Prelude: Jim Pearce
Chiming of the Singing Bowl: Rev. Misha Sanders
Words of Welcome and Announcements: Hannah Cowart
Good morning! I am Hannah Cowart, a Worship Associate here at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Sandy Springs, Georgia.
Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation seeks to create loving community, inspire joy and spiritual growth, and support courageous action. All are welcome, as together we journey towards justice and equity by learning, caring, and acting together.
We especially welcome any newcomers and visitors we have today. I hope you’ll join us after worship for coffee hour… from the comfort of your own homes. Just stay right here on this Zoom call when the service ends. We will begin coffee hour as soon as the postlude is over.
I’d like to share a few announcements from our weekly newsletter in case you missed them:
- If you are in the market for a Covid vaccination, but would like some direction, you can text VAX to 678-679-0250. After you answer some questions, that system will notify you when your county opens vaccination registration. See the chat for more information.
- Our NWUUC Pagan group, Hawks Hoop CUUPS will be celebrating the hope of Spring with an Imbolc ritual at Noon today. The link for the Imbolc ritual will be placed in the chat.
- Please join us in supporting Sydney Kahn as she begins her journey as a college student. Our Northwest family is invited to participate in a card shower in her honor. We will shower her with UU love and support by sending her a card with a positive message and words of encouragement as she adjusts to college life. Her mailing address has been updated in Realm. Please consider participating as she could use our support during this exciting time in her life. You can also contact or DRE, Adia Fields at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive her mailing address.
- I am getting excited and I hope that you are too! It’s almost our favorite time of year and I am not referring to Valentine’s Day. The RE program is excited to announce that we will be celebrating Pi Day on Sunday, March 14th. Be on the lookout for more details in the newsletter this week on ways that children and youth in the RE program can participate. Please join us in celebrating this annual tradition.
- The RE program welcomes the participation of children and youth in our weekly services. Please consider signing up to light the chalice on Sunday morning during the service or you can submit a pre-recorded video. Please contact our DRE via email at email@example.com for more information.
- And, finally our NW Book Groupies will be meeting virtually this Tuesday at 7 pm to discuss The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson. This date is a one time departure from the normal meeting time on the 2nd Tuesday of the month. If you would like to attend, please contact Penny Raney via email.
If you haven’t already, now is a great time to grab whatever materials you may need to light your own chalice if you’d like that to be part of your worship experience today.
As always, please set your phones to worship mode; we won’t know, but I think you might enjoy the hour free from distractions. Feel free to check in on your social media of choice first though to let your friends and family know about this place of caring you’ve found today. Our congregation is an exciting place to be, and we love it when you share the good news.
Although we can’t be together physically to greet each other today with hugs, high-fives, smiles, and words of love, we are all together in spirit and each and every one of us is welcome.
And now let us prepare for worship with the song “”We Laugh We Cry” by the Community Church UU Virtual Chamber Choir of Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Music: “We Laugh, We Cry” Community Church Choir
Call to Worship: Rev. Misha Sanders
Good morning! I am the Reverend Misha Sanders, and I am honored to be your senior minister here at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Sandy Springs, Georgia. Our call to worship this morning is by Rev. Paul Bicknell:
“There are some heights to which we have not risen, and never will; there are some depths to which we have not fallen, and never will, we pray. Somewhere between there are places where we can reach up and reach out for the strength we need for our journey.
This is such a place.
Thus we pause for refreshment; thus we worship in thanksgiving.”
And now, the joyous lighting of our chalice, by Shelton and Ellington Chau.
Lighting of the Chalice: Shelton and Ellington Chau
Story Wisdom: Adia Fields-Udofia “Beautiful Oops”
Reflection: Hannah Cowart
About four weeks ago, I rushed to get a Covid test (…and vote!) before heading to Richmond, VA to be with my sister as she was preparing for the arrival of my newest niece. I was honored to be there for her–walking laps around her apartment complex as her contractions started, striving to be her #1 cheerleader during her amazing birth, and helping her adjust when she arrived back home with her adorable new baby. On top of the weird state of consciousness that severe sleep deprivation brought upon us, my sister is a first time mom, and I don’t have any children, so we got through those first few days purely on heart and determination.
With zero sleep, the significance of a day was completely lost to us. So, after about 60 hours in the hospital, and at some point around our 40th hour at home with her new baby, my sister looked up at me from her place sitting on the small sofa/nursing chair/changing table. Battling exhaustion and new parent anxiety, she said–”I think I get now what parenthood is about.” “Oh yeah?” I replied. I was in the kitchen trying to keep my eyes open and piece a meal together while leaving every burner on, utensil out and cabinet open. She nodded her head as she juggled a breast pump with all of its attachments, bottles, pillows for propping and her hospital water cup with the handle and the bendy straw. “It’s about balance”, she said. And she left it at that.
