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On the eve of Valentine’s Day, I want to tell you that God loves you and so do I! I subscribe to Sr. Joan Chittister’s weekly email and I would like to share some of it with you. It is titled “A Valentine Note.”
Ananda, the beloved disciple of the Buddha, once asked his teacher about the place of friendship in the spiritual journey. “Master, is friendship half of the spiritual life?” he asked. And the teacher responded, “Nay, Ananda, friendship is the whole of the spiritual life.”
There are times when it seems that so much has been written about love that there is no more to be said about it. And, worse, sometimes it seems that so much that has been written about love that is pure drivel— unattained and unattainable. Or volumes are written about sexual manipulation without a word about the fact that good sex, holy sex, requires a good relationship. Or pure theory of a theological kind talks about “loving” God when I have yet to understand human love, let alone the divine. But love is none of those things, alone and entirely. Love is far more meaningful than that.
Love is something learned only by the long, hard labor of life. It is sometimes over before we’ve even known we ever had it. We sometimes destroy it before we appreciate it. We often have it and simply take it for granted.
Every love, whatever happens to it in the long run, teaches us more about ourselves, our needs, our limitations, and our self-centeredness than anything else we can ever experience. As Aldous Huxley wrote: “There isn’t any formula or method. You learn by loving.”
But sometimes, if we’re lucky, we live long enough to grow into it in such a way that because of it we come to recognize the value of life. As the years go by, we come to love flowers and cats and small infants and old ladies and life on the dock and the one person in life who knows how hot we like our coffee.
We learn enough about love to allow things to slip away and ourselves to melt into the God whose love made all of it possible. Sometimes we even find a love deep enough, gentle enough, tender enough to detach us from the foam and frills of life, all of which hold us captive to things that cannot satisfy. Sometimes we live long enough to see the face of God in another. Then, in that case, we have loved.
The poets and storytellers across time have told us about the dimensions of love that last. The poet Rumi wrote:
From myself I am copper, through You, friend, I am gold. From myself I’m a stone, but through You I am a gem.
This past Sunday I continued with the talk series from Paul K. Chappell’s book, Peaceful Revolution. It was the Muscle of Empathy that we looked at. Chappell wrote: Empathy is our ability to identify with and relate to others. It allows us to recognize ourselves in them, sympathize with their problems, and share their joy and pain. Empathy is the most powerful force in the world.
He also says: Empathy is our ability to identify with and relate to others. Every act of kindness, compassion, generosity, and forgiveness is built on the foundation of empathy; every act of hatred and cruelty results from the absence.
It is important to clarify the difference between sympathy and empathy. Sympathy is feeling sorrow for someone else’s misfortune and may come from a place of perceived superiority. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the other person’s feelings and perspectives, to figuratively “walk in someone else’s shoes.”
Brene Brown’s definition is empathy fuels connection; sympathy drives disconnection.
Unconditional Love: A Higher Expression of Empathy
The muscle of empathy grows into unconditional love:
• When we take action to make a positive difference in another’s life…
• When we act selflessly on someone’s behalf
The poet Hafiz saw unconditional love as:
Even after all this time The Sun never says to the Earth, “You owe me”. Look what happens with a love like that, It lights the whole sky.
To hear also about Solidarity: The Highest Expression of Empathy, use the audio player above to listen to this week’s message. Next week the message will be on the Muscle of Appreciation.
You are a blessing in my life.
Rev. Patricia Bessey
In case you missed it, the groundhog didn’t see his shadow and therefore the prediction is for an early spring. Do I hear an AMEN for this! As I write this (Monday) the temperature for the next couple of days will be balmy. This conversation leads me to share that a group met on Sunday to begin formalizing the Season for the Earth and our Unity gardens. There is great excitement from this team and the focus will be on education and our gardens. As you may know our gardens last year supplied food for our Sunday lunch and it is the plan going forward for this summer as well. It takes many hands for this to be successful and a little time from the many hands. Please stay tuned as more information becomes available and you can see where you can be of service.
I would like us to welcome new voting members Bonnie Dalrymple, Michelle Neas, Pat Paine and Cindy Uhl. We see everyone as members of our community; however, our bylaws state that we have voting members who elect new board members and vote on financial and other important matters of the ministry. Our Annual Meeting will be on February 24 and we invite all to come and share another successful year and celebrate the many accomplishments we experienced in 2018.
An update on our 1,000 crane project… many cranes were brought in on Sunday and to see how many we have to date check out the bottom of the Season for Nonviolence bulletin board and that is where you can find the count. If you need help with the cranes, I am told there are several YouTube videos that show you how to make them. If you are like me, I am visual, and I need to see it being done. Pat Bartke and Randall Sawyer have offered to work with you after service on Sundays… I saw this past Sunday a table where Pat was giving instructions to some folks.
Sunday, I began a new series using the book Peaceful Revolution written by Paul K. Chappell. In this book Paul unlocks the mysteries of hope, empathy, appreciation, conscience, reason, discipline and curiosity. These are the muscles of humanity and they hold the secret to our salvation. Our survival depends on our ability to understand and embrace our humanity.
The human mind is not only our greatest strength, but also our greatest weakness. In the struggle for survival, it is our strongest and weakest link.
