Sermon: Borrowed Time & The Fine Art of Our Lives – August 9th, 2015

We did record a video and will insert in a month or so.

Sunday, August 9th

9:45 AM

First Universalist Church of Pittsfield

112 Easy St

Pittsfield, Maine

Service Theme:

Borrowed Time & The Fine Art of Our Lives

(About Life’s Journey, Time and the Choices we make)

camelot painting

Hymns prior to Sermon:

Hymn #347 “Gather the Spirit”

Hymn #311 “Let it Be a Dance”

Readings prior to Sermon:

“The Perpetual Migration” by Marge Piercy

“Directions” by Billy Collins

gold spiral

This Dance of ours, Life’s Journey, consists of

Time and the Choices we make.

Choosing Directions for our life’s course


Perpetual Migrations to live in to those choices

Some directions are complicated

Some Migrations are short distances

We carry from these our memories and the ramifications of Time and of Choices.


One of my most vivid memories of childhood

Was on moving day 1976

I was 5 years old

My sister Audrey was 4

We were dressed in similar outfits, as was often the case

And we both had huge – I mean HUGE – lolly pops in our hands

We were walking down the street in Jamaica Plain/ a Boston city neighborhood

With our Nana

We were So happy to have such fanciful treats

My baby brother Charlie was in his stroller


And in the care of someone else

While Mom packed

Dad and others loaded a large truck

We were moving from Boston – where we, my siblings and I, were born, and my father and his whole family lived from the time the first of our ancestors came to America,

We were moving to my mother’s Canadian homeland: Prince Edward Island.

A typical American life snapshot

A family relocating to a picturesque location

Idyllic to an onlooker, or someone with just the small amount of details I’ve just described.

Yet, what led to that moment in time

Was not so idyllic

Jamaican Plain (JP as we locals call it) for the past decade or so has been an up and coming, and now sought after, urban residential and business locale. It has evolved in to a truly diverse and dynamic community. 

Yet, when I was a child, during Boston’s attempted early desegregation period of the 70s, it was a dangerous hub of gang activity and racial unrest.   

Many of those with means to do so, left. 

Usually the decision to do so quickly following the metaphoric “last straw.” 

For our family, the final straw in a series of scary moments, was the day the detectives came to search our back yard for stray bullets from a drive by shooting.

Stray Bullets

In Our Back Yard.

((as I said these words out loud during my sermon, I felt the overwhelming fear and pain of my parents awaken in me and tears came to my eyes, and to the eyes of those listening.  What was once a mere story marking an intersection in my family’s lives, took on profound meaning in a way I had never quite felt before.  The reality of it finally sank in))

For my parents, especially my father, the pain of having to choose to leave what was known – was outweighed by the clear and present danger of staying.

His priority was his wife and his young family. So he left behind other family, some very unhappy with his decision. And from that moment on changing the course of all our lives.

Of course I didn’t know any of that then.

And while my life was carried forward by the choices my parents made to keep us safe,

And their decisions stemming from choices others in our community were making to create chaos

I hold only the memory of those giant lollypops

And running gleefully down the sidewalk with my sister and my Nana keeping us in check.

Memories like this point to three Universal Truths:

Life is Change

Time is Precious


We are responsible for how we handle both.


Life  is  Change

Time  is  Precious


We are responsible for how we handle both.

How effectively we do so (handle both) depends alot on how we perceive things.

And what our mode of operation is in life.

Mary Oliver incites us to question our life’s direction by asking the oft quoted words:

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?”

Henry David Thoreau encourages to:

“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”

**Resign your self to the influence of the earth – for there are certainly ebbs and pulls on us. 

Choices at hand.

How do we choose?

He helps us here by offering a measuring tool.

Thoreau asserts:

“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.”



How much we spend, or give up, on something.

What we value.

How we assess that value.

How we perceive that which is before us.

How we perceive our choices and how we perceive the creations we make with our choices.

centering clay

on Art and Centering

Years ago I was a member of the PEI Potter’s Guild.

At that time I was raising three young children and one of my few creative outlets was the Guild’s studio.  It was an old gate house in Victoria Park.  Near the water and surrounded by sprawling green landscape.

Each Guild member was given a key and able to come and go as she pleased.  There were classes we could take and give.  And space galore to create.

I had the blessing of an eccentric teacher (Carl Phyllis) who held a strong belief that “life is art, and art is life.”  From this place of expansive thinking, it was possible for him to grant his students a lot of freedom, a lot of individualized coaching. 

