Speaker: Sandy Souder, July 5, 2015

Good Morning Beloved!

Once, in the 1820’s, a little boy called Sam was playing in the yard behind his house. During his pretend fighting game, he knocked over the outhouse. Now Sam was upset and worried that he would get into trouble so he ran into the woods and didn’t come out until after it got dark. When he arrived back home, his pappy was waiting for him. He asked suspiciously, “Son, did you knock over the outhouse this afternoon?”

“No, pappy,” Sam lied.

“Well, let me tell you a story,” said the father. “Once, not that long ago, Mr Lincoln received a shiny new axe from his father. Excited, he tried it out on a tree, swiftly cutting it down. But as he looked at the tree, with dismay he realized it was his mother’s favorite cherry tree,” his pappy paused.” just like you, he ran into the woods. When he returned, his pappy asked, ‘Abraham, did you cut down the cherry tree?’ Abraham answered with, ‘Father, I cannot tell a lie. I did indeed chop down the tree.’ Then his father said, ‘Well, since you were honest with me, you are spared from punishment. I hope you have learned your lesson, though.’ So,” then Sam’s father asked again,” did you knock down the outhouse?”

“Pappy, I cannot tell a lie any more.” said the little boy. “I did indeed knock down the outhouse.”

Then his father spanked Sam red, white, and blue. The boy whimpered, “Pappy, I told you the truth! Why did you spank me?”

Pappy answered, “That’s because Abraham Lincoln’s father wasn’t in the tree when he chopped it down!”

July 4th – Independence Day

Independence…what does that mean to you? Freedom? What is freedom?

It can be many, many things. What do they mean to you?

Many different responses even here in our community.

When I was growing up, to me it meant, getting away from my family…first through college, then my teaching and coaching positions, which were about an hour away from my family’s home. But that job lead to other forms of ‘captivity.’ The responsibilites of those positions and all they involved.

So I traded one set of ‘oughts and shoulds’ for another. And we all do that, don’t we?

Underlying it all the time, tho, was the urge for something more.

James Dillet Freeman, Unity’s Poet laureate wrote in ‘Of Freedom and Fences’ about freedom. He writes:

“Freedom! The word rings like a bell, doesn’t it? It lifts the heart and stirs the passions. But just what is freedom? How free is free?

I have a large, beautiful, extremely active dog. My dog has free access to the yard at all times and in house and yard she lives a very free life, for the most part doing only what she wants to do.

My yard is fenced, but the fence is more of a mental limit than a physical obstacle. Any time she wishes, she could be over it like the wind. Not the fence, but only her own acceptance of the fence keeps her in the yard.

My dog and her fence have made me think about freedom in very different terms than I had ever thought about it before. I have come to realize that the fence does not keep her in bondage; it keeps her free!

Suppose she did jump the fence and go wandering off? Would she be free? How free would she be skittering frightened and bewildered through the unfamiliar maze of the city’s streets?

The fence does not limit her freedom as much as it guarantees it. Freedom is and always must be a relative matter. I may be free to step out of a window, but the moment I do, I lose my freedom. I am made captive and plummeted to earth by forces over which I have no control. I have asserted my freedom beyond my power to maintain it. I have gone beyond my fence.

I built my dog’s fence. In the case of human beings, they themselves may have to build their fences. Not all, of course. Many of our fences have been built by wise and loving people who lived before us, examined the world—as I have for my dog—and realized where fences were needed if they were to preserve, and not lose, their liberty. If we are wise, we accept the fences raised for us by laws … tradition … religious belief … the moral code … good manners and consideration.

For if we go too far beyond the fences of reasonable restraint, we may find we have not extended our freedom, we have lost what freedom we had. To go too far is to come up short.

I wonder if we as a nation are still here after [so many] years because the founding fathers were as aware of fences as they were of freedom when they wrote the Declaration of Independence.

God made us to be free, for we are made in the image and likeness. That is why in the heart of every person stirs the desire freely to express their God-potential. That is why we feel a discontent with anything less than freedom. But we misinterpret it when we feel that it tells us to throw off every restraint, every limitation.

