Monday, September 29, 2014


Most of you have probably heard Richard and me tell stories about our two sons. With his permission I want to start this morning by telling you more about my oldest son, Antonio. We call him Tony and he lives in Massachusetts. Tony is now 26 and we met him when he was seven and adopted him when he was eight.

Tony had a traumatic early childhood. When he was three he was found on a city street eating from a trash can placed on the street corner. He was neglected and abused by his parents and was removed from his home and eventually placed in the care of the state. When we met Tony we did notice that he had some cognitive delays but thought that they might be caused by his early childhood. We eventually scheduled a neuropsychiatric evaluation and we were told that our son had a pervasive developmental disorder. In other words he had a developmental disability or, more commonly, mental retardation.

Tony was not fazed by this label. He got on with life. I remember Tony as an athlete when he was a child. He played basketball. The only problem was that he held the ball like a football and ran in the opposite direction than the rest of his team. Eventually there was a coach on the correct end of the court waving to Tony when he got the ball. He was on his high school football team. Tony doesn’t know this but the coach let Tony play if he knew the team was going to win or if he knew the team was going to lose. Tony played when it didn’t matter what he did. He would be part of the team and not have to live with unnecessary consequences from his peers.

Tony also ran track and was a swimmer. Excellent at both except a coach would need to intervene because Tony would run and swim until someone told him to stop. Tony completed high school and now works in the library of the university where he lives. He is on committees and in the choir of the UU church we raised him in. He has friends and everyone in town knows who he is because of his charm and warmth. He lives a life larger than any of us thought was possible. I share all of this with you to help us understand that embodiment is not a fixed state but a process requiring deep listening, honesty, and a willingness to leave the known for the unknown –- to leave the realm of familiar ideas and ways of thinking for the wide open territory of truth. Can our lives be larger than we were led to believe possible? Despite all of the challenges Tony faced he was the embodiment of courage, resilience, risk, and determination. He lived his truth and was willing to try and try again … and again.

I often compare embodiment to the words of Unitarian Universalist minister and theologian James Luther Adams claiming our theology. He says there is no need for us to go from person to person to tell and explain our personal theology. They only need to look at our voluntary associations to discern what we believe. That is, they only need to look at the life we are living, engaging, and practicing to tell what we believe. Let me make this a little more clear. Our dear member and friend Judy Bonner rolls in our parking lot, car covered with bumper stickers encouraging peace, equality, justice, and compassion. We only need to look at Judy’s car to understand what she believes, the life she embodies. If you know Judy well you know that she embodies the qualities her bumper stickers champion. She dedicates her living to peace and justice. Our lives are a journey toward embodiment; a quest that continues.

Poet Mary Oliver writes of this journey saying, “Things take the time they take. Don’t worry. How many roads did St. Augustine follow before he became St. Augustine?” We will embody our personal truth only if we risk the journey, are honest and leave behind our ways that keep us bound and unable to journey toward the truth.

Let us unpack the notion of embodiment as a journey a bit more. Embodiment, in our religious lives is not a list of qualities we like best about ourselves. It is a practice, a journey, to acquire these attributes through our living. Within embodiment we have listening, honesty, willingness to take risks, and the search for the truth. The journey of embodiment is one with unexpected or unintended results.

I recently read a story by Tracy Cochran titled A Shared World. Cochran describes her decision to travel to India as a place unknown to her other than what she was told or had read. She writes. “I came to India braced for darkness. But in all my planning, I hadn’t anticipated the light.” She describes living in the unknown when her tendency was to seek the known. She said yes to this trip because she wanted to live life in a bigger way. What she found were the joys of being in community and the generosity of a people. She expected darkness but received light. She realized that we are meant to give ourselves to life and that we can turn away from life or be open to receive it. It is on the journey toward embodiment that we give ourselves to life and the unexpected, embracing both.
Lao Tzu, founder of Taoism, tells us in the Tao Te Ching, the fundamental religious and philosophical text for Taoism, “If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself. If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.”

The purpose of embodiment is to exist in the emotional and spiritual space of freedom, separate from the burdens of others' expectations. Embracing our own journey through life transcends us into creating our own voyage, in our own vehicle, with no hitchhiking needed. While driving ourselves we learn to take the scenic route through life while growing in emotional and spiritual intelligence. Life presents the opportunity to learn about ourselves in order to grow spiritually, not the other way around. This is the listening of embodiment. Listening to ourselves. Listening to the still and small voice within whether it be your voice or the voice of something or someone you believe to be greater than yourself. Honesty is staying true, honest, to one's beliefs. Honesty and integrity go hand in hand. Unitarian Universalists may find this easier than most because we are encouraged to be seekers and find our own truth versus managing the dishonesty of dogma.

