Friday, October 26, 2012
I meant to blog about this much earlier, but life's been busy, our son's been sick, and the pace has been non-stop. But now, I want to take a few minutes to share some stories.
As it turns out, most of my conversations have come about through phone-banking. I was part of the "clergy calling clergy" put on by MN United for All Families several weeks ago, as we reached out to other ministers around the state to offer support, encouragement, and a listening ear. We reminded clergy that in previous states where this type of Amendment passed, religious people, especially Christians, hadn't spoken up enough in support of marriage for all people. We reminded them that now was the time to write letters to the editor, to preach about God's love for all committed couples, for all people.
I also spent some time phone-banking last Sunday, calling people to coordinate the get out the vote effort. Being involved in a campaign like this is new for many people, so half of the work is just explaining how it works, offering encouraging words, and asking people to share the story of why they're voting "No." Remembering the very real people that will be hurt by this Amendment helps all of us say "yes" to door knocking, phone banking, or doing whatever else we can do help defeat this Amendment.
I've also had good conversations at the local coffee shop I spend time at. It turns out, most people are already voting "No," but I've definitely met more of my neighbors, and stretched myself by reaching out. There are still a few neighbors to talk to. I'll report back on those conversations.
In all of these conversations, I hold in my minds' eye all the faces and stories of the incredible LGBT people that I know and love...whose love, commitment, and relationships are no different than mine, but who would be permanently excluded from marriage if this Amendment passes, and I tell myself to pick up the phone and to start the conversation.
Thursday, September 27, 2012
And sure enough, that's what the reports confirm.
And it breaks my heart. It breaks my heart to think that this is the only way these men know how to deal with their anger and frustration. It breaks my heart that this keeps happening again and again. It breaks my heart that this kind of violence is seen as a solution and a way to solve the problem, whatever that problem might be. And it breaks my heart that innocent lives were taken and families torn apart. I condemn gun violence in all it's forms, whether it makes the public news, or it's simply the gun violence that happens every day across this country.
It's true that we live in a time of great suffering; many have lost their jobs; many have lost their homes; many are suffering. People are hurting. But gun violence doesn't end the hurting. It only adds to the hurt.
Several months ago, I heard author Parker Palmer speak at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis. He said that violence, whether it's war or personal violence, is what happens when we don't know what else to do with our suffering.
There is a lot of suffering in the world right now, here, and abroad. May we have the courage to hear those who are in pain and to acknowledge their suffering and to help how we can. May we acknowledge our own suffering. And may we find a way to turn our suffering, our tears, grief, anger and fear, into something life giving and life affirming. May it be so.
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
What makes a church relevant and indispensable to the wider community?
As I begin my 4th year at First Universalist, we are beginning to take significant steps to truly engage with the wider community, in a more intentional and sustained way, but we're still a long, long way from were we might be...from where we dream of being.
My greatest fear is that if the church disappeared tomorrow, the neighbors right around us would say, "Hmm...I think there was a church there...I'm not sure. I don't really know." That's a heartbreaking thought.
Instead, if we disappeared, I love to imagine that the neighbors in the community might instead say something like this: "That church was incredible...they will be missed...they provided a great space for community gatherings, and cook outs and concerts in their parking lot; their community garden brought a whole bunch of us together and we'll maintain that no matter who moves into the building! And their after school program for children was such a gift to the community, too. They were engaged in their neighborhood: they help rebuild homes; they hosted block parties; they partnered with others in the community to work on racial justice issues..."
I'm dreaming here, throwing out ideas, but you get the sense of where I'm going with this question.
So what makes a church indispensable and relevant? What are your thoughts/experiences? What makes a church truly indispensable to the neighborhood and community, as well as those who attend?
Please share your stories, ideas, and call out the amazing things that churches (faith communities) are doing to be engaged in their wider communities.
Let's start a conversation!
Monday, September 10, 2012
- Should this Amendment pass, it means that the Government is essentially taking religious sides, saying that one particular religious interpretation belongs in our State Constitution.
