreading.

Here’s the 2nd smooth stone.
2. "All relations between persons ought ideally to rest on mutual, free consent and not on coercion."

We freely choose to enter into relationship with one another.
Adams was big on what he termed Voluntary Associations.  These were the institutions he felt could make a difference – where folks came together freely for some bigger purpose – like we are doing here today.  Adams said that "Church is a place where you get to practice what it means to be human." And we do it together, in relationship.  We do it together – in love! 

Now some folks think that because we don’t believe in coercing folks to join us, that we should not evangelize.  Well, to evangelize does not mean to coerce – it means sharing your good news – and that we SHOULD do.  This is not your Aunt May’s secret recipe that only the family gets to see.  Of course, Unitarian Universalism is not for everyone – but there are many folks who could find a home with us and need this liberal religious home – but don’t know about us. 

I was sharing with one of you earlier this week that this is especially important in a conservative area – where it SEEMS that everyone follows Fox News and joins the Tea Party.  But it’s not so.  There are liberal folks in the Statesboro area who want to make a difference in this community.  And joining our congregation is the best way I know to do that. 

Here’s the third smooth stone:
3. "Religious liberalism affirms the moral obligation to direct one's effort toward the establishment of a just and loving community. It is this which makes the role of the prophet central and indispensable in liberalism."

Now I don’t go around telling everybody this – because the word has different connotations for many folks.  But I strive to be a prophet in this community.  That does not mean that I’m setting up a tent to tell fortunes or your future.  But I DO believe that I have a moral obligation to call out the truth – like prophets of old; especially when I see injustice and oppression.  That’s the main reason I decided to go to seminary and become a minister; to better prepare myself to prophesy!  But Adams says – and I agree – that ALL of you should be prophets.  We ALL -- as liberal religious folks – have the moral obligation to establish a just and loving community.  Now for some of you, that means speaking out, or writing letters to the editor  – for others it means teaching our children, and for others it means GIVING your time, talents, and money to this congregation which is attempting to be a vehicle for positive change. 

Our GIFTS and our willingness to GIVE are part of our foundation. (Hint – to turn in your pledge cards.)

What’s the fourth stone?
Adams says:
4. "We deny the immaculate conception of virtue and affirm the necessity of social incarnation."

He’s talking about:  Agency: Good things don't just happen, people make them happen.

Our children say we are Unitarian Universalists:  people of open minds, loving hearts, AND helping hands.  It’s that helping hands part that this stone represents.  That was evident this past week as many of you assisted in preparing food and serving folks at Rebecca’s CafĂ©.  Over a hundred folks got a good meal and good fellowship because of your efforts.  And that may have made a huge difference for some folks.  And there are other ways we work in the world as well --- individually and as a congregation. 

Some folks say that “We are God’s hands.”  Well regardless or your own theology – I think you’ll have to agree that we have to do the work.  And work is a good thing!

And finally – that Fifth Stone.  Adams say:
5. "Liberalism holds that the resources (divine and human) that are available for the achievement of meaningful change justify an attitude of ultimate optimism."

He says – we got good reason to HOPE.

Even in places like Statesboro – change is a ‘comin.  In fact – we have made progress folks.  It’s easier for me to see the progress, because I’m looking over a LONG time frame – since the 50’s.  But we’re getting there.  Now as we work toward that progress, we have to do it as a dance, which means sometimes we are moving backward and sometimes forward; but stay on the dance floor.

I worry so about our political system and the lack of progress in Congress, but there is even hope there; and even hope in the Middle East.  You notice that Adams’ optimism isn’t a Pollyanna kind of optimism though. He says that the resources – divine and human -- are available for meaningful change. So the possibilities are there; and we have to be the agents of that change.

In his essay entitled, “The Optimism of Uncertainty,” Howard Zinn writes:  “There is a tendency to think that what we see in the present moment will continue. We forget how often we have been astonished by the sudden crumbling of institutions, by extraordinary changes in people’s thoughts, by unexpected eruptions of rebellion against tyrannies, by the quick collapse of systems of power that seemed invincible.”