In his 2013 commencement address at the University of California, DJ Patil says, "Actively take chances on others, even when it is at a risk to you and seek out others who will take a risk on you. Life always requires some level of risk taking. Risks are necessary to make changes happen and there will always be both personal risk, as well as to others involved. Comfort zones are really the perfect opposite for risks. They are the decisions and ways of doing things that have the least risks, the least unknowns and are easy for us to do. We should never let these comfort zones dominate us. Having a willingness to take on risks means also to have a willingness to step outside our comfort zones. Comfort zones are everything from our daily routine, to our lifestyle, to our work and habits or roles in our lives. All of these things that are repetitive and lasting become comfortable but, the new things in life really make things change over time. Anyone who is too afraid to step outside their comfort zone is also too afraid to take the risks that are often needed on the journey toward embodiment. If we give up comforts and ease to move towards and tackle the next challenge, we surely show great signs of personal and spiritual growth.

My colleague, the Rev. Carol Altman-Morton writes, “The challenge for Unitarian Universalists is not really in convincing us that there is a connection between mind, body, and spirit. The challenge is in getting us to move from thinking about it intellectually — knowing that there is a connection — to really experiencing it, being attentive and attuned. When and where do we experience it? It can be most easy to access when our senses are engaged: in relationships, nature, music, art, poetry. Through our experience we can move from knowing there is a connection, to learning about what that connection really means. We can know ourselves and each other more fully. “We are called to be the walking embodiment of our liberal faith.”

As messengers of Unitarian Universalism we must be the embodiment of our message. We must not live in a fixed state in our congregation or our lives. We must listen, deeply to ourselves and to the calling of our principles and tradition. We must be honest with ourselves and acknowledge the realities of our living, We must be willing to leave the known for the unknown and become familiar with the wide open territory of truth. We are seekers not of a single truth but our personal truth. We must be willing to take the journey of embodiment. We will only be rewarded by the promise that it is possible to live our lives and our faith beyond anything we could have imagined. There is no need to pack our bags. This journey is not a trip. It’s not a vacation. It is a process. A discovery. It is a process of self-discovery. A journey that brings us face to face with ourselves. The journey is life itself. Where will it take us?

The Rev. Jim Eller-Isaacs tells a story of what the journey might be for us as seekers. He recalls going to a Buddhist monastery for a retreat. He had forgotten to take his meditation cushion and so he looked around for one there. He was accustomed to the traditional type that is firm and inflexible. Nothing was available. He looked for one of those buckwheat-filled ones to use instead. No luck with that, either. Finally, he decided to do something radical and try out an inflatable meditation cushion that had been made for general use. Despite his distrust of anything new, he discovered the inflatable meditation cushion to be bliss. Even though a part of him whispered that “no real Zen student would use such a thing,” another part of him reminded himself that his Zen teacher — one of the most highly regarded Zen teachers in the U.S. — had been using one for years with no ill effect. Later it occurred to him that the traditional cushion is a metaphor for orthodoxy, rigid tradition, and the presumption that pain is good for us. “Sit and cope with it,” it suggests. The buckwheat cushion is better, but after a while, every nugget of buckwheat becomes engrained on your posterior and numbness is the result.

Dealing with religion can be like that, too. The inflatable cushion he observed was a good metaphor for our tradition and journey toward embodiment. It says, “pain is not required — you need not assume a painful position of body, mind, or spirit.” Your mind need not become paralyzed or numb. Just sit, be open, and see where your spiritual journey can take you. Let us prepare for the journey, the quest, that never ends.

May it be so.

Embodiment, a sermon delivered by the Rev. CJ McGregor at 1stUUPB on Sep 28, 2014.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

I Don't Know

At the end of college and seminary I thought I knew a lot. I wondered why more people didn’t ask me anything. I had read and loved, but not self-applied, those great lines of Alexander Pope: “We think our fathers fools so wise we grow. Surely our younger sons will think us so.”

