Sunday, January 27, 2013

Winter Tales = Winter Fails

Well, not really a fail, more like a cancellation because of an ice storm.  Today I was to "shepherd" the service at the UUFA, but as you must know by now, it was cancelled.   Because I think stories are sacred and incredible tools for learning and growth, it was going to be a service of stories.  Children from the UUFA and their teachers - along with our Sunday Program Facilitators and a Guest Story Teller were on the program.  I decided that since we all missed these incredible tales, and since we probably won't get a make-up day, I will post the full order of service here, complete with all but one story, and of course, sans the music.  All the songs are our old favorites.  As you're reading, take a break and sing out loud when you come to a hymn.  Enjoy!

Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Ames
January 27, 2013
Winter Tales

Welcome 9:15 Jamie Gurganus; 11:00 Ralph Gandy - Oh sadness . . . . along with welcoming you all the the service, they would have invited you to stay for our chili cook-off. . . . we'll get back to you if there is a new date for this.
Growing Our Spiritual Home, A Reflection Dave Sly (I read Dave's reflection.  I don't have a copy, but it was SO touching.  He talked about how much this community has come to mean to him and his family - his life Melissa and daughters Morgan and Madison.  He only wish?  That they'd joined the UUFA a few years earlier.  I'm glad you're here now, Dave.)

Opening Words     Why We Tell Stories - Lori Allen  Of course, I give an intro to the service :-)
Buddhist tradition says that the big stories—the stories worth telling and retelling, the ones in which you may find the meaning of your life—are forever tracking the right teller, stalking and watching, waiting for the perfect opportunity to pounce and turn the listeners into the tellers. It is amazing and holy to watch the children, and adults, in this community turn from listeners to tellers of stories. Our stories we share today are from the Buddhist tradition the children have been learning about in January and the experiences of living and surviving in winter. We hope our stories and our telling will inspire you to be tellers of your own stories.

Chalice Lighting . . . . . Imagine these voices welcoming you to join us in our sacred listening as they light our common chalice . . . . . and go ahead, light a candle or chalice while you read these stories!
9:15 Luke Schmidt & Hayden Pritchard; 11:00 Ralph Gandy & Sarah Carlson
Crow's Advice to Weasel, Barry Lopez
If you should have the good fortune of being in a possession of fire, care for it, do not neglect it. But learn to give it away to those who need it. Follow this same advice for the stories you may come to own.” Today we light our chalice, giving away the fire of our community to those who need it.
  • Song #000 Enter, Rejoice, and Come In
The Mustard Seed Story Grade 4-5-6 Class - Imagine these youthful voices . . . .
9:15 Ana Denison, Aliya Gurganus, Aleca Coffman, Caylee Fuqua and Ian Coffman
11:00 Mark Witherspoon, Latifah Faisal, Amyra Faisal

