Monday, November 12, 2018

November 11, 2018 Sunday Service Sermon and Readings

1stUUPB Sunday Service on November 11, 2018, led by Paul Ward, President of the 1stUUPB Board of Trustees and author of The Inner Journey to Conscious Leadership.

Opening Words
My opening words this morning are from Marianne Hachten Cotter's Welcome to this Place of Possibility!!

Welcome to this place of possibility!
This is love's hearth, the home of hope,
a refuge for minds in search of truth
unfolding, ever beautiful, ever strange.
Here, compassion is our shelter,
freedom our protection
from the storms of bigotry and hate.
In this abode, may we find comfort and courage.
Here may our sight become vision
to see the unseen,
to glimpse the good that is yet to be.

Dream Big Dreams - Poem by Douglas Stewart

Can you imagine being on the moon,
Or can't you see past the roof in this room?
You must take things beyond what you can see.
You must look past what is handed to you and me.

What is here are the essentials of life.
The bare minimum, which can lead to stress and strife.
But look beyond what seems to make sense.
Go ahead and peek over that real tall fence.

For what you find out there, beyond this place
Might just bring a new-found smile to your face.
For dreams are free, they don't cost a dime.
If you try, you'll like it and it will help pass the time.

See, the limits we have put on ourselves
Are from giving in to peer pressure and putting our dreams on a shelf.
Are you going to accept the status quo?
Or are you going to go where no one else goes?

Our dreams are what drive us and bring out our best.
They're the lights that guide us when we're put to the test.
Go ahead, dream and follow your heart.
You might be surprised and to others look smart.

To dream is true freedom, expressed in our minds.
Let's see where they take us.
Maybe we will end up successful 
And heroes of our time.

Most of all, achievement (no matter what shape or size)
Started as a dream in someone's inner eyes.
Remember dreams are free, so jump in … get your start.
Who knows where you'll end up when you follow your heart.

A better place, a better time.
A better world we can find.
The answers all lie deep in our dreams
Locked up in our minds. 
Douglas Stewart

Story for All Ages
Higgins: A Drop With a Dream by Christopher Buice, read by Amy Stauber

Once upon a time there was a drop of water named Higgins.

Higgins was no ordinary drop of water. He was a drop with a dream.

Higgins lived in a valley where it had not rained in a very long time, so all the lovely green grass was turning brown, all the beautiful flowers were wilting, and all the trees were starting to droop.

Higgins had a dream that one day the valley would be a beautiful place again. But what could he do? After all, he was only a drop of water.

One day Higgins decided to travel and tell others about his dream. All the other drops listened very politely, but no one believed that his dream would come true. "Higgins," said one, "get your head out of the clouds. You can't spend your whole life dreaming."

Higgins decided that he had to do something to make his dream come true. So he began to think and think and think. One day, as he was walking by a rusty old bucket, he got an idea.

"If enough of us drops of water got together in this bucket," Higgins thought, "there would be enough water to sprinkle on a few flowers to help them grow and become beautiful again!"

Eagerly, Higgins told everyone his great idea. But everyone thought he was being foolish. "That Higgins is nothing but a dreamer," they said.

Higgins decided he had to do something to convince the others that he was right. So he said to them, "I don't know about you, but I'm getting into the bucket! I hope some of you will join me. Then there might be enough water to help at least some flowers grow beautiful again."

So Higgins ran as hard as he could, hopped way up in the air, and landed with a kerplunk in the bottom of the bucket.

And there he sat . . . JUST A DROP IN THE BUCKET.

For a long time Higgins was very lonely. It seemed like no one else was going to join him. But after awhile some of the other drops could see that the grass was dying and the flowers were wilting and the trees were drooping. They all agreed that something must be done.

Suddenly, one drop shouted, "I'm going in the bucket with Higgins!" And he leaped through the air and landed — kerplunk — in the bucket.

Then two other drops yelled, "Wait for us!" And they hopped through the air and landed in the bucket. Then ten drops jumped through the air into the bucket. Then thirty. Then fifty! And then hundreds of drops came from all around just to hop in the bucket!

Soon, the bucket was completely full of water. But there were still more drops that wanted to join, so they found another bucket and hopped in. Before long, there were two buckets of water— then three — then four — then ten — and then hundreds — and then thousands of buckets of water!

Along came a powerful breeze that blew over all the buckets, and all the water flowed together to make a mighty stream. Everywhere the water flowed, the grass turned green again and the flowers bloomed and the trees stood tall and straight once more.