I remember my former in-laws at the time of a breakdown saying to me, you say something very annoying to us. What could that be? They said, you start a lot of statements with, “You’ll have to agree with me.” I knew I said that a lot, but I did not see how that could be annoying. I had read and loved, but not self-applied, the line of thinking of Plato that wisdom comes with age and only people of a certain age and wisdom, which includes humility, can be trusted with any kind of authority over others. I think I am learning and self-applying the fact that wisdom doesn’t necessarily come with age. When I hear someone say, or myself think, we are older and wiser now, I want to chime in, You are surely half-right.

Hadn’t we all learned in school that life is a journey of actually learning how little we do know? And if you happen to have children, or be close to somebody else’s, they will remind you how little you actually know. I have been impressed with a scientist’s presentations of a Great Courses series on modern advances,  and the conclusion he would often state in his responses: science is progressing along many lines, but we really don’t know very much.

A book sits on my shelf. I bought it a long time ago but haven’t got far into it. The title is, TWO WORLDS ARE OURS by the theologian, John Macquarrie. It is an exploration of the history of Christian mysticism, which frankly I have read about in the past but not found that interesting. The idea of the book or at least the title is age-old. We are body and spirit, physical/material and spiritual. We can know a lot about the body, the human body, plant and animal life, fauna and flora, and we can know a lot about the body of the planet and heavenly bodies in space. The laws and rules for knowing and learning more about all those physical realities are well established. The Dalai Lama in his book our midweek class read, THE UNIVERSE IN A SINGLE ATOM, restates the rules of science pretty well: cause and effect, repeatable experiment, objective observation and measurement. That’s one world, one reality so to speak. The other world suggested in TWO WORLDS ARE OURS is something else altogether. We call it spirituality, our spiritual journey. We all have it, we all own it, TWO WORLDS ARE OURS.

We here are proud of our heritage of respect for everyone’s spiritual journey. No one here has more of a grasp on that world than anybody else. What we hope to do is to encourage each other to keep growing in your own spiritual brand. I suspect all of us at times feel, we don’t have much grasp, and sometimes we feel we are losing what grip we have on that world within. We are here to reassure each other, when some of us walk through the valley, we want to reassure one another: it will come back and you will come back. You will keep growing. That’s one thing we want to do and be for each other in a congregation. To be human means to be shaky at times; love will do that to you; people we care about will do that to you.

A major turnoff for me in religion is people claiming to KNOW more than they can possibly know, which often means confusing metaphor talk, which is really the only way we can talk about the spiritual world, confusing metaphor talk and scientific, objective physical world talk. I can’t believe there are so many American people who actually believe the world was created on a certain date in 4004 BCE. People who believe that cling to BC, forget BCE. You know there are theme parks to take you back as close to that year as possible. At least Disney is up-front about magic and fantasy; you go there for escape and to help the Florida economy, and because your grandchildren make you.

What we know and how we know about matters spiritual is completely different from what we know and how we know about matters physical. And here I can say with conviction, I really don’t know. But that doesn’t keep me from grasping, grappling, groping, searching, often, seemingly in the dark. The fact is, we even mean different things by spirituality.

For me -- and of course I can only talk for me -- spirituality is not about another world I can hope to figure out some day, or even enter some day, that day seeming sooner than it used to. That sense of spirituality as another world has been affected, I would say, in a clearly prejudiced way, has been warped by creative people like Cecil B. DeMille and Rod Serling, creative people who tried to translate the metaphorical into the physical. which reminds me of the Mormon pavilion of the 1964 world's fair. They showed a movie of people in heaven, all ages, happy, in white robes. And I left thinking I would be better off dying soon so I can be young for eternity.

For me, spirituality and holy are about worth, not what we are worth in assets but what we are worth as humans, and what we deem as the most worthy, worthwhile, valuable, and what our actual living, our practice shows that we love. Worship means what we ascribe worth to, what we center our lives around, what we value more than anything else. So, spirituality for me is reflecting on all that, how honest am I and how committed am I to that being the real for me? How big is the gap between what I profess and how I live? Big enough to bring  the word hypocrisy to mind?

One area or concern that most people would place under the umbrella spiritual -- and really all I can say is I don't know -- is the whole matter of the afterlife. In that area I think the rules for knowing are a whole lot different than what we usually mean when we say we know something. Those of us who were present in one of our book discussions years ago when we got onto the topic of eternity and what we thought it meant, those of us who heard our beloved and late friend Martha Michelsen, a proud UU,  say she didn’t know how it could be but she hoped and she believed that someday she would be with her daughter who had died of breast cancer just a few years previously. As we heard her say that, we could only feel, (i)May it be so.