Reader 1 - The Buddha was walking on a dusty road one day when he stopped at the edge of  a river to splash cooling water on his face.  When he finished washing, he looked up and saw an old woman kneeling beside him.  Her clothes were ragged and her face was worn. 
Reader 2 - Oh, master.  I suffer so.  Please help me.
Reader 3 - What troubles you?
Reader 1 - The Buddha had compassion in her heart and in his eyes.  He wanted to hear what the woman was so sad about.
 Reader 2 - Look at me!  See my sad lot?  I am poor, my clothes are torn, I am ill.  Once I was prosperous, with a farm.  Now I am old and have only a bowl of rice to eat.  Please heal me and bring back my riches.
Reader 3 - Dear woman, you have described life as it is.  We are all born to suffering.
Reader 2 - No, no.  I won’t listen to you.  I was not born to suffer.
Reader 1 - The Buddha saw that the woman did not understand what he was telling her, but he knew of a way she could learn.
Reader 3 - Very well.  I will help you, but you must do as I say.
Reader 2 - Anything, anything.  What shall I do?
Reader 3 - Bring me a mustard seed.  And not just any mustard seed, it must come from a house that has never known suffering, trouble, or sorrow.  I will take the seed you bring me and use it to banish all your misery.
Reader 1 - The old woman was confused, but she did not question how this plan would work.  She hurried away to find the mustard seed from a house that had never known suffering, trouble, or sorrow.  The Buddha continued down the road.  Several weeks later, the Buddha was passing back along the same road.  He saw the old woman scrubbing clothes in the river and humming a song.  She seemed very happy.
Reader 3 - Greetings my friend.  Have your found the mustard seed? 
Reader 2 - Oh no, blessed Buddha, I have not. 
Reader 3 - You seem so happy.  Are you still seeking the mustard seed?
Reader 2 - I’ll do that later.  I have met so many people who are less fortunate than me.  Right now I’m doing laundry for a family with sick children.
Reader 1 - The old woman went back to her work of washing clothes and humming.  She looked as though the work was the most joyful task in the world.   And as the Buddha traveled on down the road, he thought to himself.
Reader 3 - She no longer needs the mustard seed.  Helping others is a great virtue.  She is on the road to becoming a Buddha herself.
Reader 4 - What color is the wind?
Reader 5 - What is the scent of sunshine?
Reader 4 - What is the most beautiful thing in the world?
Reader 5 - What is the right thing to do?
Reader 4 - What is the right thing to not do?
Reader 5 - Is the glass empty or full?
Reader 3 - The answers are all within you.
Reader 2 - The answers are within me.
Reader 4 - The answers are within me.
Reader 5 - The answers are within me.
Reader 1 - The answers are within you.

Milestones  - Think of what is in your heart today.  Take a moment before reading further to hold that emotion and know that we all hear you and send you affirmation and love.

Special Music 9:15 Only Grade 7-8  - While we most likely won't be finding a new time to share the stories, we will be finding a service for the Middle School students to share this inspired, original piece!
2'33”, by the Middle School Students

A Story in Poetry Ralph Gandy - Imagine Ralph reading this with some gentle music in the background from Jen Coppoc.  There's a link at the bottom of this document that you can click on to hear Robert Bly reading the poem.  Close your eyes - you'll swear you're listening to Ralph!

Last Night as I was Sleeping by Antonio Machado

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a spring was breaking
out in my heart.
I said: Along which secret aqueduct,
Oh water, are you coming to me,
water of a new life
that I have never drunk?

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a fiery sun was giving
light inside my heart.
It was fiery because I felt
warmth as from a hearth,
and sun because it gave light
and brought tears to my eyes.

Last night as I slept,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that it was God I had
here inside my heart. 

Offertory with Special Music - Fellowship Voices Joined by Children and Teachers in the RE Program.  This was going to be so good!  The children are such great vocalists . . . .

Over My Head, trad African American, arr by Jim Scott
(Bethesda Food Pantry is missing out on our offering today . . . .)

A Winter Story  by Shelli Pitner - I do not have a text for this story, but we know it was going to be drawn from Shelli's personal experience and it was going to be wonderful . . .

* Song #000 Spirit of Life

The Fire That Would Not Burn  - Sarah Carlson  - hear Sarah's soothing voice as she tells a story of generosity first told by The Buddha.

