“You Never Know”
What happens when we venture out to take that small step, not knowing the entire path? You never know! Let’s explore the opportunities that present when we simply … begin. It’s never too late for miracles to happen.
Speaker: Rev. Melanie Eyre
When available, a revised transcript of this week’s talk is provided below for the deaf and hard of hearing.
Prayers, readings, and songs from this week’s service are also provided below.
Community Circle Zoom Meeting/Discussion: No meeting this week.
An Equinox Prayer
As we mark this time of equinox,
may we find the balance we desire and need in our lives:
– light and dark,
– spirit and body,
– mind and soul.
At the Spring equinox
may we recognize the promise of rebirth
both within and all around us.
At the autumn equinox
may we recognize and give thanks for
the blessings of the summer harvest
and the fruits of our gardens.
As we mark the equinox in either the northern or southern hemisphere
let us wonder at the Mystery that is Life
and open ourselves to the blessings
of both dark and light.
~ from the Brigidine Sisters in Dublin, Ireland
A Hindu Peace Prayer
I desire neither earthly kingdom, nor even freedom from birth and death.
I desire only the deliverance from grief of all those afflicted by misery.
Oh Lord, lead us from the unreal to the real; from darkness to light; from death to immortality.
May there be peace in celestial regions.
May there be peace on earth.
May the waters be appeasing.
May herbs be wholesome and may trees and plants bring peace to all.
May all beneficent beings bring peace to us. May your wisdom spread peace all through the world.
May all things be a source of peace to all and to me.
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti (Peace, peace, peace).
~ M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence
“You Never Know” by Rev. Melanie Eyre
So, do you know how sometimes the most innocuous, routine things can get you thinking? Things you normally wouldn’t even notice just grab your attention, and your mind is off and running.
I was watching TV the other day, and I saw an ad for a financial services company – a family, obviously enjoying complete financial security, at the beach, enjoying fun family activities without a care in the world. The slogan that came up was “Life Well Planned.” I was sitting in my chair and just said out loud “you must be joking.”
Now, my cynical reaction may have a lot to do with the fact that my life in the last year has been so … unplanned. Medical issues, life issues – I’m guessing many of you could say the same. You add to that the major element that has removed much of the planning from all our lives – ongoing Covid spread and the development of even more contagious variants. We get the impression that not all is proceeding according to plan. What is the old Yiddish quote? “Man plans, and God laughs.” I haven’t heard God laughing, but the universe seems to have the same disregard for all our plans.
I don’t think that even the most rigorous . . . planning is going to give us the ability to rest assured that our lives will unfold . . . as planned.
So I responded to that ad with a healthy dose of skepticism, one might say cynicism. Now, I’m not dissing financial planning, because it’s a good idea and I endorse it. However, I don’t think that even the most rigorous financial planning is going to give us the ability to rest assured that our lives will unfold . . . as planned.
And, to be fair, often that’s a good thing, because life also brings us gifts – totally unplanned. Twenty, thirty, forty years ago, I never thought I’d be the spiritual director of an interspiritual community, or that I’d get married, or have kids, or many of the other blessings that have fallen on my head. Those things just arose out of my life experience as life was happening. However, I wouldn’t trade any of it, and can’t imagine my life being otherwise. Think about your own life – twenty, thirty, forty years ago, did you anticipate your life would be as it is today? Likely not.
We see these unexpected happenings in our own lives that are good and call them blessings, call them good luck. We don’t ask “why me” – we tend to reserve that for the bad news. The point is that life continues to be … unplanned, good and not so good, and our challenge is to thrive in the midst of it.
Our theme this month is It’s Never Too Late – inspired by George Eliot, who said
“It’s never too late to be who you were meant to be.”
. . . life often . . . feels more like we’re shooting rapids while hunkered down in the stern and trying to steer with a little paddle.
That is an inspiring notion, and tells us that we can change, grow, become in alignment with our vision of who we are here to be, in the midst of life. We often hear the analogy of coming to a crossroads in our lives, pausing and contemplating which path we’ll take. That’s such a peaceful, calming image. However, life often doesn’t feel like that at all – it feels more like we’re shooting rapids while hunkered down in the stern and trying to steer with a little paddle. Yet, even that, even life’s flow becoming a bit overwhelming, doesn’t eliminate our choice as to how we want to respond to life’s events. I have found it often takes extreme and disturbing events to teach me that lesson. Life is full of beauty and grace, if we are of the attitude to see it.
Our speakers so far this month have shared their wisdom on the choices and the opportunities that remain ours, at all stages in our lives. They have shown us it’s not ever too late to awaken and grow, and that’s such a comforting thought, especially for those of us, if I may use a golf analogy, who are on the back nine and approaching the clubhouse.
. . . look at the notion that it’s never too late from a different perspective.
Today I’d like to look at the notion that it’s never too late from a different perspective. My reflections are prompted by an experience I had last week.
A few years ago, I was honored to be asked to give an interfaith benediction at the opening of a meeting of the Fulton County Commission downtown. I think every meeting opens with a benediction, or at least it did then, and they’d ask different ministers around Fulton County to come and open with a prayer. It was way fun.