I’m not sure if she meant the physical act of balancing all of the contraptions that come with new babies, or if she meant the desperate search for balance of the emotional, physical, and spiritual whirlwind we had been on the past four days. It’s one thing for her as an individual to work to manage those aspects of her own life, but I think it hit home for her in that moment that for the past two days and for the rest of her life she’d be playing a lead role in balancing this beautiful new being’s whirlwind as well.
Is she sleeping enough? Or too little? Or too much? Are her cries “OK cries”? Or are they approaching that summit of “really really NOT OK?” A shift that seemed to happen instantly and inconsistently and at no prompting that our meager adult awareness could comprehend. Is she eating enough? And the diapers! What’s in them? We searched for color and quantity, recorded it on the 7-day log we got from the hospital, and put them all to the side so the other of us could “take a look” before we discarded it just to be sure. All of these things–the details, the loud wails. The finger of one little 8 lb person, had instantly tipped the scales of her life.
Balance. That sounds about right. My sister’s wisdom shone through on that one. In the moment, honestly I was impressed at the number of words she was able to put together to make a sentence. That tip of our scales, the imbalance, was disconcerting and terrifying. And also the absolute best experience. Balance may be the goal–the carrot hanging in front that we continue to work towards, but the imbalance, in the form of that beautiful new baby–a symbol of hope– the imbalance is what opened my heart. It left me reinvigorated with desire to make this world better because it’s not just ours, it also belongs to my beautiful new niece, Hanna Larraine. What a blessing to treasure the imbalances that touch our hearts in a way that balance never could.
Now let’s enjoy Traci Montgomery singing “No Coming, No Going.”
Interlude: “No Coming, No Going” Traci Montgomery
Joys and Sorrows: Ashley Fournier-Goodnight
Good morning. I’m Ashley Fournier-Goodnight, a member of the Care Corps, and I am here to bring you the joys and sorrows this morning.
Joys and sorrows is our time in this space to honor sacred moments and milestones. For our ritual, we have water and river stones. The water in our bowl is a precious natural resource. We use it sparingly, reminding us of the preciousness of each life and its unique journey. Smooth and heavy in our hands, the river stones symbolize life’s pleasures and times of ease as well as life’s burdens and times of heaviness.
I invite those of you who have joys and sorrows you wish to share with our congregation to enter them into the chat box.
Kat and David Benoy were both ill with COVID-19. Kat was at choir rehearsal on Wednesday evening and says she is much better. David is also well. A stone of joy for their recovery.
Marti Wilson reported that her nephew, Ryan Wilson, had a colonoscopy this week. Marti expressed her gratitude for the support she and Ryan have received from our congregation. She also shared some good news: she received the COVID vaccination this past week on her birthday. A stone of joy for Marti.
Barbara Dondiego’s mother passed away 1 week ago on Friday . A stone of concern for Barbara and the Stewart family.
Reverend Misha’s father is home from the hospital. Both he and her mother were treated with COVID-19 antibody infusions and are recovering well. A stone of joy for their recovery.
Please keep in mind others in our congregation who are ill, hospitalized or recovering, and grieving a loss. I’ll mention specifically here Hugh Fordyce and John Wienert. Your prayers, healing thoughts, cards and emails are welcome:
A reminder that mailing addresses can be found in the Realm database.
We also have some birthdays this week:
John Reeves on 02/02, Penny Raney 02/03, Elizabeth Hickman 02/05 and David Benoy, Sharon Cameron and David Stewart 02/07. Happy birthday – a stone of joy.
I will end our ritual by placing a final stone for all the joys and sorrows held in our hearts this morning, but unspoken; and, with this prayer:
Spirit of creative good, be with us when we are afraid.
Grant us the courage to do what we have to do.
Grant us the peace that passes understanding.
When we fail to find courage, or peace,
May we find compassion for our [fellow humans] who also fail.
May we sometimes win the prizes that we fight for,
And may we then know both pride and compassion.
May we be open to the candor of old age,
And to the freshness of childhood.
May we give good memories.
May we receive good memories.
May we have faith, O God.
Be merciful to us and help us to be merciful
To one another and to ourselves. Amen.
– Spirit of Creative Good, Virginia P. Knowles
And now, Dail Edwards will sing “I am Open and I am Willing.”
Music Interlude: “I Am Open I Am Willing” Dail Edwards
Sermon: Rev Misha Sanders “
How To Spin Plates Broken Plate Mosaics“
He was telling me all about the busy day ahead one morning on the way to school, after having been home with strep throat for the past few days. “Mom, today is a math test, and first I have to give Mrs. Sutherland all of my homework from last week, and I think maybe I forgot some of it at home. And I promised Morgan that I would eat lunch with her today, but also Nic is going to want to sit with me and he is in a fight with Morgan. So I don’t know how that is gonna work out. And it’s Shonna’s birthday so I need to play with her at recess and make her a card, but I don’t know how I am going to find the time to do that. I just want to go back to bed because I can’t do it all!”
