November 17, 2001
A Message by Jane Page
Delivered: 10:30 a.m., November 17, 2001
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Statesboro
A reading from Deuteronomy 8:10.
“And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the
good land he has given you.”
I don’t know about you, but I generally do a pretty good job with honoring that verse during the Thanksgiving Holidays. I do EAT, and eat and eat!- and I get FULL, and I even remembered to give thanks.
Thanks GIVING is rather easy. A more difficult challenge is Thanks LIVING. And that’s the topic I’m going to explore with you today.
One of my colleagues told me that this “ThanksLiving” idea is an old concept and its been “done and done and done.” Now, since this person has heard lots of sermons, he’s probably right! So some of you may have heard messages on this theme of Thanksliving before, but you haven’t heard this one so don’t go to sleep.
Basically the idea is that we need to move beyond giving our thanks and start living our thanks.
Or as the Rapper would say:
We need an attitude – of gratitude.
We need to walk our talk – and walk Love’s walk.
We need to stop the messin’ – and start the blessin’
We need more than Thanksgiving!
We need Thanksliving!
I’ll say Amen. Ya’ll say it again – AMEN!
(We should start a group called the Fellowship Rappers!!)
Now I have a confession to make. This concept of Thanksliving is not one that I follow very well. In fact, this message is definitely for the woman in the mirror!
I’ve got lots to be thankful for – and I’m pretty good at recognizing that and at giving thanks for these blessings. But that’s about as far as it goes. If I truly lived my Thanks, I probably wouldn’t need to eat so many Rolaids.
In trying to think and rethink about this topic, I made a list of my blessings. I’m glad we have a time for naming Joys and Concerns here at UU. It makes us stop and think about our blessings.
So I my list and I felt good – and I was thankful. I invite you now, to jot three or four things down. Just use your non-dominant hand as your imaginary paper and take your imaginary pen and write them down. No you can fold your paper and put it in your lap. We’ll look at them again later. After I made MY list, I was feeling pretty good. Then, I remembered my topic was Thanks-living and as I looked at each blessing on my list I asked: “Am I living this thanks?” The results weren’t too positive.
As an example of this process, I’m going to identify just three of the things that were on my list and my thoughts about each of these. So this message is really a personal message in which I’m going to share with you what I’ve been struggling with.
Now I’m going to share these with you in alphabetical order– cause you know I’m a teacher and teachers LIKE to put things in alphabetical order!
One of the things on my list that may be on your list too is FAMILY!
I’m so very fortunate. My Mama and Daddy have showered their love on me for 51
years. They’ve always been there for me and my brother. And they’ve accepted me for who I am, even though I’m not the traditional southern woman of their generation.
My dad tells of an event that demonstrates my lack of domestic aptitude. He and mama were
keeping my sons one day when they were small and Mama prepared a good home cooked supper (as she always does). Daddy was outside the door watching the boys on the swing set. When she got it all ready, she said, “J.G., get the boys cause supper’s on the table. So Daddy hollered out to them, “Fred and John, it’s time to eat.” Daddy said they immediately got down off of the swing set, and ran, and got in the car! Think about it. Did somebody say -____(McDonalds)
Hey, I worked hard to pay the bills,
So I give thanks for Happy Meals.
Anyway, my parents have loved me all along the way and they’ve always been there for me. And they’ve even accepted me as an independent woman. Right after Fred and I divorced, Daddy said – Don’t worry Jane, you’ll probably get married again. And I said “Married!! AGAIN!!! Whatever FOR??” So it took them awhile, but I think now they are really kind of prou of their “independent” daughter.. When I told them I was going to work on a Master of Divinity Degree, Daddy said, “Whatcha gonna do? Be a Preacherette?” And I said , yeah daddy! And both of them beamed. My parents have been so supportive of me and my children through the years and I’m very fortunate and blessed to have them right here in Statesboro.
And I’ve been blessed with two wonderful sons who have actually allowed me the privilege to share in their lives. And they still do. Now there have been some moments that I would have just as soon NOT shared. I’m not going to tell about all their adolescent mischief because they are keeping some of my secrets too! But let’s just say, we’ve been through some unusual times together. And they are both doing so well now. Well, at least the last time I spoke with them. But even with the tough times, it’s been such a privilege to be their mother. Then almost 5 years ago, Fred III and Michelle had my grandson J.D. and he’s been such a wonderful joy. Of course, I’m making an Eagle fan out of him. And I give thanks for my family.