When I was there, I met Rev. Cliff Dawkins, who was, and is, the Fulton County Chaplain Director. Cliff is also pastor of True Worship Christian Fellowship Church down on Joseph E. Boone Blvd in Atlanta. I instantly liked Rev. Dawkins – he was so genuine and warm, and it was obvious he had a true and a generous and loving heart. We kept in touch.
About a year ago, on behalf of One World, I reached out to Rev. Dawkins and his congregation to see if we could assist with the absolutely wonderful work Rev. Dawkins and his church were doing in his community which experiences significant homelessness, accompanied by food and housing insecurity. You may remember that he said he needed a van, so I came back to One World and asked us to look around for a van for his outreach efforts.
“You don’t know me, but my sister . . .”
Turned out that my sister Tory played tennis with, and was a friend of, a lady named Marie Krause. Marie, along with her husband Vernon Krause, owned a series of auto dealerships, including Angela Krause Ford here in Roswell, named after their daughter who passed away in 2015. Tory said, “maybe Vernon has a used van he can donate. You should ask him.”
So I sent Mr. Krause an email: “You don’t know me, but my sister . . .” etc. He emailed back: “Have Rev. Dawkins call me.” They met and spoke, and I heard and reported back to One World that Mr. Krause had very kindly donated a new van, and had purchased a new refrigerator for the church’s kitchen. We were thrilled. That’s all I heard, until I got an email a couple of weeks ago that told me the results have been far more spectacular.
Last Wednesday, Board president Tim Rainey and I drove down to True Worship Christian Fellowship and attended the grand opening of Angie’s Kitchen, named in honor of Angela Krause. Angie’s Kitchen, sponsored by the Krause family, Angela Krause Ford, and True Worship Christian Fellowship, will provide free meals to the community 7 days per week, adding to the 3 days a week Rev. Dawkins was already serving. The Krause family and Rev. Dawkins have renovated and repaired the church and the existing attached community center, have upgraded the kitchen, and plan to expand the community center and add medical and dental clinics to better serve the surrounding neighborhoods. This is only the beginning.
“. . . not everyone can learn how to fish, and we need to take care of them too.”
In his remarks, after detailing what Angie’s kitchen was going to become, Mr. Krause also told a story about what he had learned, how his heart had changed. He is a very successful executive and business owner – self-made and motivated. When he and Rev. Dawkins were getting started, he said he told Rev. Dawkins “I’d rather teach a man to fish than keep giving him fish.” We’ve all heard that. Rev. Dawkins looked at him, and in his quiet way said, “Vernon, not everyone can learn how to fish, and we need to take care of them too.” Mr. Krause got the message, and his worldview changed.
I was just overcome with the magnitude of all that is being done; all the work, and heart, and skill, that is being brought to bear for this community, all of it beginning with such a small thing as an email. As I was talking to Rev. Dawkins on Wednesday, he looked at me and smiled and simply said “One message.”
My point here is not to pat myself on the back (because I did very little), but to marvel at the energy, will, and love set in motion by one simple act.
Take that little step, and let the ripples widen.
And so my message today, because I saw it brought to life last week, is it’s never too late to co-create, to begin, to do something that – perhaps even without your knowing it – unfolds so as to improve the lives of others. If I had to tatoo a slogan on my forehead this week, it would be “you never know.” The corollary to that is, “so go ahead.”
Take that little step, and let the ripples widen. Don’t be deterred because you can’t see the outcome, the entire path. Your job is to start, to take that one step.
There is a teaching in the Jewish faith tradition that speaks about the purpose for which our souls come down to this plane. The teaching, and I’m paraphrasing, is that our souls may come down just for one thing – to mend a quarrel, to comfort a child, to do even one small act of compassion and kindness. Last Wednesday, my overwhelming thought was maybe that email was my one thing. I don’t know. But I do know that our purpose may be large and world-changing for many, or it may be world-changing for just one.
The energy of the universe moves and creates through us, through the actions we take, even the small ones.
Ernest Holmes, founder of Religious Science, taught that we are surrounded by . . .
“. . . a power for good in the universe greater than I am, greater than you are, a power that we can use in everyday life, for everything.”
The energy of the universe moves and creates through us, through the actions we take, even the small ones. In the Tao, this flow is called “effortless action” or “wu wei.” When we act in harmony with the universe, the natural flow of the universe joins us, carries us along. No work is needed. The universe supports our action because we have acted in harmony with its own flow. Imagine being in a boat on a stream – you don’t need to work to continue to flow downriver. Even though a large, heavy object is moving at great speed, it takes no effort.
None of this is restricted to solo action. When we join with others, or begin a process to be completed by others, the same astonishing results can happen. Energies align, designs come to pass. This is a wonderfully comforting thought, that we are part of such a creative, dynamic, and joyful dance.
The Prophet Mohammed, when he was asked what actions are most excellent replied,
“. . . to gladden the heart of a human being, to feed the hungry, to help the afflicted, to lighten the sorrow of the sorrowful, and to remove the wrongs of the injured.”
While we can often extend such help ourselves, we do it in concert with others as well.