So, I took a deep breath and offered, ever so helpfully, “That sounds like a lot, baby. I can see why you’re feeling stressed. I would want to go back to bed if I were you, too. What do you think you need to do to feel like your day is more manageable?”
To which my son replied, “Hey, I’m just a kid, so you tell me. I mean, if YOU haven’t figured it out by now, then what do you expect from me?”
I didn’t say it but I thought it…I hate to break it to ya, kiddo, but it seems to me that the playgrounds just get bigger and the homework assignments just get more complicated, and illnesses keeps on getting you stuck in a backlog of responsibilities you have to postpone, and the interpersonal relationships just get more entangled and messy, and people will have the audacity to keep on having birthdays that you need to make cards for.
Balance. Balance is hard and it is so much easier to get wrong than to get right, isn’t it?
Oh, my goodness, the balancing acts we try to master every day. “I mean if YOU haven’t figured it out by now, then what do you expect from me?” that kid had the nerve to say to his mother.
Here’s the secret of how being an adult goes for much of the time, in my experience. It consists of realizing you need adult supervision to get through this, looking around frantically for an adult, coming to the stark realization that you ARE the adult, then looking around one more time hoping to find a more adultier adult that you missed on your first scan of the room. I am 48 years old, and I am becoming convinced that this impulse is not just a phase, but a fact.
One of my favorite readings to suggest to couples planning a wedding is a short piece called, “On Marriage” by the sufi poet and theologian Kalil Gibran. I kept going back to it in my mind as I thought about this sermon this week, because, although it could be used in a theme of love and commitment, it is just as clearly about balance. And it just as clearly, to me, applies to all of the human relationships in our lives, not just intimate love. And my goodness, it sure does apply nearly a year into a pandemic when people who share physical space with each other are just about to drive each other completely nuts. Consider your families, your neighbors, our nation, our political rivals, our leaders, our planet, as we listen to Gibran’s words.
“You were born together, and together you
shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the white
wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in the
silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance
Love one another, but make not a bond
Let it rather be a moving sea between
the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from
Give one another of your bread but eat
not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous,
but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone
though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each
For only the hand of Life can contain
And stand together yet not too near
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow
not in each other’s shadow.”
Whew. Now that is the kind of balance I strive for. That is the kind of reassuring grown-up perspective on how to give and take and accept and push and love and let go that I think my young son was hoping I might know something about on that hard winter day over a decade ago, but all I could come up with is, “Yeah, dude, this stuff is HARD.”
Let me go back to that conversation with my son and talk about a few of the aspects of life that are universal, I believe, that he lifted up that morning.
First of all he was exhausted from getting over an illness.
Friends, there is, I dare say no one in the room today who has not been affected by the great illness that continues to sweep over our globe. Whether you have been infected with COVID-19 yourself, as some of you have, or have cared for a loved one through their bout of dealing with this virus, or you have lost people you love whose bodies could not recover, or you are isolated in fear of contracting it, or you just know of far too many who have and they are constantly on your mind…we are all exhausted by illness.
Balance says that you do not have to be a super-achiever during the sick days even if instead of a week the sick days last a year. Or more. Balance says that if you feel like you are needing naps more often than ever, that means you need more naps and you should take them when you can.
The second thing that my son lifted up to me that day that was causing him stress was a math test.
I am not here to advise on preparing for a math test, let me assure you. But I can report to you that W-2s came in the mail this week, and there’s nothing like tax season to make me frantically scan the room for an adultier adult. Other bills are due for most of us tomorrow. Just like every month. Income is sketchy for some during this global economic crisis we all share some part in. It’s impossible to balance a checkbook when the expenses are bigger than the income, and when you have more month at the end of the money, good luck finding inner peace and balance, right? That’s okay to admit. And there is no shame in financial struggle, beloveds. We sometimes get the balance all wrong in this area of our lives not only because capitalism is HARD, but because we have internalized one of the most insidious tenants of capitalism which is that if we just work harder we will be just fine. That is a lie that keeps us out of balance with ourselves and, just as importantly, out of balance with each other. It keeps us in embarrassment about money. And that is a social construct that we do nto have to buy into. Balance says we can normalize saying out loud to one another, “I can’t do that because it’s not in the budget.” or, “I need help with my car insurance this month.” Or, just as importantly, “I am doing really well with money right now, so how can I help you? It is no burden.” That is just as okay to own in the great balancing act of caring for each other.
Hows’ that for a riff on my kid’s math test? I tell you, we would have been better served by our primary education had a part of math learning been about balancing the checkbook, filing the taxes, and being financially generous with and accountable to our fellow human beings.
Piles of homework he needed to turn in, and his fear that maybe he’d forgotten some of it, was the next thing on the list of worries that morning.