Carl understood I was not in his class to cultivate the skill required to earn a living with this craft. 

No, I was there to channel my energies into the clay.   To have it be both the source of my creation, and the inspiration for it. 

The place where in solitude, or in community,

I could work through the struggles of my human conditioning

as I worked through the clay.  

Molding it, as I alone could mold myself,

birthing my emerging creations

of clay

and of self

into my new identity.  

In that space of identity-crafting, my teacher’s greatest gift to me was a simple four-word comment. 

Sure, he taught me to center, to fire, to glaze, and all other necessary potter’s techniques. 

He taught me the fun and artistry of a home-made raku container and the metallic luster that could be achieved by adding autumn leaves or spring flowers. 

He taught me the craft and gave me the freedom to explore on my own.   

And, one day

when I felt for sure I had just thrown the perfect pot,

it caved in on one side …

just as he was walking by.

Without skipping a beat he said with enthusiasm, “Ah, now it’s art.”  

And  my  world  shifted.

Life is Change

Time is Precious


We are responsible for how we handle both.

a squished up would be bowl of clay… and four  simple  words issued at lightening speed:

“Ah, now it’s art.”  

twinkle rie pottery snake raku
Twinkle’s art circa 1996

Those words have stuck with me over the years, in all aspects of life. 

Their implications enormous.

Our scars, whether physical, mental, emotional or spiritual, are what make us unique works of art, rather than cookie-cutter replicas of what a human “should” be. 

They shape us, yet we can also shape how they impact us

Perhaps not right away when the wound is raw,

but once the initial trauma has passed.

If we allow it to heal, neither picking at the scab nor hiding it from oxygen, we may be surprised at what beauty can be discovered.

The bowl I was creating on that wheel so long ago,

it could not hold soup as I once intended,

I could have tossed it aside declaring it ruined forever. 

Instead, I heeded the wisdom from my teacher and it now holds so much more beauty, and so much more meaning to me, than it could have as a mere bowl.  

Each of us as we hold the (emotional/mental) scars of the awful things done to us

((and the awful things we have done to others))

can choose to keep the wounds open,

picking at them,

allowing them to eat away at us,

forging the scar tissue to build so thick in attempts to block out the memory of the trauma – –

  • or we can choose to open the window on them,

give them fresh air,

acknowledge their existence,

allow them to truly heal,

and embrace what we discover.  

Another thought, again with clay metaphor in mind,

If we find that there is a part of us that is completely broken from a trauma, there is a special pottery art for that too -Kintsugi–  

With Kintsugi

we do not attempt to disguise the flaw,

rather assemble it back together and glaze it

revealing the broken parts as part of the history of the bowl.

It does not look as it originally did, but it honors what it is now. 

Always, it is amazingly beautiful.  

Life, like the creation of pottery, is about balancing and centering.

For those who’ve sat at – – or watched a potter at – – the potter’s wheel, you can visualize the process.

The mound of clay centered on the wheel, spinning in the guiding embrace of the potter’s hands.

The centering is crucial to the integrity of the pot.

Mystic, Poet and Master Potter M.C. Richard writes in her book: CENTERING: in pottery, poetry, and the person.  

“Centering is an act of bringing in, not leaving out. 

It is brought about not by force but by coordinations. 

It is difficult if not impossible for a potter to force his clay into center simply by exerted pressure. 

In order to take its new shape, the clay has to move.”

Such as it is with life. 

We can attempt to force it in the direction of our choosing, but how much more effective it is when we encourage it with gentle nudges to bring it into center.

M.C. continues by saying, “Because the wheel is center-oriented, the ball of clay will take a centered position naturally if we can create the necessary support and influence.”

I believe

So too with life!  It is center-oriented.

A supportive force, designed to bring us naturally into alignment.  

The catch? It requires our active participation.  In return, it gives us the needed gravitational pull to center.  

It does not require us to reject any part of our selves. 

Yet is does demand we have a clear center to orient us.

With that in balance, we can be confident that we can align all parts as we hold close to our center with seemingly effortless grace.

Life is Change

Time is Precious


We are responsible for how we handle both.

Next month my book group is revisiting Annie Morrow’s Gift from the Sea

moon shell sand

In her adventures in stillness on her Island retreat, she finds herself fascinated with the complex simplicity of the Moon shell. 

Its smooth circles winding inward to the tiny core that was once home to a snail. 