In our book discussion, which we call a faith discussion, we invite sharing with this understanding: You won’t try to talk us into it and we won’t try to talk you out of it. I guess that’s also what we mean by encouraging each other on our spiritual journeys here. I know there are people in the class and in this congregation who believe in reincarnation in some way. Belief in reincarnation is as old as the human race, which I assure you, predates 4004 BCE. It goes against my grain, or my core belief, but if I am wrong, I hope I won’t be penalized someday, or, at the worst, have to come back as a fundamentalist.

(Parenthetically, one thing that deeply impressed us about the Dalai Lama’s book was, here was a very spiritual man studying with his vast resources the world of science and finding similarities between ancient Buddhism and modern science. One point he made over and over was that people err by closing the door to new knowledge. He calls that a metaphysics, or an ideology or a world view and that commitment may focus us or orient us but the error is in concluding there is no more truth or reality than what we can see. Here is one of the world’s most spiritual people writing this: “I have argued for the need for and possibility of a world view grounded in science, yet one that does not deny the richness of human nature and the validity of modes of knowing other than the scientific.” The error lies in closing the mind too soon and to me that’s also the error of religious fundamentalism.)

I got a clue about what knowing means in spiritual matters when I came home briefly from college and was taken to lunch by my home minister in Troy NY, the minister who had a lot to do with my wanting to be a minister. He was very loving and very conservative theologically, from Asbury Kentucky, and I decided to add to the lunch menu all the doubts I had discovered in college. So I asked him how in the world he could be so sure about things like the virgin birth of Jesus, the physical resurrection, the absolute inerrancy -- meaning, no human flaws, no human anything, it was all of divine origin -- the perfectness of scripture. He responded in this disarming way: He did not know any of the things he believed for sure, but he was living as if they were true. And he thought that, even if wrong, they had positively guided his life.

That conversation has guided mine. Religion, spirituality is not about what we know and can prove to be true in this world or the next. A line from Christian scripture puts it this way, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” A similar phrase from the Judeo-Christian tradition is “by faith and not by sight”. Meaning, what we believe, what we’ve committed to, not what we can prove to be true. As I keep saying, it’s more about what we want to be true, and what we want to contribute to being true more so than what we know to be true.

What we know religiously is what we are committed to as if it were true, because it is true for us. What are the basics of this truth that hopefully we are living by?

The Dalai Lama says that compassion, the alleviation of suffering was Buddha’s driving passion, and Karen Armstrong, historian of the great religions, writes that all the main world religions lifted up compassion as the ethical core. I don’t think it’s unwarranted skepticism that makes me ask, why in the world isn't there more evidence of that? Why do the religions we have known best seem better at separating the sheep from the goats, and what did goats ever do to earn that negative? In that time-worn distinction, the sheep are those loved and tended by the good shepherd and the goats are the rejected. Jesus, take that put-down of the goats back!

As alike as we all are, and scientists say our DNA is about 99% the same, and our DNA is even about 98% the same as the animal world, as alike as we all are, humans seem to need to fix on differences. And differences, minuscule in the scheme, the DNA of things, can be used to use and abuse, to put down goats or people for just being who they are.

We UUs say we believe in the inherent dignity of all people. Do we really treat each other as if we know that to be true because we want it to be true and are committed to it?

A little humility about how much we actually do know is a good thing, and hopefully opens us up to learning a little more. But more than one author has written, we know enough to live committed lives, lives committed to the truth, like the dignity of all. The problem isn’t the knowing but the commitment. We are against putting down and separating out, even goats.  Amen.

I Don't Know, a sermon delivered by the Rev. Bob MacDonald at 1stUUPB, Sep 7, 2014.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Happy for No Reason

I'm not perky. That may not be a shock to you. I have a dark sense of humor. My wit can sometimes be edgy. My wardrobe is 98% black, and I do get excited, but you may not be able to tell. Those are just the positive bits of my personality. Even worse, this is the last day of Happiness Happens month and it went unnoticed.

I haven't always known that I wasn't perky. In college a few of us decided we were tired of the rules and hypocrisy in our Catholic dormitory and rented a large five-bedroom apartment. This was an amazing time for us all. Those roommates remain dear friends today. We had an extra room and decided to rent it. We gave it to the first person that came along.