There was great trouble in the temple that was situated deep in the forest. The huge fire that had burned in the temple kitchen for years had suddenly gone out, and no one seemed to be able to light it again.
It was deep winter outside. The forest and hills were white with snow (AND ICE!), and the fountains in the temple gardens looked like tall ladies dressed in white cloaks. From the simple sloped lines of temple roof there hung long icicles, and inside the temple, where the walls and the floor were made all of stone, it was so cold that every one was blowing on their fingers and saying that something must be done at once about starting the fire in the temple kitchen.
The fire in the temple kitchen had been the warmest and the most useful fire in the temple, always bright and glowing and cheerful. It made the big kettle sing, and it cooked the food and painted pictures in the fireplace for all the monks who sat in front of it before they went to bed. Some said that the fire needed a special kind of fuel to keep it burning, and others said that it had gone out because it was such a hard, cold winter. Still others said that the monks were quarreling so that they made the atmosphere of the temple too cold for any fire to burn.
The Master sent two monks who worked in the kitchen out in the bitter cold (AND ICE!) to find coals from a nearby home to re-light the fire in the temple kitchen. As they ran along the road, out of the forest, up hill and down, they shouted, “Fire for the temple kitchen, share your fire with the temple kitchen.”
A great many people heard their calls. Everyone wanted to have a share in lighting the fire at the temple. Most wanted to help because they had all heard great tales of hidden gold, jewels, and treasures at the temple. Some thought that to share their fire with the temple would bring them rewards and riches.
"Here are glowing coals for you," said a wood cutter; "and tell the Master that I want as many gold pieces and blessings as there are lumps of coal in return, and some extra ones if he will add them."
So the monks, using their metal tongs, put the woodcutter's red coals inside his lantern. They had gone only a few steps, though, when coals turned cold and gray. They did not burn, so they had to throw them beside the road and search farther.
A bright light shone from the fire in the weaver's house. She wove cloth for the monks to sew into robes. When she heard the monk's call, she opened the door and asked them to come in. "Fill your lantern with my coals," the weaver said, "and they will surely light the fire in the temple. Tell the master though, that in return for the coals, he must never buy anyone's cloth but mine for as long as I am a weaver."
The monks took the coals and started back to the temple. They had gone but a little way when they saw that the coals from the weaver's fire were no longer burning. They had turned to gray ashes. So they emptied them out in the snow (AND ICE!) and went on down the road. The search was a hard one and cold task. None of the coals that the monks were given would burn, because no one wanted to give coals freely, without expectation for payment in return.
They were about to give up when came to a tiny bleak house on the side of a hill. The wind blew down through the old chimney, and the frost crept in through the cracks in the wall. The door opened at once when they knocked, and inside they found a young woman, stirring porridge over a small fire.
"A light for the temple fire?" she repeated when the monks told her what they wanted. "You may have as many coals as you like, although we have few large ones. I am my mother's and my father's helper. I tend this small fire so that the kitchen may be comfortable for them when they come home from work. I am cooking their supper, too," she said. "But do sit down and warm yourself, and have a bowl of warm supper before you start out in the cold again. Then you may have half of our coals for the temple fire."
The monks did as the young woman bade them, and then they lifted one small, bright coal from the fire, and put it in the lantern. "It will never burn all the way back to the castle," one monk said to the other. But with each step the coal grew brighter. It cast pink shadows on the snow as if the spring were sending wild roses up through the ground. It made the dark road in front of the monks as bright as if the sun were shining, and it warmed them like the summer time. When they came to the temple, the coal still burned and glowed. As soon the coal was touched to the gray logs in the fireplace, they burst into flames. The temple fire was kindled again.
Everyone wondered why the new fire made the kettle sing so much more sweetly than it had ever sung before? This new fire also seemed to warn the hearts of the monks so  -they forgot to quarrel! When these matters were discussed with the master, they decided that it was because love and generosity had come from the embers and coal of the cottage fire. They believed that same love and generosity continued to burn in the fire in the temple kitchen. And soon they learned, the fire burned brighter and warmer when the air in the temple was filled with love and generosity for everyone present. If you go to that temple today, you will feel the air of love and generosity the moment you walk through the great door, even before you find the fire in the kitchen that was started with the tiny coal from the young girl's hearth. May all your fires burn as the temple fire still does to this day.

  • Song #000 This Little Light of Mine
Remembering the Strength in Our Stories - Lori Allen  - (If there is time, Lori tells a story that she's adapted from several wisdom tales with the same them.  This story is sometimes told as "The Rate Princess;" "The Woodcutter;" "The Best Listener;" and probably a thousand other titles.  But really, it's all about you - yes, you!)
Today, I hope you have found a bit of wisdom and whimsy in our stories. I hope that you have decided to become a teller of stories as well as a listener to stories. What's that? You think you can't tell stories well? You think only those with the gift for telling stories can do so? Guess what?  You have that gift. You, today, just as you are, have an incredible gift for telling stories. That gift might be the spoken word, a song or a painting. It could also be a hug, a handshake, a helping hand. Really – these are all ways we tell our stories. You still don't believe you have the gift for sharing stories? Well, let me tell you one last story to help you see that you are, in fact, a storyteller . . .
There once was a stone cutter. He worked very hard and was paid very little for his efforts, but he was able to keep food on his family's table and a roof over their heads. One day, he was working to carve an stone arch for an entrance to a nobleman's home. He peered into the house as he worked. Oh, how he wished he was that nobleman. He watched as servants were putting out food for a party in the great hall with all the paintings, tapestries, and fine furniture. Oh! How he wished he was . . . . the nobleman?