Reminding her to wind inward as well. 

To focus, in solitude, on her center. 

Morrow reflects that the answer to the fragmented lives we have created for ourselves

is to achieve stillness.

Still as the axis of a wheel in the midst of all our activities. 

Literally and metaphorically.


That this is the salvation of the self, of the family, of society, and most likely even of our civilization. (ftnote:p39-58)

With such an overwhelming amount of choices in an already overwhelmingly busy life, she says unfortunately and to our detriment,

“We usually select the known,

seldom the strange. 

We tend not to choose the unknown which might be a shock or a disappointment or simply a little difficult to cope with. 

And yet it is the unknown with all its disappointments and surprises that is the most enriching.” (ftnote: p 119)

Yes, here is

the fine art of our lives

Canada’s own Lucy Maude Montgomery tells us:

“It’s not what the world holds for you. It’s what you bring to it.” 

When we are walking the path we design for ourselves, it can feel almost entirely singular in nature.

We know we live in a world of interconnectedness;

that our lives intersect with others and theirs with ours.

We are aware of the “coincidences” that lead us to each given circumstance. 

But we may view our own journeys,

our moments and theirs,

as linear: 

progressing and regressing,

but single lines nonetheless. 

PEI fields brown

Viewed from a distance,

from a bird’s-eye view,

our lives begin to take on a multi-faceted landscape.

The intersections, excursions and milestones piece together to become a vivid tapestry – each one unique. 

The tiny quiet road we began on;

The highway we rallied for space intermingling with others;

The foot paths we carved out as we take steps on virgin land;

The bridges we crossed,

the roadblocks we found our way around;

The serene locations that we return to over and over when we need to quiet our minds;

The lakes and ponds we created with our tears of sadness and of joy;

The fields that have grown – large and small – as we planted seeds of inspiration in ourselves and in others.

All of these come together to form the fine art of our lives.

The parts we bring as individuals

combine with those we meet along our journeys

to create a gallery of magnificence.

All the while knowing:

Life is Change

Time is Precious


We are responsible for how we handle both.

withc gold hourglass

Borrowed Time

We are all on borrowed time.  

From the moment we awaken to physical birth on our planet, we begin this journey’s end.  Moving ever toward our destinies.  As we meet challenges and are faced with our own mortalities through the loss of a loved one or when we ourselves have be diagnosed with life threatening illnesses, we become increasingly aware how precious Time is.

When stress is present, we often become blind to the amount of Time we spend in the details of overcoming obstacles.  Dealing with the day-to-day silliness this system of things offers in the way of “organization” dilutes the quality of it.   

The Quality of our Time.

As a society, we treat Time as if we have a surplus attached to a lavish line of credit and syphon it into a plethoric gluttony of distractions.  We are either numb to, or feel the pressing weight of, the tedious excess expected

of our Time.  

Time, a commodity impossible to trade for its actual value.   

Time, a trust fund we cannot save for a rainy day.

Time, a gift that comes with freedom of will.

Time, gaining equity only in legacy.

How important it is to make




Not all of us have crystal balls that can tell us exactly when the meter runs out.  But we can each be responsible moderators of the Time we know we do have – and that Time is Now.  

Every moment alive, we get to choose where our Time reserve goes, how we spend it, and who we allow to draw from it.  

Perhaps our greatest responsibility is truly to be mindful of our Time. 

And as we craft the Fine Art of Our Lives,

as we build our communities,

enrich our families and follow our dreams,

within the meter of Borrowed Time

we remember:

Life is Change

Time is Precious


We are responsible for how we handle both.

Join me in standing as you are able to sing

Hymn #1024 “When the Spirit Says Do”


As we go out into the world

May we dedicate some time to stillness, and to solitude

Time to singing and time to dancing

May we create peace in our relationships

Love in our hearts

Hospitality in our Actions

May our paths be blessed with kindness and compassion

And may we be an inspiration to the ever awakening Spirit in all we meet.

Amen and Blessed Be.


A Very Special Thank You to Jason Curran for his beautiful music played during this service.  Felt like spiritual alchemy in ways I simply cannot explain and will not try at this time. Other than to say, he brought tears to my eyes with his rendition of “Beautiful Dreamer” – he could not have known how special that song is to me, and more so now.

twink jason aug 2015 service.jpg



witch gold hourglass

gold spiral×299.jpg

Centering Clay

Moon Shell Sand

PEI Fields