. . . sometimes we are deterred from taking any action because problems are so large,
If only we could keep that thought, stepping out with confidence and courage when opportunities present. However, I believe that sometimes we are deterred from taking any action because problems are so large, and because we can’t fix it all. We are surrounded by so many pressing issues, from Covid to climate change, to systemic racism and growing income inequality, to political strife and division, to more local issues that seem just as intractable.
So what do we do? I’ve had friends who have announced their solution is simply never to listen to the news, and I find it hard to blame them. There is such pressure to simply throw up our hands, and attend to our own small circles. Yet, when we do that, I suggest we are misreading our own role in the unfolding of events. Let me explain what I mean by referring to some wisdom from one of my favorite movies.
I’m a huge fan of Peter Jackson’s trilogy The Lord of the Rings.
You may know that I’m a huge fan of Peter Jackson’s trilogy The Lord of the Rings. These movies involve the journey of a hobbit, a small and peaceful being named Frodo Baggins, from his beautiful and peaceful home in the Shire to a monstrous and scary destination far away known as Mordor. Frodo and his companions undertake this perilous journey in order to defeat the powers of evil that threaten to overtake their world.
How do they do this? The agent of evil, a being named Sauron, has aligned his powers with a single ring, which he wore at one point but has lost. Sauron needs only to find and recover this one ring to cement his hold over all the earth, casting all beings into darkness.
. . . certainly not a journey or a task he had planned.
As luck would have it, Frodo has the ring, and his task is to travel to Mordor, getting past Sauron and his thousands of scary looking, fierce soldiers, and destroy the ring by throwing it into the huge and blazing fires of Mount Doom. Not a small order, and certainly not a journey or a task he had planned.
So, as you might imagine, Frodo undergoes all sorts of absolutely harrowing adventures, and at one point he is lamenting his fate. Things are going really badly, and the company is in danger. Frodo is sitting with the wisest of his companions, the wizard named Gandalf, and he expresses his sorrow at how events are turning. Like us in challenging times, Frodo is wishing life had not dealt him this hand.
JRR Tolkien gave us the following exchange:
Frodo says, “I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.”
Gandalf replies, “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
. . . sometimes all we do is form an intention and take a small step.
The same is true for us. We do not control the grand outcomes most of the time. All we are to do is decide what to do with the time that is given to us. Don’t you find that to be a comforting thought? No one can take away that choice from you. And, as I found out last week so poignantly, sometimes all we do is form an intention and take a small step.
Start where you are, doing what you can. Often, much more than you anticipate will result. We just set the energy in motion.
In our morning meditation last Friday, Rev. Chris Kell shared a verse which reminded me of this truth. It’s well known, from the Christian gospels in the Book of Matthew, Chapter 7.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
Start, and stand by to see what gifts the universe unfolds.
A handprint is a positive contribution to our world . . .
As I was researching this talk, I came across a beautiful image that I’d like to share with you. We often hear these days about our footprint, usually in the environmental context. How much carbon we create, how many resources we use – our human footprints that deplete and damage our ecosystem and our world.
In contrast to the notion of footprints, I learned about the concept of handprints. The concept of handprints was developed by Gregory Norris, the Director of the Sustainability and Health Initiative for NetPositive Enterprise (SHINE) at MIT. He developed it in the concept of environmental sustainability, but it applies to so much more.
A handprint is a positive contribution to our world – what we give, contribute, leave behind that benefits others and our world. As he puts it
“Handprints represent the benefits of your presence: they’re the positive changes that you bring into the world. . . . If footprints are what we unavoidably take, handprints are what we intentionally give.”
What a great notion. Every time we confer a blessing, large or small, our handprints remain. We have been here; we have made a difference. All it requires is to intend, to believe, and to act. As Norris puts it, “the key is to begin.”
Together, these handprints make up a mosaic of love, support, and belief.
So for us, our One World handprint is on Angie’s Kitchen, and always will be. Many other handprints are on it as well, and hundreds more will be added. Together, these handprints make up a mosaic of love, support, and belief.
So this is the question we each get to ask. Where do I want to leave my handprints, my intentional markers of gift and blessing? The opportunities are unlimited, and they are there at any point in our lives. I’m sure your handprints are widely spread – family, friends, community efforts, work – in so many places in which you do good and add benefit. Think about it: where are your handprints, and where can you add more?
It is never too late. Ask, seek, knock, and together we can lift up our communities and our world.
About Rev. Melanie Eyre
Rev. Melanie Eyre is an ordained Interspiritual Minister and long-time student of the world’s many diverse faith traditions. She has served as One World’s Spiritual Director since 2015 and is the founder of the North Fulton Interfaith Alliance here in Georgia. Outside of One World, Rev. Melanie has a beautiful family and enjoys officiating traditional and non-traditional rituals and other special ceremonies that mark important life transitions – weddings, baby blessings, and celebrations of life.
For more about Rev. Melanie and her practice, visit her website: Memorable Services with Heart.
Blessing to the World written by Karen Drucker
I Could Be More written by Asha Lightbearer
This service aired on September 26, 2021