There is a difference between naïve hope and realistic hope. Wishful thinking, unsupported by evidence and experience, is the basis of naïve hope, but the three kinds of trust – in myself, in others, and in my ideals – are the basis for realistic hope. They transform hope from a cliché into a powerful ally.
How Realistic Hope Enables Human Survival
From his book Paul says: “Almost all organisms fight for life as long as their bodies allow, but we humans often give up long before that. No other organism takes premeditated steps to terminate its own existence. No other organism commits suicide out of despair. The will to live may decrease in wild animals held in captivity, but we are the only creatures who commit suicide while still possessing health and freedom.
“A human being can survive a few weeks without food, a few days without water, but only a few moments without hope.”
Paul uses the analogy of a bird, if it is flying high and the muscles sustaining its wings fail, it will plunge to its death. In a similar way, if we are faced with adversity and the muscle of hope sustaining the wings of our imagination fails, we will plunge into the depths of helplessness and despair.
Charles Fillmore, co-founder of Unity, once asked a friend, “Do you know what the most important words in the world are?” The friend replied he did not, Mr. Fillmore went on to say “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). From Lessons in Truth by H. Emilie Cady comes this teaching… We know that the importance to each of us lies in the full realization of this statement and in our ability to make practical use of the Truth it contains.
This is just a taste of what Cady and Chappell have to say about hope.
Next week we will be discussing empathy. Join us and until then have a joy-filled week.
You are a blessing in my life.
Rev. Patricia Bessey
I love it when a plan comes together as it did on Sunday. I also love it when I am working with folks who do what they say they will do with clarity, focus, ease and grace. The folks I am talking about are Pat Bartke, Trish Vogel and Yaeko Collier. Pat brought an idea to the Seasons Team and it was unanimously received; however, it had a lot of moving parts. Pat and Trish teamed up and got it done! If you were at the service on Sunday, you would have been involved in the kick-off for the 5th year of the Season for Nonviolence.
In January 2015 we began the first Season for Nonviolence… and each year since we have expanded and built on what we have previously done. It begins on January 30 and ends on April 4…what do those dates stand for? January 30 is the assassination date of Mahatma Gandhi and April 4 is the assassination date of Martin Luther King Jr… these two men dedicated their lives for nonviolence and died for the cause.
The theme for the message was the story of Sadako and the 1000 cranes. It is a story of a Japanese girl of 11 who was vibrantly alive and an enthusiastic runner who couldn’t sit still and was looking forward to helping her class win a race in her next year of school.
The date is 1954, just 11 years after the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Although many were not directly affected by the bomb, the amount of toxic material was still in the atmosphere and folks were dying from leukemia.
Sadako began to have dizzy spells while running and fearful to tell her parents; she just lived with it until one day she collapsed at school and was taken to the hospital. There she was diagnosed with leukemia. It was devastating for her and her family. Her friend Chizuko cheers her up by folding a crane out of gold paper. Chizuko reminds her of an old legend: If a sick person folds 1,000 paper cranes, the gods will make her well. Sadako is inspired. Once Chizuko teaches her to make the cranes, Sadako works on creating a flock. Her brother helps her hang each bird from the ceiling of her hospital room.
Sadly, however on October 25, 1955, Sadako dies. She had completed 644 cranes and her class went on to complete the remaining 356 so she could be buried with 1000 cranes.
The crane has become a symbol of peace and hope. In 1958, a statue of Sadako holding a golden crane was erected in Hiroshima’s Peace Park. A plaque on the statue reads: “This is our cry, this is our prayer, peace in the world.”
Masahiro, Sadako’s brother, hopes we can learn a lesson from Sadako’s short life. He said, “Her death gave us a big goal. Small peace is so important with compassion and delicacy it will become big like a ripple effect. She showed us how to do it. It is my, and the Sasaki family’s responsibility to tell her story to the world. I believe if you don’t create a small peace, you can’t create a bigger peace. I like to gather those good wishes and good will and spread to the world.” The goal is to make sure “that humans never experience that day again,” said Masahiro, board chair of Sadako Legacy.
He’s guided by what President Kennedy said in a speech to the UN General Assembly in 1961 about the potential for destruction posed by nuclear war, “Mankind must put an end to war — or war will put an end to mankind.”
Pat and Trish have created a beautiful bulletin board honoring Sadako and the 1000 cranes. Pat also put together packets with directions and paper, enough to make 25 cranes for folks to take home, make and bring back and they will be strung on our tree in the sanctuary.
As a highlight of the service Yaeko Collier, one of our long-time members and from Japan, gave us a demonstration on making the cranes. It was so much fun… I then saw folks at tables in Unity Hall getting tutored on how to make them. Please, each week return what you have made, and they will be accounted for and strung for the tree.
Should you not make all that you have, please bring back the unused paper for others to take. Let us see how long it takes to get to 1000… our goal is to be there before the Season for Nonviolence is complete.
This Sunday (February 3) I will be starting a series of talks on the book Peace Revolution written by Paul K. Chappell. We will be looking at the Muscle of Hope.
Plan to stay following the service for additional activities: Healing Service, A Course in Miracles and a meeting for the start-up of the Season for the Earth and our Unity gardens.
You are a blessing in my life.
Rev. Patricia Bessey
(No audio) This past Sunday and Monday have been significant for many of us. We had a storm that dropped snow, sleet and freezing rain depending on where you lived, church was canceled, the New England Patriots are headed to the Super Bowl and we had a super blood moon…