It can happen.  I remember when I first began working for marriage equality – and I thought – this probably won’t happen in my lifetime, but I’m going to work with others for it and perhaps make it easier for those who follow to get there.  But I’m still here – and it’s happening.  Maybe not in Georgia – but it is happening; Same Gender couples are getting legally married every day in America and our nation is recognizing those marriages. 

Our Unitarian Universalists have long loved that song with words taken from prophets of old that says, “We’ll build a land where we bind up the broken.  We’ll build a land where the captives go free, where the oil of gladness dissolves all mourning, Oh we’ll build a promised land that can be. 

And folks we have the foundation we need to do it.

Here are those five stones in five verbs for you to remember!  I have these verbs written on the stones on the altar.  They are:

Learn
Love
Give
Work
Hope

May it be so!




Sunday, September 8, 2013

Building Our Church; Building Our Faith


Introduction to reading:
Our reading this morning comes from Hebrew Scripture --- 1st Chronicles. In the 28th chapter, King David shares with his son Solomon the plans for the temple --- the temple he himself was not allowed to build because of great wars on every side.  But now – in a time of peace, his son Solomon had been chosen to carry out this wondrous and difficult task.   In the parts that I’m reading from chapter 29, the author of Chronicles writes about a message that King David is delivering to a great assembly of all of the leaders in his kingdom.   After sharing with them the plans for this great building – the temple -- he talks a little about the resources that will be needed.  This reading is taken from Chapter 29. 

READING:  1st Chronicles 29:  1-1; 6-9.
Then King David said to the whole assembly: “My son Solomon, the one whom God has chosen, is young and inexperienced. The task is great, because this structure is not for man but for the LORD God. With all my resources (as King) I have provided for the temple of my God…(long list of treasures).  Besides, in my devotion to the temple of my God I now give my personal treasures of gold and silver for the temple of my God, over and above everything I have provided (as king) for this holy temple: Now, who is willing to consecrate themselves to the LORD today?”
Then the leaders of families, the officers of the tribes of Israel, the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds, and the officials in charge of the king’s work gave willingly. They gave toward the work on the temple of God five thousand talents and ten thousand darics of gold, ten thousand talents of silver, eighteen thousand talents of bronze and a hundred thousand talents of iron. Anyone who had precious stones gave them to the treasury of the temple of the LORD in the custody of Jehiel the Gershonite. The people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the LORD. David the king also rejoiced greatly.

SERMON
Rev. Jane Page
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Statesboro
9/8/2013

How many of you have been involved with building a house before?
How many of you would do it again?

I’ve been involved with building three of them – the first when I was just 22.  Now I know that’s way too young – but I was rushing through life.  I’d already been married five years, completed my Bachelor’s, was working on a Masters – teaching school at Sallie Zetterower and was pregnant with my first child.  My then husband Fred – now called Fred Ex – and I were living in a one room efficiency that we had shared since we married and we needed more room.  We decided rather than renting or buying a home, we would build our forever home on the piece of property where my dad’s land joined his dad’s land.  We found it on a map, walked over to it and decided that since our two family properties joined there – well it must be God’s will that we build a home there.  Of course there was not ROAD back to this piece of property.  But, my mom and dad remedied that by designing a little subdivision on that edge of his property which included a road that was deeded to the county.  That’s the road that is currently across the pond dam from the house I live in now.  We got on the list for William Powell to build it – since he was about the best builder in town at the time.  His estimate was within our range – especially since we were getting the lot free.  The house was nearly complete by the time Fred III was born.  There was one big problem though.  We couldn’t afford it.  You see – our contractor was doing this on a “cost plus percentage” basis --- and while we were building, lumber prices skyrocketed.  Plus we had added some features along the way that were not in the original budget – but weren’t that much – you know, just  for $5 more each we could have much nicer light fixtures) -- yet they added up, of course.  Plus, I had quit my job to stay at home with my baby – which was “the thing to do” at the time.  And even though Fred was working two jobs – as a teacher and a Holiday Inn desk clerk – we just couldn’t afford the monthly payments.  SO – we reluctantly decided we were in over our heads, sold the home, and moved into a small apartment. 

