Celebrate for Happiness

Celebrate for Happiness.jpg

Chalice Lighting

You are here
You have made it to this day by overcoming many challenges, small and large
For the most part, you let those moments of success pass without notice
There is never a day without at least a small thing worth celebrating
If nothing else, today is a day we managed to get out of bed and dress
This may well be a challenge overcome
Let this be a flame of celebration
Celebrate the moments of your life

Father’s Day

Today is a day set aside to celebrate fathers and fatherhood. Many of our fathers did and do make a heartfelt effort to be fathers to us. Some of us are fathers and as a father myself I know that I have tried. I have not always succeeded and not always had my priorities right but I’ve tried.

No such holiday is without its challenges. All of us and all of our fathers bear the imperfections of being human. At times we are selfish. At times we are irritable. At times we get angry or distracted or tied up with our own needs. Imperfections aside, today is a day to celebrate what our fathers for how they have tried to be fathers to us. It is a day for those of us who are fathers to recommit to being the best fathers we can be. Whether you have a father or are a father or miss a father who is gone, I wish you a happy fathers day.

Reading: Sewing, Knitting, Crocheting by Naomi Shihab Nye (adapted)

A small striped sleeve in her lap,
navy and white,
needles carefully whipping in yarn from two sides.
She reminds me of the wide-angled women filled with calm
I pretended I was related to in crowds.
In the next seat
a yellow burst of wool grows into a hat with a tassel.
She looks young to crochet.
I'm glad history isn't totally lost.
Her silver hook dips gracefully.
And when's the last time you saw
anyone sew a pocket onto a gray linen shirt in public?
Her stitches must be invisible.
A bevelled thimble glitters in the light.
Three women who aren't together
conduct delicate operations in adjoining seats
between La Guardia and Dallas.
Miraculously, they never speak.
Three different kinds of needles,
three snippy scissors,
everybody else on the plane
snoozing with The Times.
When the flight attendant offers free wine to celebrate,
you'd think they'd sit back,
chat a minute,
tell who they're making it for,
trade patterns,
But a grave separateness has invaded the world.
They sip with eyes shut and never say
Look at us
May your thread
never break.

Reading: Ithaca by C. P. Cavafy

As you set out on the way to Ithaca
hope that the road is a long one,
filled with adventures, filled with understanding.
The Laestrygonians and the Cyclopes,
Poseidon in his anger: do not fear them,
you’ll never come across them on your way
as long as your mind stays aloft, and a choice
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Laestrygonians and the Cyclopes,
savage Poseidon; you’ll not encounter them
unless you carry them within your soul,
unless your soul sets them up before you.
Hope that the road is a long one.
Many may the summer mornings be
when—with what pleasure, with what joy—
you first put in to harbors new to your eyes;
may you stop at Phoenician trading posts
and there acquire fine goods:
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and heady perfumes of every kind:
as many heady perfumes as you can.
To many Egyptian cities may you go
so you may learn, and go on learning, from their sages.
Always keep Ithaca in your mind;
to reach her is your destiny.
But do not rush your journey in the least.
Better that it last for many years;
that you drop anchor at the island an old man,
rich with all you’ve gotten on the way,
not expecting Ithaca to make you rich.
Ithaca gave to you the beautiful journey;
without her you’d not have set upon the road.
But she has nothing left to give you any more.
And if you find her poor, Ithaca did not deceive you.
As wise as you’ll have become, with so much experience,
you’ll have understood, by then, what these Ithacas mean.

Message by Rev Andy Pakula

Two friends once set off for a long walk in the country. Their destination: a stunning waterfall. Neither had visited the remote falls but both had heard of it, seen photographs, and longed to be physically present to this amazing natural wonder. They imagined hearing the thundering sound of the water crashing on the rocks after its long drop. They could almost feel the cool spray that engulfed the bottom of the falls. Rebecca and Linda drove to the starting point of their walk early in the morning on a beautiful clear day. The walk would be six miles each way so they began walking with seven hours available for the whole journey.

The outbound trip was mostly uphill and, while not steep, it was tiring for the walkers. 20 minutes into the walk, Rebecca stopped and gazed toward the vista of deep green trees before a set of distant mountains. “What a gorgeous view” she said. “Linda - take a look!”  “Nice. Uh huh.” said Linda. “Can we get going now?” “Let’s spend just a minute here” Rebecca replied, and she looked off with a look of great pleasure on her face. Linda checked her phone impatiently. “C’mon” said Linda and they walked on.

As they walked, they talked occasionally but with mostly with a comfortable silence between them. About 15 minutes later, Rebecca stopped suddenly, looked intently above and to her right and motioned to Linda to be still. She pointed and whispered to Linda “Look at that bird!” There was a flash of purple and white where she was pointing. Linda said “Great. Nice. Let’s go now. Waterfall.” Rebecca shushed her. “That’s the male. Let’s see if his mate appears. They’re supposed to have a beautiful song!” They waited a bit. Rebecca excited and Linda impatient. The male flew to the right and there they could just make out a nest high in the trees with the female bird. A beautiful birdsong rang out - otherworldly and haunting. And Linda said “let’s go. Waterfall.”