There are two kinds of freedom in the world. We have to be free from and free to. For to be free means to be free from everything that keeps us from achieving our maximum potential, everything that weakens us. And it means to be free to grow, to achieve dominion over our self and all the forces at work in us, to develop and express our creative powers.

We are, all of us, freest when we have the maximum control over ourselves and our lives, when we can say to ourselves, “Go!” and we may go, and when we can say, “Stay!” and we stay.”

We can understand why Mr. Freeman was designated Unity’s Poet Laurate!

We had a vision of freedom last month when the court of the country deemed that ALL people have the right to the freedom of loving who they love. And they can express that love through the benefit of marriage if they so choose.

This is freedom FROM the oppression of others who choose to give up their freedom FROM their fears. The oppressors choose to not accept freedom TO be who they can truly be….fully be.

When I look at freedom, I think it comes with our integrity. It’s part of our integrity. Once we realize what we believe is TRUE for us, we live that truth. And when our integrity is tested or questioned, we are free to say ‘yes’ or ‘no;’ to ‘stay or ‘go’ according to our integrity.

Any action is only free, only in integrity when it does no harm, to myself or to others. This may be where the extremist step out of integrity…step away from freedom for all.

So I’m free to respond within my integrity. My freedom is in the ease of response to what is correct or not, for me. It’s so easy to choose. Because through the journey, what I believe is established. So, each choice is easy to make, based upon the lessons learned and the guidance drawn from those lessons.

It’s easy to choose whether to do good or not; to help another or not; to obey the laws meant to protect us or not.

And if I go against that integrity, I feel in through my body and soul. Hopefully, I feel that ‘ouch’ internally long before I step out of balance. Listening to intuition is very helpful and wise! The choice is easy!

One of the things we learn as we grow is this from Bryant McGill, “You are not responsible for other people’s happiness and they are not responsible for yours.”

It takes a while to learn this. Took me a while to learn I was not responsible for my Mother. I felt as if I took care of her since the day I was born! She was my first experience with counseling!

That counseling was freeing.

Letting go of who I THOUGHT I was supposed to be.

That is freeing.

We’ve mentioned this several times – discovering who we really are, accepting who and what others are, accepting love. This is freedom.

And here is another way to say it; from Meryl Streep:

“I no longer have patience for certain things, not because I’ve become arrogant, but simply because I reached a point in my life where I do not want to waste more time with what displeases me or hurts me. I have no patience for cynicism, excessive criticism and demands of any nature. I lost the will to please those who do not like me, to love those who do not love me and to smile at those who do not want to smile at me.

I no longer spend a single minute on those who lie or want to manipulate. I decided not to coexist anymore with pretense, hypocrisy, dishonestly and cheap praise. I do not tolerate selective erudition nor academic arrogance. I do not adjust either to popular gossiping. I hate conflict and comparisons. I believe in a world of opposites and that’s why I avoid people with rigid and inflexible personalities.

In friendship I dislike the lack of loyalty and betrayal. I do not get along with those who do not know how to give a compliment or a word of encouragement. Exaggerations bore me and I have difficulty accepting those who do not like animals. And on top of everything I have no patience for anyone who does not deserve my patience.”

The woman has her integrity right there in a few short paragraphs. These words give her freedom. She knows what she believes and apologizes to no one for it. This gives her freedom and gives freedom to others also.

Notice she doesn’t say what others need to do or be. She speaks about herself. SO, others are free to be themselves as she is. And, she’s not injuring any one or herself with her belief.

It’s like my older brother said once when we were trying to understand each other and family dynamics after our Father died and we all were growing apart, he said, “this is who I am and I’m not changing.” And so, to protect myself from further emotional and spiritual abuse, I no longer visit that brother. I had to follow my integrity and he is following his, as it is right now.

So, maybe we all should write our own manifestos, as Ms. Streep did. Then we can know what we believe; we can know who we are. And others will know what to expect and can choose to ‘stay’ or ‘go’ according to their manifesto.

An interesting idea. Do you think you know yourself well enough to write one? How freeing would THAT be! – Maybe.