After living there a few years – and with two sons -  we decided to give this building this another try.  But we were going to do it right this time.  We would get a contract price from a builder so we would KNOW the final cost.  And yes, we could afford this one --- which was on another lot in that same subdivision. Of course we found out why it was so much cheaper.  The quality of the workmanship was SO shoddy.  I mean if I put a pencil down on the counter --- when I started to pick it up it had rolled down the counter because it wasn’t level.   And the lot was chose was actually too low, so that we always seem to be having septic tank problems when it was rainy.   We had decided to move to Starkville Mississippi for a year to work on our doctorates – and decided that we might as well try to SELL that house which was such a disappointment for us.  And we did!  That builder – by the way – left Statesboro shortly after that – and after getting in trouble with a lot of ethical problems. 

Now - my brother had called “dibs” on the lot where I live now.  But his wife did not want to live “back in the woods” where no one could see their new home.  So when he told my dad that he would instead like to build ON Country Club Rd --- I immediately laid claim to the beautiful lot I’m now living on – or Paradise South – as Greg calls it.  I promised my dad and myself that this would be the LAST house I built.  My sister in law Nancy Page had recently built a home and used a reasonable contractor.  But she said the reason her house really turned out well was because she was over there every day in the middle of it.  We were going to be away at school, but my mom said she could play that role for us – and she did, making sure everything was A-okay.  She followed those builders around pointing out every little possible problem.  And then after they would leave at night she would come back over with her caulk gun and caulk up any cracks she could find.  Our house is air tight.  It’s tighter than Myley Cyrus’s VMA awards pants.  That was 1978, and I’m still living there and loving it.

So what were some of the lessons I learned?
There were lots of them, of course --- but the main thing I learned is that you have to HAVE the resources for building your home or have a reasonable plan for making sure that happens – and you have to MANAGE those resources well as you build and maintain your home. 

Now – this congregation has been making good efforts for resource acquisition, allocation, and management for our new church facility.  We’re fortunate to have the gifts of land and building; a savings of $40,000 that was achieved by those who came before many of you – and was allocated for a new facility – and hopefully the opportunity to sell this current facility; also paid for by many who came before and many who are still with us.  We have also written a MOST EXCELLENT Chalice Lighter Grant which will hopefully bring us new resources.  And of course, we have the wondrous gift of a general contractor – Matt Dowling – providing his services as a gift in-kind.  We’re doing this right!  And if all goes as planned, we won’t need additional resources from you for our new facility. 

But we want to build MORE than building.  We want to build our congregation – and build our faith, our personal faith, our congregational faith, and Unitarian Universalism.  That’s why my theme for sermons this year is “Building Our Church; Building Our Faith.”  And I’m using the building metaphor as we progress on both our physical facility and our building our faith.

And today --- I’m taking those lessons learned from my mistakes and successes – and knowing that we have to have some focus on the sources and resources for building our faith. 
Ah, yes – this is indeed our annual canvass sermon – when we encourage you to consider your gifts of time, talents, and treasure for the following year.  And I stand here in front of this assembly as David did in ancient times to voice that encouragement. 

Now as a religious naturalist – I certainly don’t take the Bible as a firm authority – nor any other religious text.  I do read these texts though – and filter them through my pragmatic lens to see if there are teachings that can help me live a better life and help others to live a better life.  After David’s encouragement for resources – and the people’s giving of them that we heard about in our reading today, he shares a prayer of praise and Thanksgiving.  And there is something in that prayer that struck a chord with me.  I’ll read the passage first then share how it can harmonize with us today.  David prays:  “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. We are foreigners and strangers in your sight, as were all our ancestors. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope. LORD our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you.”