How DO we balance the things that just keep piling up? Literally, of course, I’m thinking about laundry and dirty dishes. Litter box grossness. Dead leaves on these plants I am constantly apologizing to for neglecting.
Here’s a secret: Some of those piles are more important to tackle than others, and some of them will just need to sit still for awhile and stop demanding so much of our attention, because, beloveds, we are busy with the business of surviving.
Push back the due dates when you can. Request an extension on those taxes if you need it. Now is exactly the time to defer the loans that are deferrable, if that is something you need to balance one more thing out.
Let the piles of homework be piles of homework, and let the teacher know that you’ll get to it when you get to it. I can almost promise you, they will understand. I’m trying to stay metaphorical, but my goodness, educators, you are superheroes to me right now. Balancing the hybrid learning and the in-person fears, and the Zoom frustration, and knowing that every student you have the privilege of teaching is going through harder things than we can imagine. Bless you. I pray that you are giving yourself grace and time and doing your gentlest best to figure out a healthy balance.
And then my son added that he was worried about which friend to sit with at lunch because there was some drama between his two besties and he just didn’t have the energy for it. And truly, I wonder if the interpersonal relationship balance is the hardest struggle of all. That’s the whole point of that poem by Kalil Gibran. This stuff is always hard to balance just right. Too clingy, too stand-offish, too close, too far, too much information, to reserved to share. And how much should I tell you about my pain when you have hurt me? That’s vulnerable and terrifying. And yet perhaps the only way through the pain into greater intimacy with you. Remember what I said earlier about what we would have been well-served to learn in our primary education? Well, more about how to be in well-balanced right relationship with each other comes to mind as a BIG one. One of my favorite authors, Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy, or SARK, has entire sections of her writings in which she urges people in love relationships to get into counseling whether they think they need it or not because no two human beings with any kind of emotional baggage…that’s all of us…should try to love each other without adult supervision. Now, I’m not telling you to go seek counseling, but I’m saying that it’s okay to admit that we go into all kinds of relationships with an assumption that people know how to be healthy with one another and most of us have never seen it properly modeled, and have had NO formal education on the subject.
It is okay to say that balancing relationships is hard and sometimes we need help. I wish our society would normalize exactly that, so that every kid entering adulthood knows that THAT is the truth, not necessarily.what we see in Hollywood romance happy ending feel good films. Messy. Hard. A balancing disaster. And worth the work.
And the final thing my baby mentioned that day that was causing him some stress was that it was the birthday of someone he cared about and he needed to make her a card.
Beloveds, I propose that it was a failure in societal conditioning that my sweet son mentioned that item as the final thing on his stress list, instead of having done it joyfully FIRST. Yes, even before the urgent things. Before the important things. No, of course if would have been out of balance for him to make a card when he was very sick and needed a nap, but certainly before tackling that homework pile or studying for the math test, or working out how to mediate between his fighting friends.
What if we prioritize celebrations first?
What if we prioritize celebrations first?
What if, when no one is in triage and nothing is bleeding and nothing is spilling and soaking into the subflooring or the apartment below us, we just simply prioritize celebrations first?!?
Do you need an action item for this week, the first week of LOVE month?
Here it is, if you choose to accept it.
What if we prioritize celebrations first?
If you don’t have any celebrations to celebrate this week, what if you make some up?
On this, our final week of considering balance, that is my deep, theological, world-changing call to action for all of us.
What if we prioritize celebrations first? Or just try it, at least.
I leave you with a Mary Oliver poem called, “Don’t Hesitate” that I have shared with you at least twice before, because it is one of the greatest balancing tools of my life, and I hope it can become one of yours too, if it is helpful.
“If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the
case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.”
And now the music selection, “We’ll Build A Land” by the 2019 UU Music Conference Choir.
Music for Reflection: “We’ll Build A Land”
Offering: Introduction by Hannah Cowart
We give to remind ourselves how many gifts we have to offer.
We give to remember that we are part of something bigger than ourselves.
We give with the faith that, together, we have enough.
We give to say yes to something we value.
With our gifts, freely given, may we say yes to the values of our faith. Our offering will now be given and gratefully received.
Offertory: Josie Miller
Dedication of the Offering:
“To the work of this congregation, which is weaving a tapestry of love and action,
we dedicate our offerings and the best of who we are.”
Benediction: Rev. Misha Sanders
By Kendyl R Gibbons
There is, finally, only one thing required of us: that is, to take life whole, the sunlight and shadows together; to live the life that is given us with courage and humor and truth.
We have such a little moment out of the vastness of time for all our wondering and loving. Therefore let there be no half-heartedness; rather, let the soul be ardent in its pain, in its yearning, in its praise.
Then shall peace enfold our days, and glory shall not fade from our lives.
Postlude: Jim Pearce