All this happened because Higgins had a dream and his dream came true. Because he knew that although he was just a drop in the bucket, enough drops in the bucket make a bucketful, and when there are enough buckets with the wind behind them, then justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

About the author:
The Rev. Chris Buice is minister of the Tennessee Valley UU Church in Knoxville, Tenn.

Sermon – Mission Possible
Possibility thinking is powerful, it is the force that has transformed the world; it is possibility thinking that has allowed us to go to the moon and to invent the Internet, and it is this possibility thinking that has allowed us to seek new vistas, to find the most amazing love affairs, and to become more than we ever thought possible. I hope today that I can in some way inspire you to be possibility thinkers. 

Let me share an example of my own experience of possibility thinking. In January 1977, I found myself in Dayton, Ohio just in time for the inauguration of Jimmy Carter. This was my first ever visit to the United States. I was twenty-five years old. There I was, working in research and development at NCR - you likely remember the company as the National Cash Register Company. I was a mechanical engineering designer, but I wasn’t designing cash registers, I was designing cash machines or what we now refer to as ATM’s, Automated Teller Machines.

The first ATM was introduced by Barclays Bank in North London, in June 1967, more than fifty years ago. The design is credited to an engineering team led by John Shepherd-Barron of printing firm De La Rue. I was working at the De La Rue company in partnership with NCR.

Do you remember the first time you used an ATM? The first ATM the U.S was installed in Rockville Center, New York by Chemical Bank in 1969. But this really isn’t a story about ATM’s.

After spending nearly three months at NCR in Dayton, Ohio, I dreamed about moving to the US, but at that time I knew that was impossible. I continued my career traveling around Europe with occasional business trips to the US. But I was a possibility thinker and nearly twenty years later, I was offered the opportunity to work in the U.S. for 2 or 3 years. I came to New York in 1995. Those 2 or 3 years turned into 5 years, then 10, and eventually to more than 20 years, and still counting. Living in the U.S. became a possibility for me and then became a reality. I continue to be a possibility thinker.

As I continue with my theme of possibility thinking, I invite you to think about what wonderful things have happened to you that you first thought were impossible? When did you think possibility? When were you a possibility thinker?

One of my favorite possibility thinkers is the White Queen in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. In a conversation with Alice, the White Queen said:
"I'm just 101, 5 months and a day."
"I can't believe that!" said Alice.
"Can't you?" the Queen said in a pitying tone. "Try again: draw a long breath and shut your eyes."
Alice laughed. "There's no use trying," she said: "one can't believe impossible things."
"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
The Queen, in response to Alice’s skepticism about believing impossible things, suggested that she begin practicing possibility thinking. Although fictional, this children’s story is a wonderful inspiration for believing in the possibility of impossible things. Thinking from a place of possibility can provide the bridge from our dreams and imaginings to our actions that can help make the world a better place to live and work. 

Reverend Dan suggested I might like to share some reflections on the role of president of the board of trustees during my talk today. I also want to talk about why I am wearing this poppy. All the while, keeping in mind our theme of possibility thinking.

When Rev. Dan emailed me a few weeks ago to ask if I was available to lead the service this week, I checked my calendar and said yes. Then I realized that, with Dan as our ministerial leader, we have a new higher standard for our Sunday services. I love listening to Dan’s sermons.  So, if this is your first visit to our sanctuary or you haven’t been here for a while, please don’t judge our usual standards by today’s service. Come back and meet Reverend Dan!

It has been my honor to serve on the Board of Trustees, first as clerk, vice president, and for the past 2 1/2 years, as president of the Board. Much as I have enjoyed serving on the Board, I have to say, I am already looking forward to the end of April when my term as president is complete. I am appreciating term limits!

As I look around this morning, I can see quite a few members of our Congregation who have served as president of the Board of Trustees. You know the challenges of this role.

One minute I am engaged in conversations about the strategic direction for the Congregation; the next minute I find myself collaborating with members of the Board about one of our most important tasks -- that of hiring a new minister. Along with these big issues, I am engaged in conversations and email exchanges about other important issues such as the campus sprinkler system or the cleanliness of the ladies’ room.

Whatever the topic, when I come from a place of service and possibility, I can make a positive contribution.  
In the coming weeks, we will begin a strategy planning process. We already have a Long Range Financial Planning Task Force and a Communications and Marketing Task Force. The Strategic Planning Task Force will look at the bigger picture, the future of our Congregation. We will look at our purpose, our vision, our mission, and our specific goals.

