THE BLESSING OF COMMUNITY
We are in the 4th week of counting our blessings - being grateful for the good in our lives, thereby creating a vibrational match to experiencing even more of the same.
This month our theme statement is a wise Yiddish adage: "If we thanked God for the good things, there wouldn't be time to weep over the bad."
Here's another statement that supports our month's theme. It's a line from a Jamie Lula song: "I have so much more to be grateful than to be sorry for."
We are spending the month of November being grateful rather than being sorry; thanking God for our good rather than weeping over the bad! This month, we are counting our blessings!
So far, we have counted our blessings of friendship, of health and of abundance. Today our focus of gratitude is on the Blessing of Community. I believe we are meant to be in community, even when that community is held together by phone, email, or zoom. The line from old the Simon and Garfunkel song "I am a rock, I am an island . . ." isn't true in my book. We are social beings. By our nature we crave the company and companionship of others.
But more than just craving the company and companionship of others, we crave the company and companionship of:
Those with whom we resonate,
Those with whom we share values and interests
People with whom we can be authentic and real
With whom we can share our joys and our sorrows.
We crave community where we are loved and honored and where we have the opportunity to love and honor.
We crave community where our hopes and dreams will be empowered and our successes will be celebrated.
And where we have the opportunity to support and empower others' hopes and dreams and to celebrate the success of others.
As I describe all of that don't your hearts just say "yes!" ? That is the blessing called community which we all crave. And why is that, you might ask? Lucky for you, I have a thought on that!
We are probably all familiar with the Bible verse at Matthew 18:20: "For wherever two or three are gathered in my name, I Am there among them."a (Lamsa Translation)
"Gathered in my name" means "gathered in my NATURE." And what was Jesus' nature? Of course, love! So, when we are gathered in community in the nature of Love (and isn't that what I just described), we have an opportunity to experience the great I AM - the presence and the power of God!
Of course, we know that God is everywhere all the time. There is no place where God is not, but when we are gathered in community in love, we have an opportunity to consciously connect with the I AM presence. To feel it and to experience it in and through us and in and through another. That is what we yearn for; that is what we crave!
In his book The Art of Being, Dennis Merritt Jones wrote: "I believe there is something within each of us that is aching for authentic spiritual connection, to actually know what God's presence feels like. Spiritual community is where this happens! Why? Because it creates an environment where everyone feels commonly . . . and equally embraced in the loving presence of God - it magnifies the experience. Each one actually becomes a reflector for the other, magnifying God's magnificence and love."b
And when we experience this type of community, it truly is a blessing and something for which we can be deeply, deeply thankful!
Today, we count the blessings of being in this type of community while supporting ways we can call forth the best from every community in which we are involved, whether that community be made up of family members, friends, co-workers or here at our center. I may use our center as an example now then (as I already have!) because this is the community that I know.
I want to use an analogy for our lesson this morning that anyone familiar with the Chicken Soup for the Soul books may have heard - It is called: Lessons We Can Learn From Geese.c
We are going to look at four lessons from geese as ways to support our experience in community - to call forth the great I AM Presence. These lessons are found when geese fly south for the winter in the "V" formation.
As I share these lessons, I invite you to think about the communities you are in and how you show up in these ways. NOT how other people SHOULD show up in these ways for you, but how are you showing up - or not showing up!
Science has discovered that as each bird flaps its wings in the "V" formation it creates an uplift for the bird immediately following it. And by flying in a "V" formation, the whole flock adds at least 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own. Do you hear that? They can fly 71% farther in this "V" formation than if they were flying individually.
Our 1st Lesson: People who have a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going more quickly and easily because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.
We are empowered by one another's successes!
The first lesson from geese tells us the power in this blessing and we are grateful for it.
When the head goose gets tired, it rotates back in the wing and another goose flies point.
Our 2nd Lesson: It is sensible to take turns doing demanding jobs.
Leadership guru Parker Palmer once wrote: "When we live in the close-knit ecosystem called community, everyone follows and everyone leads. Over time, a healthy community necessitates that we play many roles: sometimes leader, sometimes follower, sometimes witness, sometimes bridge between parties. The health of the community is a shared responsibility."d
Earlier I asked you to think about how you show up around these lessons in your various communities. This is a really important one to think about.
Are you balanced in your giving and receiving? Or are you the one who is ALWAYS only giving? You know what that will cause, don't you? Severe burnout and resentment. Don't do it!
Here's an important spiritual lesson and a way to enhance your sacred work in building a blessed community: a genuine "no" is much, much more loving than a dishonest "yes."
On the other hand, are you always just taking? That will cause resentment in others and ultimately unhappiness in you, because we really are the most happy when we are being responsible!
Geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.
Our 3rd Lesson: Do you honk words of encouragement and support to those in your community who are doing the work?
Do we encourage others in our communities with enthusiastic acknowledgement, appreciation and support? I love the word "enthusiasm". Do you know the meaning of the root words from which it is derived? "en theos" meaning God within. When we enthusiastically support another, we are doing a terrific job of expressing God!
I want to take a moment to enthusiastically acknowledge and appreciate every one of you who make our community the blessed community that it is.
This morning, I am offering each of you an opportunity to support and encourage each other. I urge you to participate in this because the blessings will be quite profound.
Consider becoming a SECRET FRIEND for the next 4 weeks to someone that you may not know that well.
Then once a week for the next 4 weeks, send your person something nice in the mail. Words of encouragement, inspiration, a poem. A recommendation for a great book. A recipe for a delicious, healthy dish. You don't have to go out and buy anything - although you can if you like. Just be a little creative!
Now, here's something important -- Don't sign your name to these love notes - just sign them "Your Secret Pal."
The thing that I know will happen is that you'll get more than you give. You will be filled with joy by your actions. You will have helped create an even more blessed community!
Finally, and this is important - when a goose gets sick or is wounded by gunshot, and falls out of formation, two other geese fall out with that goose and follow it down to lend help and protection. They stay with the fallen goose until it is able to fly again or until it dies. Only then do they launch out on their own, or with another formation to catch up with their group.
Our 4th Lesson: If we have the sense of a goose, we will stand by each other like that!
This is a trying time for a lot of people. This may be a trying time for you.
- Lesson 1: People who have a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going more quickly and easily because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.
- Lesson 2: It is sensible to take turns doing demanding jobs.
- Lesson 3: Do we honk words of encouragement and support to those in our community who are doing the work?
- Lesson 4: If we have the sense of a goose, we will stand by each other in the difficult times!
I want to leave you with a poem written by Starhawk in her book Dreaming the Dark, which beautifully describes the type of community I'm referring to. She wrote:
"Somewhere, there are people to whom we can speak with passion without having the words catch in our throats.
Somewhere a circle of hands will open to receive us, eyes will light up as we enter, voices will celebrate with us whenever we come into our own power.
Community means strength that joins our strength to do the work that needs to be done.
Arms to hold us when we falter.
A circle of healing. A circle of friends.
Someplace where we can be free."e
Now that is truly something to be thankful for! Namaste.
bDennis Merritt Jones The Art of Being, p. 32
cChicken Soup for the Soul, Second Helping, p. 307
eStarhawk Dreaming the Dark