“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”
Good morning! First I want to thank Nicholas James and Clouds for being much better musicians than I am! And thank you Chris for your reading and Connie for your children’s message. Thank you David for your powerful meditation. And thank you John for singing “This Little Light” a few weeks ago as your children’s message. I knew then that I needed to use that song myself before I left C3.
I wanted to use this song because I think of that light as a flame. I want to talk about the fire that fills us up when we are most passionate about the things we believe in. I want to talk about spreading the fire, kindling the passion, growing the flame.
And some of you are thinking – what is she talking about? I’m lucky these days if I can keep the pilot light in my furnace lit. Between kids, the household, the spouse or ex-spouse, the parents, the job, the demands and the heartaches and the endless hours without rest how can I possibly keep a fire going? So we’re going to talk about that, too. The times when our passion fades and the rain threatens to douse our fire. The times the fire glowed even in the wet, damp, dark corners of our life.
Fire is mysterious in so many ways. As a child I remember watching my father set fire to the bundled newspapers under the stack of logs. The paper would catch the flame and it would flicker around the sturdy wood. Then something truly amazing would happen. Somehow that single spark was transformed into a blazing wall of light and heat and energy. Colors and shapes danced in the center and serpent tongues of orange and red licked the air. But the fire wasn’t forever. In order for it to continue warming us, it had to be fed – fresh wood, a steady supply of oxygen, our careful and deliberate watch and attention.
I still love a fire – love watching it start with crackling excitement, spreading from stick to stick until the blaze is so strong even those not directly touched by the fire experience the joy of the warmth and light it emits. I love the fire and I love feeling the fire within me when I am most passionate about the things that I believe in.
This little light of mine isn’t just a symbolic flame for me. It is also the light of universal love and compassion in my life. It is the light that shines within each of us when we get together to share our journeys, to sing our joy. And over and over again it is the light that sends us out, to bring hope and joy and light to others. The most important thing we can do with the fire – is share it.
What is the point of fire if we keep it to ourselves? How long can we hope to hold onto it without fresh wood? Just like the campfire needs new kindling, our causes and our beliefs need new recruits if they are to grow, if they are to make a difference. I am but one stick in this tremendous fire. If I don’t let the fire spread beyond me, it will consume me completely. I need new energies, new sticks, new people to become part of the blaze, to share the heat, to share the light, to help me make a difference.
Are you ready? Are you ready to share the fire, to spread your flame? Spreading hope and joy and love is all about building relationships, telling our stories and letting our little light shine. When we live in the light, something happens. Eventually we stop asking the light to guide and warm us and we start asking how we are supposed to share the light with others and how can we make a difference.
We have sat at the fire together, you and I. We have taken turns keeping watch of the coals and adding another log the fire. Our flame has grown brightly together and we have all benefited from its beauty and its strength. Now we move apart. And now there is no way to separate our flames, to tease mine apart from yours. So as I leave, and as I take my own fire with me, I take yours as well. And I leave behind mine for you. There is a part of me, my passion, my spirit that will always be a part of this place. And there is a part of you that will always be a part of my spirit. Which means you will also be a part of Extended Grace, a new expression of love and light seeking to heal this world.
As we begin to travel down different paths we will continue to share a common goal. To invite others to the fire. Look around you. Do you think there is anyone else in Grand Haven, Spring Lake, Ferrysburg, Holland, Muskegon, Grand Rapids who could benefit from a connecting with people like us? We are surrounded by hurting, alienated, rejected people who are desperate for a place of acceptance and belonging. You know what I think we could build? A bonfire. A great big overblown bonfire. Can you imagine it? Can you see the fire? Can you feel the warmth?
Of course there is nothing easy about this work. Every fire is tested. A fire too hot too quickly may burn itself out before it even has the chance to spread. Other demands call for our attention as the flames die out and the apathy of others may act to cool the coals. Rains come. Sometimes full scale flooding occurs. The surge of a new fire fills us with the desire and even the need to share it with others. But then even within our most intimate circles we sometimes stop talking about the things we are most passionate about – as if we don’t want to burden others with our beliefs or special projects. I believe we overestimate and then underestimate the power of the fire to ignite others. When we overestimate the power, we are discouraged and disillusioned when not everyone becomes as excited as we are. When we underestimate the power, we fail to see the importance of saying anything at all
The simple reality is that in this work, we will experience rejection. Many of the great teachers tell us so. And who wants to be rejected? Who wants to be ridiculed? Who wants to work to maintain the fire in the midst of wind and rain? In his work against social injustice, WEB DuBois said, “it is the wind and the rain, O God, the cold and the storm that make this earth of Thine to blossom and bear its fruit.”
The workers may be few, but let us be among them. Let us accept a lifelong vocation that calls us to live, think and behave differently. Because the compensation is great. There is joy in sharing love, joy in knowing you are called just as you are, joy in knowing that you are becoming fully human, joy in living the good life.
People need to know that joy. There are so many people longing to feel a difference in their lives, longing to make a difference in the lives of others. There are so many people waiting to be invited, waiting just to be asked.
Which is why I have to leave now to spread the flame. And I’ll have to work hard to protect it because there will be tears and I will have to make sure that they don’t put the fire out. I love you. I love every one of you and I have been so fortunate to work with you for the past year and a half. You have touched me with your enthusiasm and your compassion and your drive. You have demonstrated so much love for each other, for the community, for me. There is some mourning to do.
And there is a risk in feeling loss at a time such as this, but the notion is a figment of the imagination. There is never loss, only growth and change and gain. We have done so much and accomplished so much together that now we can accomplish even more through our separate organizations. We will come together again to collaborate for a healthier, more fully human community. And exponentially the fire will continue to grow.
As you move forward with a new leader, I am filled with a profound sense of joy in your good fortune. Do you remember the word for that? Yes! Mudita! I rejoice in your good fortune. And you rejoice in mine! And that… that is love.
So you know I deeply value ritual. We began my Interim with a water ritual and now I want to end with fire. There has been a candle burning up here today. This flame symbolizes our time working together and all that we have accomplished. I want to invite you to come as the ushers direct you, take a candle of your own and light it from this flame. As you do, reflect on how the fire has burned inside you the past year and a half, the way it has shaped and forged and formed you into who you are today. Then think about the way in which it will continue to burn and light your way into the future. After you have all shared in the flame, I will light another candle and I will bring it with me to Extended Grace. At our first Inspire! event on November 1 at 1pm with C3 as one of our sponsors, I that candle will shine to help light the way for a new community.
— LIGHTING —
Each of us has the opportunity to be a light – the flame that will ignite a solitary piece of wood and make it part of an ever growing fire. It’s time to sing again. “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”
Who can you share your passion with? To whom will you spread the flame?
Mudita my friends and Namaste!