But do I live that thanks? I’m ashamed to say that I sometimes treat my family members more like burdens than blessings. Instead of cherishing our time together and savoring it, I fill my head with frustrations concerning family members and continuously express my anxiety and fears. And on top of that, – I continue to work on a problem I’ve had for years… and that is I’m constantly trying to FIX them.
In Matthew, Chapter 7, verse 3, Jesus asks his listeners (including ME),
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” I need to be working on that plank in my eye.
I DO give thanks for my family, but for heaven’s sake, I need to do a better job of living it
and enjoying these blessings.
The second thing on my list is my job.
Georgia Southern University has got to be one of the greatest places in the world to work (or at least it used to be). For 22 years, it’s been a thrill for me to get in the car or sometimes on my motorcycle and go to that beautiful campus each morning. And they even pay me for it. I’m so proud to be a teacher and to have the grand opportunity to work with young people. When one of my students has a question or concern, I pay attention. Because I’m fully aware that if it were not for that student, I wouldn’t have that wonderful job. So I’m thankful for all the College students in Statesboro.
Now my family may tell you that I not only give thanks for my job at GSU but live it too if living it means working hard for that which we give thanks. I do work very hard at my job and may even go a little overboard. Hey, I was raised by J.G. and Christine Altman who believe your supposed to work hard all day, every day, except Sunday – and even then the ox keeps getting in the ditch!!!
(I may have to explain that one later to some of you.)
Although I do work hard at my job, I don’t always have that Thanksliving attitude I need, – especially when it comes to my administrative duties. Twelve years ago I became a department chair with all of the challenges and responsibilities that go with this – and they do seem to get greater each year.
Now I don’t mind the work, but what I get frustrated with in my position is the constant interruptions – all day long and lately – these “emergency meetings.”. Someone needing a quick answer to this or information on that. Faculty members that have problems with students, students that have problems with faculty, faculty that have problems with faculty, faculty have problems with the dean, the dean has problems with everything!!! There are questions and concerns about courses, or scheduling and on and on. You know I have to get out of one computer program and into another and it’s a headache cause when the person is gone or the phone conversation is over, I can’t remember what I was doing in the first place. And sometimes I just get royally upset!
However, I need to remind myself of a story that I read on the front of a church bulletin one time.
It seems that this preacher was having the same problem that I have. He worked hard every day but had constant interruptions by the church staff, church members, community members, and even people just passing through the town. So he prayed about it and told God that he would just have to have some relief from all the interruptions so he could get his work done. And God answered and said,
“Son, you’ve got it all wrong. The interruptions ARE your work!”
I need to not only give my thanks for my job but LIVE it by greeting each interruption as the blessing that it is. Because the interruptions are my work.
Another thing I’m extremely thankful for is Unitarian Universalism and this fellowship. I discovered UU many years ago on television. The Church of the Larger Fellowship had a program on and the things they were saying sounded good to me. So I sent off for the materials – hoping they would be delivered, of course, in a plain brown paper wrapper. I would make sure that I would get the mail so that I could hide what might be viewed by my Baptist deacon husband as ungodly material. When I was at last free to be me, I found my way home to UU and to you! I have been blessed by UU and by YOU in so many ways and I am thankful. Of course, I’m thankful for things like the principles we share but I’m also thankful for things that might seem insignificant to some of you. For example, I’m thankful this fellowship serves coffee with caffeine in it on Sunday mornings. That Baptist Blend they used to serve me up on North Main Street just didn’t do a thing for me. But most of all I’m thankful for this Sanctuary!! No, I don’t mean this beautiful building we now have. Because we had a sanctuary before we moved in here. No matter which building this fellowship has met in, they’ve always met in a Sanctuary – a safe place.
I grew up in downtown Statesboro and when I was old enough to read the signs by the road, I read one that said, “Statesboro is a bird sanctuary” and I asked my mother what it meant. “Well,” said Mama, “That means all kinds of birds can come to Statesboro and fly all around and as long as they stay in the City Limits of Statesboro, no one will shoot them down.” After that I started noticing the birds that would fly into our yard on Woodrow Avenue and light on the pear tree. Some of them were pretty birds – or at least what I perceived as pretty. And some of them I perceived as rather ugly birds. Some of them would perch in the branches and make beautiful music with their birdsongs. And others would just squawk, squawk, squawk. I knew, though, that whether they were pretty or ugly, – singers or squawkers, that as long as they stayed in Statesboro, a bird sanctuary, – no one would shoot them down.