- Constitutions are about protecting freedoms and rights, not taking them away.
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
So far, 2 Hope Journals have returned with some beautiful thoughts, pictures, and stories.
But eight are still out there! Do you have one? Have you written in it? Will you return it to the church in the next week or two? I'd love to share stories of hope during our Sunday services on Sept 9 or later in the year.
Sunday, June 24, 2012
It's been a full day of Pride related events, including being a witness to the incredible momentum that is building in the effort to defeat the freedom limiting Marriage Amendment that will be on ballot in November.
And I've been following the events and reports from Phoenix, as the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly meets there.
But the thing that made my heart sing today was this:
A few weeks ago, a neighbor gave our son a monarch caterpillar to raise, watch, and learn from. A few weeks ago, the caterpillar stopped eating and transformed into a chrysalis. This morning, as our son and I were eating breakfast, he noticed how dark the chrysalis was (a stark contrast to its normal translucent golden/green color), and how he could see the outlines of orange and black wings. After breakfast we removed the netting on the top of jar the chrysalis was in and took it outside.
It's stunning. But what's even more stunning is how the caterpillar turns into "goo" inside the chrysalis, essentially disintegrating; in the middle of that "goo" the sleeping "imaginal cells" awaken and over a few weeks turn the "goo" into a butterfly.
It was a gift to be with my son for this experience, to witness this butterfly's emergence.
I was reminded that there's a lot of "goo" in the world, a lot of brokenness, heartbreak, injustice, and despair. Our sacred task, our imaginative task, is to wake up, to see differently, to begin to organize our compassion, empathy, commitment and love - so that together, we might create a new world. Justice is love in action.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Sunday, April 22, 2012
I'll be adding more in the next few days, but here are some links to additional resources that explore the connections between environmental justice, immigration, and food justice.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
On this Sunday after Easter, that reading from John O’Donohue, “For a New Beginning,” seemed like just the right one…because in the days leading up to Easter, it seems as if hope, love, and possibility are crushed and destroyed.
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk…
As our soul senses the world that awaits us.”
This is a new way to do religion. Atheists, theists, Buddhists, Christians, Universalists, we all come to church because this is the place that helps us figure out the right questions to ask, that helps us learn to live with love and compassion at the center of our lives…so that despite loss, heartbreak, even death, love is what is left, love is the final reality. It’s a love beyond belief.
What we believe matters, of course, but how we are – how we live - matters even more. It reminds me of this poem from Hafiz, the 14th Century Persian Poet:
That I can no longer
A Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim
A Buddhist, a Jew.
The Truth has shared so much of itself
That I can no longer call myself
A man, a woman, an angel
Or even pure
Befriended Hafiz so completely
It has turned to ash
Of every concept and image
My mind has ever known.
What that means is that held by a grace, and a love that will not let us go…we are free to give our attention, treasure and hearts to needs that are greater than our own…Held by that love, we are invited to receive the blessings and gifts of this world…And held by that love, we are invited to grow into Love’s people…and we become love’s people, as we serve one another and the wider community…as we build houses in North Minneapolis with Habitat for Humanity, as we serve at Simpson Shelter and Project Homeless Connect…
And as Unitarian Universalists, we fall under the category of “Liberal Religion.” Much of our good news comes out of being a Liberal Religion. Let me tell you what I mean by that.
Remember this line from John O’Donohue poem:
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life's desire.
It's not always clear how we'll get there - but we live in hope.
Now, back to our good news!
I think Unitarian Universalist minister Tony Lorenzen says it best,
Our good news is that when we leave this place, held by love, we are different people – we are love’s people, “spirit of life” people, risk takers for love and justice.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
On Friday, May 4, at 7:00 p.m., he’ll be reading from his book, Voices from the Margins. And on Saturday, May 5, from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 pm, he’ll be leading a workshop, on “The Perversity of Diversity.”
