The Happy Place
The talk this morning may be a little shorter than the norm, as I did not put down on paper what I am about to present until about 6:30 this morning. And let me just say, there is nothing more inspiring when writing a sermon than the sound of your husband being violently ill in the next room. But I will tell you that I have composed this sermon in my head on many a sleepless night. So putting this together quickly and delivering it on the fly is not too daunting a task. I think we will be fine this morning. And Gary looks forward to being back with us next Sunday.
My topic today is “The Happy Place”. I don’t know if you have this concept in your regular meditation practices, but I have found it invaluable in my life.
What is The Happy Place, you may ask? Well, it can actually be wherever and whatever you want it to be. My own Happy Place involves a place, a memory that I turn to in my mind as a momentary escape from the cares and concerns of everyday life.
It is a place I can return to again and again in my mind to re-live a happy moment or once again experience a pleasing setting.
I am going to share my personal happy place with you today. My happy place may seem a little mundane to some. It involves a place I like to call “The Field.” The Field is what the kids in my childhood neighborhood in Mansfield, Ohio called the big vacant lot just up the street. The field was bounded on three sides by Cline Avenue, Marion Avenue and the street I lived on, Sloan Avenue. The field had tall trees and some tree limbs on the ground. It was full of nature — Tall grass, patches of clover in the summer. Honey bees, caterpillars, centipedes, ants, grasshoppers, crickets and butterflies abounded. It was a virtual kids’ paradise of creepy, crawly things.
But the best part was that when you sat in the middle of the field, you felt like you were a million miles from nowhere. Even though the field was bordered on three sides by busy streets and on the fourth side by homes, when you were there in that field you felt like you were way out in the woods.
Being a rather introspective child, I remember lazy summer afternoons sitting next to a fallen tree limb in the interior of the field and feeling the breeze on my face, seeing the sun peaking through the branches of those tall trees and listening to the soothing sounds of the insects and the birds in the trees mixed with the rustling of the leaves.
Sitting dreamily in the field, I sometimes had those flashes of moments we have probably all had at one time or another where for a brief moment, just for an instant everything was peaceful and all seemed right with the world. To me, there was something almost magically about that Field.
Well, as fate would have it, the Field gave way to a high rise apartment complex about the time I entered my teens. It was a little ironic that at the time when I had to begin leaving childhood things behind, the Field disappeared. Yet, it still exists in my mind. And I can return there as often as I wish, calling the whole pastoral scene up in my mind at will. It’s a great coping tool!
As you may well imagine, in the past year I have been spending more time than ever before taking my mind back to that field of my childhood.
One other Happy Place I retain from my youth is very simple and involves more a moment of self-awareness than a serene setting.
The setting is my bedroom in the house on Sloan Avenue down the street from that beloved Field. It is a lazy Sunday afternoon. My family’s usual custom was to have a nice big dinner in the early afternoon after church. On this one particular afternoon, it was dark and rainy. Not stormy – just a nice gentle steady rain. It was spring, so normally I would have played outside after dinner, but since it was raining, I retired to my bedroom to lay on my bed and read a Nancy Drew mystery. (I loved Nancy Drew as a child.)
In the course of this lazy occasion, I began to think about things. About life, I guess. I thought, “I wonder what tomorrow will be like?” Then, “I wonder what will happen next Sunday ?” Then my mind drifted to pondering things like, “What will I look like in 10 years? How old will I be in the year 2000? (I couldn’t even imagine myself as middle aged.)
Then I wondered, “What will I be doing next year on this date at this exact same moment?”
As an adult I came to realize that this small, relatively inconsequential period of introspection actually must have been one of the first moments where I thought about my own existence, embraced the reality that I was an individual who would one day no longer be a child and I would have unique experiences in the coming decades of life as an adult. I remember thinking, “I am going to make a note of this date and every year I will remember this very day on that date.” And to this day, I remember March 7, 1965, a simple, non-eventful day that I have chosen to retain as a pleasant memory for 41 years.
Well, either I have struck a chord with most of you or many of you are thinking, this woman could use some serious therapy. And let me just acknowledge that I know not everyone has a Happy Place from childhood to revisit. I know we have all had different experiences in life. Some have good memories of childhood and others not so good. But it is never too late to embrace the concept of “The Happy Place” in our lives, even as adults.
Lately, I have found yet another Happy Place in this sanctuary. Returning to this church every Sunday makes me very joyful. This place is one of the great joys of my life. And I know all of you must have similar feelings. We all make time in our busy lives and set aside the golf and the gardening and the chores on Sunday morning to return to this sanctuary. So this must be a happy place for all of us.
And like that simple day in my life four decades ago – March 7, 1965 – we can remember this place and this day forever. We can cement it in our minds and call this day up to pause and reflect and give ourselves a measure of happiness on days when we need a brief escape from life’s care and concerns.
So I would like, right here and right now, for all of us to collectively seal this moment in our minds – sitting among friends and fellow faith journey-ers in the sanctuary of University Congregational Church on June 11, 2006. I would like us all to have the opportunity to establish this day and place as a Happy Place.
So I ask that we all close our eyes and sit quietly for one minute and drink in the peace and stillness. After one minute of silence I will speak a few words of encouragement to help anchor our new Happy Place in our thoughts.
Please close your eyes now for quiet reflection.
[PAUSE – one minute]
[Silence broken by quietly speaking these words:]
In this Happy Place, we all accept one another as equal and valid human beings.
We love those around us and we are loved by those around us. This Happy Place is comfortable, peaceful, safe.
No matter what happens in the coming weeks, months and years, everything is going to be okay.
God will sustain us through whatever lies ahead.
OK. You may open your eyes.
Well, I hope you have found some inspiration in these hastily crafted words.
May peace and joy be with all of you when you recall June 11, 2006 in this Happy Place, University Congregational Church.
AND NOW WE GO FORTH, SECURE IN THE KNOWLEDGE THAT WE CAN RETURN TO THIS SANCTUARY AGAIN AND AGAIN TO SHARE OUR LIVES AND OUR LOVE WITH ONE ANOTHER IN THIS HAPPY PLACE. AMEN.