Oh my goodness, with that wish, he became the nobleman! How wonderful. He ate and danced and had a grand time – until he noticed the queen had arrived. There she was in her leather sedan, you know, the chair that's carried by four footman. They took her where ever she wanted to go. She did not have to move a muscle or walk a step. Man, he thought – I wish I was the queen . . . .
Then poof! He was the queen. So he ordered the footmen to take him back to the palace. He was going to live in a palace!  But on the way there, the sun shone very hot and bright and made him quite uncomfortable in the queen's leather chair. He looked up at the sun. Wow – I wish I were the sun, for it is the most powerful thing in the Universe.  As you might suspect . . . .

Shazam! He was now the sun! Glorious! He looked down on all the people on the earth - beaming and glowing.  Oh what power - the people must be SO impressed with the power!   What's that? They're shaking their hands and cursing the sun? Just because the sun dried up all the rivers and burnt their crops? Yikes.  The sun didn't  mean to be so cruel.  The sun can't help that it is the most powerful thing in the . . . .wait, what's this? A single storm cloud is trying to obstruct the mighty sun? And the people are cheering for the raincloud?  And now it is totally blocking the sun and providing welcome moisture to the earth?  Oh no!  If only I could be the rain cloud, even more powerful than the sun. Then nothing could make me happier! I want to be a rain cloud said the . . . 

Zowie! Now, as you're coming to expect, he was changed again.  This time into a rain cloud!  And the people loved that rain cloud! Look at them splashing about. The rivers are flowing again, and the earth turning greener with every drop. Ah, forever, I'll be a powerful rain cloud . . .  Hold it, what's that? Who's pushing me around? The wind? Wait, the wind is greater than a big rain cloud? That is not fair! I want to be most powerful. Now I wish I was the . . . .

Wind! Yes, I must be the wind!  (Blowing noises) Yes, I've been transformed again. Phew . . . . .feel my power!  I can blow for miles and miles. Nothing can stop me now (More blowing noise)  Ouch! Who's that? A pillar of stone? Outside a nobleman gate? How dare you stop me?!  I am the wind, the most powerful thing in the Universe!  (Strained blowing noise.)  I can't believe this, I need another wish!  I need to be transformed into stone, the most powerful element in the world, the universe. Okay, last time, make me into the . . . . .

Stone pillar. Yes! Oh my yes! I can feel my strength – stronger than the sun that beats down on me, stronger still than the rain that washes down me during storms, more powerful than the wind that tries to move me. Especially more powerful than the nobleman that walks into me when he is coming home late at night. Even more powerful than the queen whose orders for me to bow down before her, I ignore. Even more powerful than . . . . hey, what's that? Who's chipping away at me? Who is it that is more powerful than all these things? So powerful that they can chip me into pieces? Hey, I think I know him . . . . it's the stone cutter who thinks he is so meek and powerless. I must go back to him, I must let him know, he is more powerful, more brave, more necessary than anything else in the universe. I want to be . . . .

Zap! Whoa! The stone cutter. I want to be just who I am, for I have all the power and resources I need, just as I am.  Just as we all do.

May you go in peace, telling your story, just as you are.

Extinguishing the Flame - Hey - if you lit a chalice or candle, time to blow it out!  As you do, send love peace and love to your UUFA friends.  

* Please rise in body or spirit
If you are able, please help put away chairs after the service.
Presenter: Lori Allen & All Her Band of UU Story Helpers
Ushers and Offeratory Helpers: Grade 1-2-3 Students and Teachers
Accompanist: (for offertory and songs unless otherwise noted above)
Facilitators: Ralph Gandy, Sarah Carlson   Here is a Youtube site to hear the poem Ralph was going to read.

Thanks for all who were here in spirit together today and always.  See you when the ice melts!