Sunday, April 15, 2012
Friday, April 6, 2012
I'm still buzzing from our recent sermon series, "Living in the Holy Tension." Based on the feedback and comments from many congregants, this sermon series really landed in people's lives, naming some of the "holy tensions" we all live with, both individually, and even as an institution. For a quick explanation of what we mean by "holy tensions," check out this article from our March newsletter. Essentially, we're talking about living in that space between two things...that space where creativity, possibility, the holy, and new insight reside. The trick is often to live there, without moving toward resolution too quickly. It often seems that out of that tension, something remarkable and life giving can be born.
In case you missed the sermons, here they are, linked to the podcasts:
*On March 4, 2012, Rev. Kate Tucker kicked off this sermon series with "Living in the Holy Tension."
*March 11, Rev. Meg Riley preached a great sermon about race, privilege, love, and much more, called "Unpacking Love."
*On March 18, I preached about the holy tension between "Spirit and Justice."
*On March 25, I preached about "Blessing in Wounding."
This last sermon started a conversation on Twitter and Facebook about the tensions between blessing and wounding...how they are so often woven together. And I'd love to open up a space to deepen that conversation here, as well. How has this whole sermon series spoken to your life? What did it awaken? What new "holy tensions" have you become aware of? What's stirring in your spirit?
Let's continue the conversation here!
Thursday, January 26, 2012
I will still get to some of the questions you all have left, and will no doubt include further reflections on such things as "eating as a spiritual practice..." I actually think our relationship to food, and food and table fellowship especially, are worthy of multiple blog posts.
Anyway, thanks to all of you who were regular readers. I hope your own spiritual practice has been deepened in some way, or you've begun a new spiritual practice. Thanks the those of you jumped in with comments and questions. Reading your comments and thoughts made this meaningful and fun.
This Sunday, we wrap our "Living Resolutions" sermon series, with a sermon called, "Losing Weight: Casting Out Demons." Come find out what that's all about. We worship at 9:30 and 11:15. I hope to see some of you there.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Day 24 of Spiritual Practices and Reflections: Some invitations to Give (Or: Giving as a spiritual practice)
“All that we have is a loan from life itself…. The world doesn’t owe us anything…. We owe the world and its abundant miracles…our gratitude, our praise…. The spirit map suggests that we live with humility and gratitude at the center of our lives.
Gratitude opens the heart to generosity. When we’re really grounded in gratitude, we can remember that it’s all on loan. We don't get to take it with us; it’s not ours to keep—it’s not our to begin with—so we might as well share the blessings; we might as well become generous.” (You can listen to the whole sermon here.)
For the past five years, I have been focusing on truly living from a place of gratitude and generosity. It's not always easy, but as I've written about before, almost every morning, when I write, reflect, and spend some time in prayer, I try to identify at least three things in my life that I'm grateful for. Sometimes it's easy, sometimes it's hard. But living from this place of gratitude changes my inner life and how I am in the world. Gratitude invites me to give back, to serve the world. As a faith community, we strive to practice giving, gratitude, and generosity. Here are a few of the ways we do that:
If you're a part of the First Universalist community, I hope you'll join us for our Day of Service, Feb 4. We have over 30 different projects going on that day, as we serve (give back) to the wider community. We've challenged ourselves to give 2000 hours of service to the community on Feb. 4, and we've got service projectsfor families, youth, and people of all ages. If you're in the Twin Cities, I hope you'll sign up and participate. And feel free to invite a friend to join you, too! (It's worth noting that many of these Day of Service groups continue to work and give together throughout the year, so it's not just a one time event.)
Monday, January 23, 2012
I'm inspired by the "practicing" theme that has run through January's sermons. This month the same message has come through my work to be a better writer - something else I think I'm working on. Thinking about writing and now about my spirituality, I realize how little "practicing" I do these days (and the dearth of practice isn't limited to spirituality and writing unfortunately!).
I'm going to put those two things together and commit to/set aside time to practice writing about faith, God, Spirit, church in a reflective, wandering way. Four times a week for 30 minutes.
Looking forward to the adventure...
Sunday, January 22, 2012
It's been a few Sundays since I've walked into church. I was doing it very regularly right up until the holiday season, but I haven't done it yet in the new year. I'm going to do it today, because despite the preparation work I still need to do for today's sermon, I know I'll be more grounded, centered, and grateful if I walk to church today. So I'm "making" time to walk into church today, rewriting the narrative that says "I don't have enough time."
What would you like to make time for in your life? What is an easy first step you can take to make this happen?
P.S. Today is the last day to sign up for Small Groups at First Universalist for the winter/spring semester. We have groups for newcomers (folks who have been at the church less than a year), groups for parents with young children, two men's group, a group for parent's of teens, and many groups open to everyone. I blogged about this here, and you can learn more at the church's website, here.
...I'm wondering how you're defining "spiritual practices?"I probably should have defined this back on day one, when I launched this month of blogging. But better late than never. Roughly, here's how I understand spiritual practices and spiritual disciplines:
- More than anything else, spiritual practice has to do with a particular kind of attention and awareness. It has to do with how we're showing up in the world and how present we are. I return again and again to this quote from Mary Oliver: "The first, wildest, and wisest thing I know is this: that the soul exists, and it is made entirely of attention." Spiritual practices/disciplines are about growing the soul, about paying attention in such a way that the "soul" expands. Spiritual practices are about noticing the ways our inner lives, the world, and something larger than ourselves are woven together.
- With this understanding, parenting young children (any age, really, but especially young children) can be seen and understood as a spiritual practice. Gardening can be understood as a spiritual practice. Prayer can be understood as a spiritual practice. Any of these things can be vehicles that help us see a bigger picture, that help us subdue the ego, that locate us in mystery, wonder, and awe.
- A spiritual practice/discipline often has a deeply reflective component. So tap dancing (to take an example from the previous post) could become a spiritual practice, if one understood "God "or the "Spirit of Life" to be found in the dancing itself, in that playful, noise-making, rhythm making, dancing...and understood, through tap dancing, that one could participate in something larger than one's self, then that could become a spiritual practice.
Friday, January 20, 2012
So here's a short list with a few words of explanation:
1) An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith, by Barbara Brown Taylor. Incredible book. Each chapter is about a spiritual practice/discipline. Taylor is compelling and easy to engage with. This is an outstanding book.
2) Mary Oliver; her poetry book, Thirst is great, as if her book of collected poems. Anything by her generally speaks to me.
3) I've been returning to the Psalms, trying to read one a day. I'm using this book: The Complete Psalms: The Book of Prayer Songs in a New Translation.
4) I love Rachel Naomi Remen's books. Powerful stories about listening, healing, and love. She understands medicine and healing as a kind of spiritual practice and discipline.
5) John O'Donahue's book, To Bless the Space Between Us.
6) Risking Everything, 110 Poems of Love and Revelation
7) And I love Parker Palmer's book, Let Your Life Speak.
8) I'm also in a Small Group at church (made of staff); this helps center and ground my life. If you're at First Universalist, I hope you'll join a group - you can sign up right now.
There's a lot of Unitarian Universalist authors and ministers I turn to, as well...and back in the post about prayer, there is a great resources by Erik Wikstrom, a Unitarian Universalist minister and author...
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
I just read this little piece in the Christian Century's "Century Marks" section:
Bonnie Ware has long worked in palliative care, spending time with the dying during the final weeks of their lives. Over the years she's heard the same regrets from the dying. They wish they had had the courage to be themselves, rather than trying to meet expectations. They say they should not have worked so hard - a lament heard especially from the older generation of males. They regret not having had the courage to express their feelings, even if doing so would have caused others pain. They say they should have stayed in touch with their friends and given more time to nurturing friendships (Activist Post, November 30).This piece really resonates with me, really prompts me, in little ways, to make some adjustments in my day to day living. I don't feel too far off course; reflecting on this piece can help keep it that way.
As you move into this new year, what courage would you like to summon? In what ways can you cut back on work, if you're working too much? What friendships can you nurture or re-engage in? How can you do more of what truly feeds you and brings you joy?