Her name was Desiree. How do I describe Desiree? She was the tooth fairy, tinker bell, and a smidgen of Mr. Rogers rolled into one big pink lace ball of Glenda the good witch. She wore roller skates and cracked bubble gum. Worse, she was perky. She rose early singing and giggled her way through every second of the day. I once teased her by telling her she could have been hit by a bus and she would have gotten up, skipped to the bus door, and thank the driver for reminding her to be more careful. She might even had paid him to fix the dent in the bus. You get my drift. After nearly 25 years Desiree and I remain friends and she is still perky and I still roll my eyes at her perpetual excitement.
I studied Desiree’s behavior. How could she be happy for no reason? She taught me that I wasn't perky but also that I wasn’t unhappy, but could experience more happiness. She taught me about a practice. The practice of being happy. I learned that this practice involved letting go of attachments in this life. Our attachments are a feeling that binds one to a person, thing, cause, or ideal no matter how destructive they are to ourselves and our relationships. Aristotle said: "Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence." I believe this. One of my Facebook friends posted a beautiful photo and quote from the American spiritual teacher and author Ram Dass. It reads "our journey is about being more deeply involved in life yet less attached to it.” Again, "our journey is about being more deeply involved in life yet less attached to it." His holiness the Dali llama writes, “Most of our troubles are due to our passionate desire for and attachment to things that we misapprehend as enduring entities.” How might we practice being deeply involved in life while minding our attachments?

If there’s one thing we all have in common it’s that we want to feel happy; and on the other side of that coin, we want to avoid hurting. Yet we consistently put ourselves in situations that set us up for pain. We pin our happiness to people, circumstances, and things and hold onto them for dear life. We stress about the possibility of losing them when something seems amiss. Then we melt into grief when something changes — a layoff, a breakup, a change. We attach to feelings as if they define us, and ironically, not just positive ones. If you’ve wallowed in regret or disappointment for years, it can seem safe and even comforting to suffer. In trying to hold on to what’s familiar, we limit our ability to experience joy in the present.

A moment can’t possibly radiate fully when you’re suffocating it in fear. When you stop trying to grasp, own, and control the world around you, you give it the freedom to fulfill you without the power to destroy you. That’s why letting go is so important: letting go is letting happiness in. It’s no simple undertaking to let go of attachment — not a one-time decision. Instead, it’s a day-to-day, moment-to-moment practice that involves changing the way you experience and interact with everything you instinctively want to grasp. It’s the practice that Desiree taught me.

What is involved in the practice of letting go of our attachments? How do we experience life without attachments? How to we let go of our attachments to people, feelings, our past, and results we believe we can control? The Zen tradition tells us:

Accept the moment for what it is. Don’t try to turn it into yesterday; that moment’s gone. Don’t plot about how you can make the moment last forever. Just seep into the moment and enjoy it because it will eventually pass. Nothing is permanent. Fighting that reality will only cause you pain.

Believe now is enough. It’s true — tomorrow may not look the same as today, no matter how much you try to control it. A relationship might end. You might have to move. You’ll deal with those moments when they come. All you need right now is to appreciate and enjoy what you have. It’s enough.

Call yourself out. Learn what it looks like to grasp at people, things, or circumstances so you can redirect your thoughts when they veer toward attachment. When you dwell on keeping, controlling, manipulating, or losing something instead of simply experiencing it.

Define yourself in fluid terms. We are all constantly evolving and growing. Define yourself in terms that can withstand change. Defining yourself by possessions, roles, and relationships breeds attachment because loss entails losing not just what you have, but also who you are.

Enjoy now fully. No matter how much time you have in an experience or with someone you love, it will never feel like enough. So don’t think about it in terms of quantity — aim for quality, instead. Attach to the idea of living well moment-to-moment. That’s an attachment that can do you no harm.

Friend yourself. It will be harder to let people go when necessary if you depend on them for your sense of worth. Believe you’re worthy whether someone else tells you or not. This way, you relate to people — not just how they make you feel about yourself.

Go it alone sometimes. Take time to foster your own interests, ones that nothing and no one can take away. Don’t let them hinge on anyone or anything other than your values and passion.

Hold lightly. This one isn’t just about releasing attachments — it’s also about maintaining healthy relationships. Contrary to romantic notions, you are not someone’s other half. You’re separate and whole. You can still hold someone to close to your heart; just remember, if you squeeze too tightly, you’ll both be suffocated.

Interact with lots of people. If you limit yourself to one or two relationships they will seem like your lifelines. Everyone needs people, and there are billions on the planet. Stay open to new connections. Accept the possibility your future involves a lot of love whether you cling to a select few people or not.