Off they went walking intently and quietly. They were about halfway to the waterfall now and, ever aware of her surroundings, Rebecca saw a baby deer. Linda gave her a minute or two to enjoy watching it and said “Waterfall.” A little while later, Rebecca noticed a patch of rare, edible mushrooms and collected them while Linda tapped her fingers and said “waterfall.”

As they walked further, the clear sky began to cloud over. They continued walking as it got darker and darker and then rain began to fall. It was light at first and then heavier. Linda checked her phone only to find there was a severe weather warning for right where they were. The way became muddy and slippery and finally, Linda said “I think we need to turn back.” Rebecca agreed and - just a mile and a half from the waterfall, they headed back downhill to where they began. There were no words exchanged as they carefully watched their steps to avoid slipping. They reached the bottom and, after removing their wet coats, got into Linda’s car.

“What a day” said Linda. “Yes indeed, said Rebecca.” And they drove quietly homeward with Linda thinking “what a disappointment” while Rebecca beamed at the magnificence of the journey.

I am sad to say that I’m more of a Linda than a Rebecca. When there is a milestone along the way to a greater goal, I don’t stop for a moment. I move on to the next leg of the journey. Celebration of those small victories for me takes conscious efforts. I have to fight my natural tendencies if I am to stop and look around before hitting the road again. One of my greatest flaws in leadership is that I forget that others want and actually need to celebrate the steps along the way.

Naomi Shihab Nye talks about the three women sitting side-by-side on a plane sewing, knitting or crocheting without ever a word of achievement or congratulations or satisfaction. Doesn’t the effort of knitting and purling your way to the end of a row call for at least a tiny little ‘yay’? When that yellow tasseled hat was done, was there no opportunity for a moment of satisfaction at its completion?

On the blue boat of the earth as we wander through the universe, is there no time for giving thanks for the waves and the winds? No time to celebrate the starry sea around us?

Linda lived for Ithaca. Rebecca rejoiced in the journey. Cavafy’s poem refers to the ancient Greek tale of Odysseus and his travels and obstacles on his way to return to Ithaca. “Keep Ithaca in your mind”, he writes, “but do not rush the journey.” It is along the journey that the growth and joy and adventure lies. Sometimes, the destination gives us far less than the journey itself. If we fail to keep Ithaca in mind, we will never journey. If we keep it too much in mind, we will miss the journey, which is everything.

Ramadan just ended a couple of days ago. There will be another Ramadan next year and Ramadan is only one of the five pillars of Islam. But the end of Ramadan is a time for feasting and celebrating before returning to a more pious focus.

It is not only the case that our lives have more joy when we can celebrate the small achievements of the journey. It is also true that celebration at each milestone gives us the motivation to go further.

In her book, ‘Reality is Broken’, Jane McGonigal writes about computer games and what makes them so appealing. If you have ever played computer games or watched anyone play them, you know that it is a misconception to think that people play because it is fun. Mostly, it is not. Games are hard work - frustrating work. You fail and try and try again.

But it engages us because each level gives you just the right amount of challenge - not so little that you get bored or so much that you give up. And it is integral to the gaming experience that when you overcome each challenge there is an onscreen celebration. There is praise. There is a moment of reward before you go on to the next level. This is something we have learned through community organising. Don’t take on racism or poverty or injustice in a single enormous and probably endless adventure. Identify one winnable challenge at a time, take it on, overcome, celebrate, rinse, repeat.

The importance of celebrating along the way becomes so clear, but I am sure that I am not the only Linda here. Many of you fail like I do to stop to appreciate what we have achieved at some milestone in our journey. Instead, our focus is always on the waterfall or on Ithaca.

We have been convinced somewhere along the way that we are only good enough if we have done it all, defeated the greatest evils, become prime minister, been knighted, and won the Nobel Prize. We were told we needed to be perfect.

Days like father’s day remind me of this. I know I have been an imperfect father and that makes it hard to celebrate. I know that my own father was deeply imperfect and that has made it almost impossible for me to celebrate him. Accepting our imperfection changes everything. It makes it possible to stop and celebrate our achievements to know they are enough.

If you want to be happy and want to succeed in your goals, stop focusing only on your big goal and enjoy the journey. There is so much opportunity for joy and satisfaction along the way. The destination is necessary but don’t miss the journey because of it.

Closing Words

We are each imperfect
Flawed in ways large and small
Accepting this gives us the freedom to pause our striving
To recognise each small victory for what it is:
An opportunity for celebration.
A moment for happiness to enter our lives.
And a better path to our great goals
Celebrate your life
Be happy