Thinking about the end of life can be a powerful vehicle to help us occupy our lives in new and transforming ways. (If you're looking for additional resources, last March we had a whole sermon series on Death and Endings. Here's one of the sermons I preached.)
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Day 17 of Spiritual Practices and Reflections: Why Love Matters (or: "Why Marriage Equality is a Religious Issue")
It was a good training, and what really became clear to me during the hour was this: I didn't get married for the rights that marriage brings (although the rights are terribly important). I got married because love opened my heart in the deepest way I've ever known. I got married because I wanted to journey through life with someone who was a true partner, who helped me be the best person I can be (and who I helped as well), through thick and thin. I got married because of love, not because of the rights. Again, the rights matter, in this training it became clear to me that it's the bigger framing of this issue, as one of love, commitment, and growing old with someone, that really changes people's minds around this issue. As the website of Minnesotans United for all Families says,
We believe marriage and family are about love and commitment, working together, bettering the community, raising children, and growing old together. We believe in a Minnesota that values and supports strong families and creates a welcoming environment for all Minnesota
That's why marriage equality matters.
I'm curious, if you're married: why did you get married? What caused you to take that leap of faith? Was it love? Was it because your partner felt like a soul mate? Why did you get married? Was it for the rights?
And as I think about working to defeat the marriage amendment, and all that is ahead of us in the coming months, it's clear to me that this is not a "head" argument. This is a "heart" argument. As people of faith, who believe that love matters can be at the center of all we do (we're Universalists for heaven's sake!), we need to tell the story of love, the stories from our hearts - so we can move beyond the "rights" argument (as important as that is), and understand that this is a "love argument." And the spiritual practice then, is to tell our story, to talk about why love matters and how love has shaped and formed us. The practice is to have the courage and discipline to do this, dozens and dozens of times before next November's vote, so we engage in "heart" conversations with our friends, families, and neighbors...and talk about why marriage matters and why love matters. (And if you're looking for some inspiration about love, try this from Kathleen Norris: "Here's the gospel is seven words: God is love; this is no joke.")
If you'd like to join us, congregants of First Universalist Church will be gathering on Wednesday, Jan 18th, at 7pm, to explore the role that we have, as people of faith, in celebrating love and defeating this amendment.
Sunday, January 15, 2012
Or really dig into lectio divina for a while. Sit with a poem or scripture for a couple of mornings. Really let it speak to you. Let it come alive in your heart and body. Or start a daily gratitude journal, or send a letter of gratitude to someone every day. Or go back to the opening post in this series, and re-read the article about our Unitarian Transcendentalist forebears, and how they engaged in many of these practices, as a way to grow and cultivate their souls. Get inspired by them, and pick a practice. Stick with it. Go deep.
I'm curious - what are you practicing? What's your discipline? How's it going?
Saturday, January 14, 2012
Here's a video, made by a youth team in our church, that invites members and friends to participate in this year's Feb 4th day of service:
Rachel Naomi Remen, medical doctor and author, says this about service:
Serving makes us aware of our wholeness and its power. The wholeness in us serves the wholeness in others and the wholeness in life. The wholeness in you is the same as the wholeness in me. Service is a relationship between equals: our service strengthens us as well as others...service is renewing. When we serve, our work itself will renew us...in serving we find a sense of gratitude.Serving is a way of being in the world, a practice. It's not about us or our needs; it's about wholeness, relationships, partnering with others, and it changes our orientation in the world. It's about getting outside of ourselves and entering the larger current of life. And when we serve together, I think we understand ourselves as a faith community in new and powerful ways. I'll never forget last year, on the Sunday after the day of service, when we invited everyone who had served on the day of service to stand up - and more than half the congregation stood. It was remarkable, the joy, energy, and gratitude we all felt.
In what ways do you serve in your life? How has serving changed your life? Do you regularly make time to serve others, in ways large and small? How do you feel when you are served by another? Are you able to receive their gifts, their loving service?
If you're in town, I hope you'll join us for our day of service on Feb 4, 2012. Invite a friend! And if you're willing to be a point person for a project on the day of service, please let me know.