Celebrating Recovery and Growth

Each morning brings a day of both joy and of sorrow
Of wonder and horror
Of weakness and of strength
And each day, we must choose where our focus will fall
Will we avert our eyes from the ugliness so we may revel in life’s splendor?
Or perhaps ignore the beauty to challenge all that must change
There is another way
Seeing the world whole
In all its complexity
Loving the light and bringing it to dispel the darkness  
Let this flame shine the light of love into dark places

Readings & Contemplation

We look back on the theme of healing and recovery over the past three months

3 April - Suffering is Universal

Knowing we are not alone in our suffering can come as a revelation. It can come as a surprising light of healing and comfort.

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person.”

These words from Albert Schweitzer must be a guide to us
Let us know, expect, and accept that there will be dark times in our own lives
Let us have deep assurance that we can offer the spark that reignite’s another’s flame
Let this be ever a community of people ready to seek and offer light

17 April - Admirable Addictions

“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.”

Whether we call them addictions or distractions or dedications, most of us have the things we do that keep us from wrestling with our challenges and therefore keep us from growing.

24 April - Liberation

Despite our substantial freedom, we may hold ourselves captive. To be sure, it is not captivity like the Jews in ancient Egypt or the refugees held today in Turkey or Greece.
But we restrict ourselves and prevent our own growth. We confine our possibilities and cage our potential for joy.

Fear prevents connection. The reverse is also true - connection and relationship are tools that can allow us to weaken the bars of fear.

It is in relationship that we can test and lessen and disprove the fears we have about our own inadequacy. It is in relationship that we can learn that who we are inside is enough - that we are acceptable and lovable - that we are even strong enough to help others in their own growth and journey toward freedom.

8 May - Healing Trauma

“Traumatic events destroy the sustaining bonds between individual and community. Those who have survived learn that their sense of self, of worth, of humanity, depends upon a feeling of connection with others. The solidarity of a group provides the strongest protection against terror and despair, and the strongest antidote to traumatic experience.

Repeatedly in the testimony of survivors there comes a moment when a sense of connection is restored by another person’s unaffected display of generosity. Something in herself that the victim believes to be irretrievably destroyed---faith, decency, courage---is reawakened by an example of common altruism. Mirrored in the actions of others, the survivor recognizes and reclaims a lost part of herself. At that moment, the survivor begins to rejoin the human commonality...”

What is true for individuals can also be true for peoples and for nations. A people that hardens in response to pressure may warm in the face of acts of care and kindness.

21 May - Love Hurts Love Heals

“Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, and not a vegetable.
Wisdom is knowing not to include it in a fruit salad.”

What kind of wisdom do we actually want? We want to know how to live well - to live in a way that is deeply satisfying - a way that where we can bear whatever suffering comes our way - where we can see all the beauty around us and feel all the joy there is to feel. We want to live in a way that leads to satisfaction and meaning and purpose in life.

There is no wisdom without experience, and the experience needed is relational. Without relationship with the oppressed, justice is just a word. Without someone with whom to be honest, caring, and vulnerable, love is just a word. Without rolling in the long grass, nature is just a word.

It is here, together, that we learn and grow. It is together that we become wise.

15 May - Becoming Wise Together

Some fools think of happiness
Blissfulness, togetherness…
I know it isn't true
Love is just a lie
Love hurts.
Love hurts and love heals. Both are true. Love can be both wonderful and horrible - sometimes both at the same time.

Love heals, not because the love we receive repairs what is broken in us. It heals because when we love completely, we are given the opportunity to give unreservedly, without ego or thought for our own need. And this places us in the deeply relational human dance of connection. It makes us apart of what is truly holy and healing. This is what heals us. Paradoxically, when our own happiness is not the goal of our actions, then true happiness is the outcome.
Love is wonderful and healing and love is painful. And loving well is hard. Loving well means loving without expectation of getting anything in return - like an ideal parent loves their child.

In some ways, then, the most selfish thing we can do is to be unselfish. We can heal ourselves by helping others. We can become stronger by strengthening others. We can find love by giving it away.

29 May - Unbreakable - Strength and Survival

We heard the story of the Carrot, the Egg, or the Coffee Bean.

You have gained such strengths over the course of your life. Every hardship, if we do not let it harden us like a boiled egg or soften us like a cooked carrot, can be a source of growth and new strengths.

You are an amazing improbable being and you have survived. You are strong and you can grow stronger. You owe it to yourself to turn adversities into strengths. And you owe it to this world, for the future needs us to be both strong and good today.

5 June - Practice makes Progress

Aristotle described something we now understand better through neuroscience. He said “We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.”

What we do can change how we think. We might imagine that the only way to change our actions is to change how we think and feel. But it’s been proven true that the reverse is also true. For example, smiling can make you feel happier, a confident pose can make you feel more confident, and generous acts can make you more generous.

As Aristotle put it, “We are what we repeatedly do.”

Practice being the person you want to be
Act courageous to become courageous
Do loving actions to become a love
Give often to become generous
Say ‘thank you’ to become generous
Practice does not make perfect
But it does make for progress in your journey of growth
Love where you stand today
And engage in the journey toward your vision
Do this for yourself, for your community, and for the world

12 June - Healthy Leadership & the Complexity of systems

The self-differentiated person is one has greater immunity to the anxiety in the system and the resulting pressure to play a role that doesn’t bother anyone. Such a person has grown far enough to be fully themselves and, simultaneously to be in touch with the other members of a system.

It is easy to be so emotionally enmeshed in a system that you can’t be yourself. At the opposite extreme, it is easy enough to be emotionally cut-off from others and be yourself. But self-differentiation is having the strength to do both - to be fully oneself and fully connected to others.

Being self differentiated means that one’s self esteem is not dependent on what others think about them. Self-differentiation confers the ability to define one's own goals and values without being pushed about by outside pressures.

We are too easily imprisoned by fear
Too easily paralysed by our attempts to calm the storm
When we and the world need people who have the courage to break free
People who have the strength to stand alone together
It is not selfish to be yourself
It may be the most generous thing you can do

19 Orlando and Jo Cox

We are a gentle angry people.

Gentle because - if for no other reason - we know that responding to violence and hatred with more of the same will never create the world we want to see. We are gentle because we believe and know that love can be stronger than hate.

Gentle angry people try to change the world for the better. They try to change people who they believe are causing harm and injustices. And gentle angry people know that minds do not change through hatred. Minds do not change by violence.

We may wish for magical solutions
The incantation that ends the violence and brings love to every heart
This is not in our power and we cannot undo what has been done.
Our power is for the future
Our magic is an ability to act today to create a better world for tomorrow
So we begin the work of love
We can not do it alone - let us begin it together

Moving Forward

For three months, we have talked about healing and recovery. We have talked about the strengths that have got us where we are and the strengths we have gained as a result of the hardships we have encountered.

There are challenges that affect individuals, challenges that affect families, and - as we experience beginning this very week - challenges that affect whole nations.
What tools and wisdom do we have that can take us past the obstacles and setbacks of our lives? What strength do we have to address the divisions and anguish of our nation?

In a few minutes, we’re going to invite you to write or draw on the coloured paper you’ve been given, and all of our contributions will become part of one great collage.

As you consider what to write, consider the words you’ve heard today. Consider the story of overcoming in your own life and the lives of those near to you. Consider the stories of humanity at its best.

What you write or draw is up to you. It can be a description of strength - about the time your resilience surprised you as it pulled you through something you thought you could not survive or maybe about the power of understanding you gained for others because of your own suffering.

You might write or draw about how strength can be used in the future - how you will use your own courage to face down casual bigotry or use your strength of compassion to build bridges between people who have little understanding of one another’s ways or perspectives.

For me, what is on my mind is the tremendous divide in this country that has been placed into stark relief by the recent referendum campaign, its vitriolic tone, and the lack of understanding between us.

I yearn to use my strength to counter these troubling realities - to build understanding, to foster love, and to restore a civil and considerate and - above all - truthful - public discourse.
What is your strength? What is our strength? How have we grown? What will we do?

[congregation participates in the exercise]

You are stronger than you may believe
You are more resilient than you imagine
Together we are powerful
Together, our love can change everything
Let us begin the work of love