Two years ago, we set a goal of 200 members by 2020. Some of you thought that was impossible. I know it is challenging. Florida is a place where a few people call home, but many pass through on their journey through life. Despite the frequent departures, our Congregation has stopped shrinking and we are positioned for growth. I still believe 200 by 2020 is possible; not easy, but possible. And even if we do not achieve the goal, isn’t it worth the effort?

I encourage you to believe in the possibility of sustainability and growth for our Congregation. If we come from a place of service to our Congregation, we can achieve great things. I invite you to ask: how may I help? How may I serve? I have appreciated the opportunity to serve as president of the Board of Trustees. Thank you for your support.

Now let me share some reflections on the wearing of the poppy. The remembrance poppy is an artificial flower used since 1921 to commemorate military personnel who have died in war. Inspired by the World War I poem "In Flanders Fields" poppies were first adopted by the American Legion to commemorate American soldiers killed in that 1914–18 war. They were then adopted by military veterans' groups in parts of the old British Empire. 

Today, the poppies are mostly used in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, to commemorate their service men and women killed in all conflicts. These small artificial poppies are often worn on clothing leading up to Remembrance Day or Armistice Day, and poppy wreaths are laid at war memorials.

Some people choose to wear white poppies as an alternative to the red poppy. According to the Peace Pledge Union, the white poppy symbolizes remembrance of all casualties of war including civilian casualties, to stand for peace, and not to glamorize war. Purple poppies are used to commemorate animal victims of war.

To conclude my comments in celebration of the centenary of the end of the First World War, let me read the poem that inspired the use of the remembrance poppy, In Flanders Fields, written by the Canadian military doctor and artillery commander Major John McCrae early in the First World War:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
 Between the crosses, row on row,
 That mark our place; and in the sky
 The larks, still bravely singing, fly
 Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
 We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
 Loved and were loved, and now we lie
 In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
 To you from failing hands we throw
 The torch; be yours to hold it high.
 If ye break faith with us who die
 We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
 In Flanders fields.

I struggle to find possibility thinking in the concept of war but let me remind us of the Ode of Remembrance, I shared during our quiet time
The passage from the poem "For the Fallen", written by Laurence Binyon.

"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them."

By remembering the fallen, maybe we can focus on the possibility of lasting peace.

Having celebrated the centenary of Armistice Day, let me share a few more positive thoughts about possibility thinking.

One of my teachers is possibility thinker Ben Zander; Ben Zander is the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and co-author of the book, The Art of Possibility. Ben tells the story of the two salesmen who traveled to Africa from England in the 1900s. They were sent to find out if there was any opportunity for selling shoes. This was long before emails so they wrote telegrams back to Manchester in northern England. One of them wrote, “Situation hopeless. They don’t wear shoes.” And the other one wrote, “Glorious opportunity. They don’t have any shoes yet.”

To be a possibility thinker, you have to be a dreamer. You have to have imagination.

So let me share of a story about Daring to Dream by an unknown author:

An 8-year-old boy approached an old man in front of a wishing well, looked up into his eyes, and asked: "I understand you're a very wise man. I'd like to know the secret of life."

The old man looked down at the youngster and replied: "I've thought a lot in my lifetime, and the secret can be summed up in four words.

The first is think. Think about the values you wish to live your life by.

The second is believe. Believe in yourself based on the thinking you've done about the values you're going to live your life by.

The third is dream. Dream about the things that can be, based on your belief in yourself and the values you're going to live by.

The last is dare. Dare to make your dreams become reality, based on your belief in yourself and your values."

And with that, Walter E. Disney said to the little boy, "Think, Believe, Dream, and Dare."

I love the idea of daring to dream. I have “Dream Big” written large on a cushion in my apartment.
What are your dreams? Do you dare to dream, to dream big; to dare to dream and then do it, to make the dream a reality?
(UU) Christopher Reeve, the actor best known for his role as Superman, was left quadriplegic after being thrown from a horse during an equestrian competition in 1995. 
One of my favorite Christopher Reeve quotes is, “So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.”

For me, it all starts with belief. Let’s pause for a moment. What do you think is impossible, but you really want to believe is possible? What to you dare to dream?

A final word on possibility thinking from Wilferd Peterson, an author of inspirational essays. He says, “Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground. Let their spirit ignite a fire within you to leave this world better than when you found it.”
Your mission this week, should you choose to accept it, is to become a possibility thinker!
May it be so!

Closing words
In celebration of possibilities that lie ahead, I share this quote inspiring us to focus on the goodness in the world. These powerful words were written on the wall of Mother Teresa’s home for children in Calcutta, India.

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.  Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.  Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.  Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.  Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.  Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten.  Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.  Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway.