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!