Now you may wonder how someone who is not a theist identifies with that.  Well, it reminds me of something my Mama told me the other day.  We were talking about trying to stay healthy and she said --- well, I figure I’ve got to try to take care of my body because it’s the only thing that is really mine.  All of this other stuff – comes and goes.  I may have it later or I may not.  I may leave it to you all and you may keep it or not.  It’s not really ours anyway.  We just have use of it for a while – and try to do the best we can with it.  And I thought – yeah, she’s right.  It all belongs to the Universe folks.  We are just stewards of whatever comes into what we term “our possession.”  But it’s not really ours – anymore than this air above me is mine.  But we sure do use it and sometimes abuse it.  While we are stewards of these sources and resources though – it IS our decision about how we use them – or abuse them.

And I believe – one of the best things we can do with our time, talents, and treasures we have is to SHARE them.  For example, I’m so blessed to live in a beautiful place – so I try to share with all of you and really want you to come out Friday night and enjoy this space with us.  And I really believe that the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Statesboro is doing wondrous things and has an awesome future to do more for our children and youth, our members and friends, our community, and through our association with others – the World.  But we do need your gifts to make it happen.
You may say – “well, with all that seems to happen in my life, there’s just not enough LEFT to give to church.”  Well, if you are giving what’s leftover, that’s part of the problem.  Here’s where I find another good lesson that works for me in the scriptures.


There are 72 Bible verses about giving of the first fruits.  Now there are lots of interpretations of what this means and how it should be done.  Now pardon me from getting personal here – but I’m just going to tell you how I personally do this “first fruits” thing.  But from my pragmatic perspective, I like to think of it as giving to the important stuff FIRST – right after the harvest --- not seeing what’s leftover.  Now I don’t farm --- but I get a pay check each month.  Actually I get two, the one our treasurer Bill Herring sends to me for showing up and working here – and the one Georgia Southern sends me for NOT showing up and working out there.  And I’ve got my bank account set up so that when that money goes in --- before anything else goes out – a check for $600 each month is sent to this congregation. And that’s just my gift.  Greg gives separately and generously as well.  I also have other first fruits gifts I share with other organizations like the UU service committee each month.   I don’t have to see if I have enough LEFT to give at the END of the month, because I’ve followed that principle of first fruits.  And it just makes my life and my bookkeeping easier.  I’m not asking you to match my gift.  I’m in a very blessed position and I live a simple life so I can do this.  But I think that if most folks followed that principle of first fruits, you’d find it a lot easier to give more from a spirit of abundance rather than a spirit of scarcity. 

This congregation knows something about the spirit of abundance and generosity.  You all are enjoying the service in this beautiful building today because a small group of hardy souls pushed their own limits of giving with faith in the possibilities of the future.  And aren't we all so grateful.  And others of you – including Happy Hicks who left money in her will for the purpose of getting a minister – gave so that you could have a minister. We’ve had our ups and downs financially, especially now as some of our more generous givers have moved away.  We’ve had to make some serious cuts in our operational budget.  I moved from ¾ time back to half time and we no longer have a part time administrator.  But your gifts have continued and make it possible for us to do some pretty incredible things!  Hopefully, we don’t do these things from a spirit of scarcity and anxiety.  Oh, we sometimes fall back into that place.  And with an unpredictable economy, it’s a little easier to catch ourselves moving in that direction.  In today’s world, we too often allow fear to control how we live and how we give. 

But you know, we all have plenty and then some of SOME things – if not money, then perhaps other resources; our time, our talents, our hugs, our smiles, and our words of encouragement.  And I have found that I even have more MONEY to give when I adopt a lifestyle of living a little more simply.  And living more simply helps me to have more money to support the kinds of things (like the Farmer’s Market) that are important to me.  It’s another way that I can be a good steward of the resources that I have.  And that nurtures my soul, spins my zen…it makes me happy and joyful!  But as much as I like being happy, that should not be the reason for my giving.  I’m reminded of these inspiring words of Kahil Gibran in his book The Prophet. 

“There are those who give little of the much which they have - and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome.
And there are those who have little and give it all.
These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty.
There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward.
And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism.
And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue;
They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space.”

That line is worth repeating:  “They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space.”

The myrtle gives its fragrance naturally and freely.

Oh may WE give as the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space.

We breathe so that our bodies may live.  We give so that our souls may live.

May it be so!