On Sunday mornings some of our members come into this room feeling spiritually pretty. Others may feel spiritually ugly. Some are singing praises and others may just squawk. But we all know, that while we’re in the company of this fellowship, no one will shoot us down. Oh, some may tell us that they disagree with our views or perhaps that they have a different interpretation of some scripture or reading, but they will not attempt to destroy our integrity.
This is a SAFE place, a sanctuary, where we can actually be ourselves. A place where we can laugh or cry, lament or rejoice and truly grow in the Spirit. And I give thanks for Unitarian Universalism and this fellowship. But, I’m embarrassed to confess that I haven’t always been living that thanks. I’ve been a recipient of all the blessings, and I think in some areas I’ve even tried to live my thanks – but I’ve certainly had some shortcomings.
As far as those seven principles go, I accept and believe in all of them. But I’m glad someone is not following me around with a checklist and doing some “performance assessment” of using these criteria. For example – that first one – about affirming and promoting the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Well, you know – sometimes I think I do a pretty good job because I do affirm and promote the worth and dignity of many folks who sometimes get the short end of the stick. But folks, I’m here to confess today that I have some prejudices that need some work. Basically, I seem to have a problem with rich people. Now they can’t help it that they are rich! Heck – many of them were born that way. But I make assumptions about them that I shouldn’t make. I often ASSUME that they’re selfish, mean-spirited, self-righteous, intolerant, and arrogant folks. And my bias sometimes gets in the way. But I’m working on it. I was invited last year to a New Years Eve party that some folks were having at the Statesboro Inn. So George and I decided that we would go. Well, now I found out later that the reason we got on the list is because one of the hosts decided he needed to make an attempt to bring some life to the party and I guess he thought I had some life in me. Now, we got to this party and I opened the door and stopped fast in my tracks. It was full of all the OLD Statesboro people. Now, I don’t mean they were all senior citizens. I mean it was all the OLD money people. There were all the ladies that used to come to my mama’s beauty shop so I knew them from that association. And some of their sons and daughters too.. The reason that I was shocked was because the hosts of this party were not OLD money Statesboro folks. I guess they were the wannabees though. So, I had to think — do I actually want to PARTY with these people. YUK. I mean – what will we TALK about. But I was already in the door, and these ladies were saying – Oh, look — isn’t that Christine’s daughter….. So I thought – well, we can at least eat some of the food then move on out of here. But you know what? We ended up staying and talking to folks and having a good time and enjoying ourselves. And I began to view them in a different light. And it didn’t take but two glasses of wine! I began to understand that I did have things in common with these folks. Afterall, they too had family sicknesses, and children with problems, and husbands who found young women more desirable and on and on. And they also were glad to come to a party to dance and live on this light side of life that night. So now, when I read that first principle – I realize that EVERY one means rich folks too. And I need to show them more respect and not be so quick to make negative assumptions about them. I guess I really need to understand that rich people are people too since by the world’s standards, I’m rich and so are you. I’ve been reading a good bit lately about the living conditions in Afganistan and some of the stories that are being reported are so heartbreaking. Lee Greenwood sings, “I’m proud to be an American.” Well, sometimes I’m proud and sometimes I’m not so proud. But I do know how extremely fortunate and blessed I am. And I give thanks for my blessings. But I must LIVE my thanks by finding good and responsible ways to share these blessings with a suffering world. UU and other organizations provide us with a variety of opportunities. We need to continue to seek these out..
Now, I said I”m thankful for UU AND this fellowship so I sure need to live my thanks for this fellowship too. For example, sometimes others have shared concerns for a family member or a friend and asked us to pray for them or hold them in the light. And I sit there and shake my head. But, all too often, I walk out of here and I don’t even think of that member or their family member or friend until I see them the following week. I’m trying to do better with this though. And not only remember that person, but see if there is some way I can help them. We have a precious group here and we do not need to take each other for granted. We need to GIVE our THANKS and we need to LIVE our THANKS.
Okay now, open your paper and look at your list. How wonderful are these blessings. But do YOU have the same problems that I do? Do you fully LIVE your thanks?
Don’t worry folks. I’m not going to have an alter call here! But I do believe confession is GOOD for the soul ONLY if it’s followed by commitment and action. So I’ve confessed and now I must commit. I must commit to do a better job of Living my Thanks for my family. And I’m sure my family members will hold me to that. And I must commit to having a better attitude about my interruptions at work. And I must commit to Living my Thanks for UU and for this fellowship. I hope that as you share this Thanksgiving week with family and friends that you will also attempt to LIVE your thanks. And we will all be more blessed!
© 2001 Jane A. Page, Statesboro, GA.
All rights reserved.