Justify less. I can’t let him go — I’ll be miserable without him. I’d die if I lost her — she’s all that I have. These thoughts reinforce beliefs that are not fact, even if they feel like it. The only way to let go and feel less pain is to believe you’re strong enough to carry on if and when things change.

Know you can’t change the past. Even if you think about over and over again. Even if you punish yourself. Even if you refuse to accept it. It’s done. The only way to relieve your pain about what happened is to give yourself relief. No one and nothing else can create peace in your head for you.

Love instead of fearing. When you hold onto the past, it often has to do with fear: fear you messed up your chance at happiness, or fear you’ll never know such happiness again. Focus on what you love and you’ll create happiness instead of worrying about it.
Make now count. Instead of thinking of what you did or didn’t do, the type of person you were or weren’t, do something worthwhile now. Be someone worthwhile now. Take a class. Join a group. Help someone who needs it. Make today so full and meaningful there’s no room to dwell on yesterday.

Narrate calmly. How we experience the world is largely a result of how we internalize it. Instead of telling yourself dramatic stories about the past — how hurt you were or how hard it was — challenge your emotions and focus on lessons learned. That’s all you really need from yesterday.

Open your mind. We often cling to things, situations or people because we’re comfortable with them. We know how they’ll make us feel, whether it’s happy or safe. Consider that new things, situations and people may affect you the same. The only way to find out is to let go of what’s come and gone.

Practice letting things be. That doesn’t mean you can’t actively work to create a different tomorrow. It just means you make peace with the moment as it is, without worrying that something’s wrong with you or your life, and then operate from a place of acceptance.

Question your attachment. If you’re attached to a specific outcome — a dream job, the perfect relationship — you may be indulging an illusion about some day when everything will be lined up for happiness. No moment will ever be worthier of your joy than now because that’s all there ever is.

Release the need to know. Life entails uncertainty, no matter how strong your intention. Obsessing about tomorrow wastes your life because there will always be a tomorrow on the horizon. There are no guarantees about how it will play out. Just know it hinges on how well you live today.

Serve your purpose now. You don’t need to have x-amount of money in the bank to live a meaningful life right now. Figure out what matters to you, and fill pockets of time indulging it. Audition for community theater. Volunteer with animals. Whatever you love, do it. Don’t wait — do it now.

Understand that pain is unavoidable. No matter how well you do everything on this list, or on your own short list for peace, you will lose things that matter and feel some level of pain. But it doesn’t have to be as bad as you think. As the saying goes, pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.

Fully embrace your happy moments — love with abandon; be so passionate it’s contagious. If a darker moment follows, remember: it will teach you something, and soon enough you’ll be in another happy moment to appreciate. 
Early Unitarians, such as Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, and Ralph Waldo Emerson put an emphasis on individual experience, rather than appeal to scriptures or belief in miraculous events, as the basis for authority in spiritual matters. Freedom from attachments grounds us in our free and responsible search for truth and meaning. It is only through direct and immediate experience of reality that we are prepared for honest inquiry. As Unitarian Universalists we wish for a peaceful world. Our ultimate desire is to feel happy and peaceful. What we are learning is that as Unitarian Universalists striving to live our principles, thus our faith, we are required to practice letting go and being present. Our work is to experience, appreciate, enjoy, and let go to welcome another experience. To be happy for no reason.

It won’t always be easy. Sometimes you’ll feel compelled to attach yourself physically and emotionally to people and ideas — as if it gives you some sense of control or security. You may even strongly believe you’ll be happy if you struggle to hold onto what you have. That’s OK. It’s human nature. A colleague writes, “Perhaps the wisest words I found in my study of happiness come from our Unitarian Universalist poet laureate, May Sarton. "I've been thinking about happiness - how wrong it is to ever expect it to last or there to be a time of happiness. It's not that, it's a moment of happiness. Almost every day contains at least one moment of happiness." Just know you have the power to choose from moment to moment how you experience things you enjoy: with a sense of ownership, anxiety, and fear, or with a sense of freedom, peace and love. Unitarian Universalism promises us freedom. Let us not think of freedom so narrowly and apply it only to belief. The freedom our tradition affords is freedom that is turned toward ourselves. The freedom to be in the moment. The freedom to simply be.

May it be so.

Happy for No Reason, a sermon by the Rev. CJ McGregor at 1stUUPB on Aug 31, 2014.