Why Are We Here?

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Opening Words (here)

Sermon notes:

The words church and God in the reading may have made some of you uncomfortable. Remember what I said the other week? Listen to your discomfort. It can be a good thing. In the story I told the children, I imagine the person who was asked the question about the purpose of the church was more than a little uncomfortable.

So why are we here? Why are you here? Why does the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalist even exist? History could be referred to of course, there were reasons this congregation was formed. There were reasons that some of the founding members mortgaged their homes in order to purchase this land and build these buildings that we enjoy.

I love questions. You will learn that. I think most Unitarian Universalists love questions. One could even say that asking questions is a part of our free faith. We don’t have creeds, but instead we have guidelines for ethical behavior, which is what our seven principles are about. If you don’t remember them, they are on the back of your order of service. This is not a faith tradition where everyone can do whatever they might feel like doing, whenever they feel like doing it. It is an accepting tradition; we do acknowledge our imperfection. We aspire to high ideals and know we will still sometimes fail, sometimes dismally. That is OK, but the demanding part of our faith is that we keep trying. We have goals and visions of the world we would like to create. It isn’t an easy task.

This fellowship has a mission statement. Did you know that? It pretty much answers the question of why we are here. It says what we are supposed to be doing here together, on Sundays and throughout the week.

The mission statement is on the front of your order of service.

“Building character, enriching spirits, promoting community, and serving humankind through spiritual growth and social action.”

It is a pretty great statement, I think. Do you all like it too?

But what does it mean? Building character: this fellowship intends to build the characters of those who participate. Someone from another congregation told me that they came to Sunday services to learn how to be a better person. Is that true for you? It matters how we live our lives and how we treat each other. Character also includes other things like integrity and responsibility, practicing compassion and forgiveness, being open minded, curious, inspired to make a positive difference with our lives, both for the people we are close to and for the wider community and world.

We are also here to enrich spirits, to help people feel whole and to experience joy and sorrow in ways that are real. A religious community needs to provide comfort to those that are hurting. Has this fellowship ever done that for you?

Promoting community – this is what we practice because we know that we are all connected. Our congregations can be places where we can discover how to get along with people who are different from us, who will change us and who we will change, because we are all a part of that interconnected community of life on this planet. We can then take what we have learned out into the world and help others learn about living with both respect and with love.

Our purpose is also to serve, all of humankind the mission statement says. Unitarian Universalism is not a “sit back and enjoy own spiritual understanding. No, we are called to serve, and spiritual growth is what fuels our social action. We can learn to love the whole world, including ourselves.

But why do you come here? Why do we need a congregation like this one here in this town? Why do we need a religion like Unitarian Universalism in the world?

So think for a minute about why you came here this morning. You are here after all, so you must have a reason for coming.

What are some of them? Go ahead and shout them out. I know some of you are not shy.

Robin Bartlett, a Unitarian Universalist Religious educator, in her blog post from which our reading was taken, has heard a lot of people say they come to church for their children, because the children are asking questions about God, or because a neighbor or friend is trying to recruit them into a more conservative religion.

Some people say they come to church because the sermons are entertaining. The crazy preacher can be really funny; you never know just what she will say. You could find much better entertainment, however, on TV, in the movies.

Maybe you come for the music, but you can find great music a lot of places, at concerts, festivals, and even on I tunes.

Some people say they come for the intellectual stimulation, to hear words and ideas that make them think. Of course you could attend a college level lecture for that. There are a lot of other places you can go to stimulate your brain cells.

Maybe you come because you care about social justice. This community works very hard in many ways to bring more justice, equity, and compassion into our world. But if social justice action is your only reason, there are literally thousands of other groups you could join that are doing fabulous work for a wide variety of social causes.

If you are looking for inspiration here, for motivation, for ideas on how to live in this complex world, you could read poetry, listen to TED talks, or join a self-help group.

If you are hurting and looking for comfort or if you are trying to find yourself, you could go to therapy.

Some people come to church to make friends, or even to find a life partner. You could also do that at a bar, a health club, or through social media.

Some people also come to church to find God, the holy, to connect with their inherent spirituality. There are other ways to do that. Go out in nature, watch a sunset, plant flowers, or play with your children. You will surely find the holy there.

Did I cover everything?

I did forget one, which reminds me of another joke. I’d heard it before, but one of our elder’s shared it with me the other week.

It’s Sunday morning and the alarm goes off. A woman turns over in bed and groans. She turns to her partner and moans. I don’t want to go to church today. I know the sermon is going to be boring. People will ask me to do things I don’t have time for. I’d rather just stay home and sleep in today. Her partner turns to her with a sigh. Honey, you have to go to church today. “Why? Why do I have to go to church?”

The answer? “Honey, you have to go to church because you are the minister.”

There are many reasons to come to church, but unless you are the minister, there are many other options. Even ministers can decide on a different career choice. Almost none of us are do it for the money in any case.

But how many places can you go where all of those reasons can apply?

Robin Bartlett tells us to go to church

“for community, for learning, for solidarity, for a good word, for love, for hope, for comfort, even for salvation. Go to church because you can’t imagine not going. Go to church because (of what) your church …demands of you. Go to church because you cry in the worship service at least once a month. Go to church because you look forward to seeing the people.

Go to church because your church forces you to put your money where your mouth is–to use your financial resources to make a statement about what has worth. Go to church because you are known here. Go to church because you want to be known. Go to church because you pray for this same imperfect, rag-tag group of people all week until you meet again. Go to church because you need to in order to get through your week. Go to church because if you miss a week, you feel like something was really missing in your life. Go to church because your church community helps you to go deeper; to risk transformation; to yank you further down a path–to ultimate reality, to truth, to God–kicking and screaming. Go to church because it is a statement to yourself and your children about what has value and meaning. Go to church to find your purpose and live it. Give yourself the gift of church.” http://uuacreligiouseducation.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/dont-go-to-church-for-your-children/

She goes on to say, specifically addressing parents who say they come to church for their children,

“If church is not a gift for you, it won’t be a gift for your children.

You know that old (line) that we borrow from (the) plane instructions we hear read by flight attendants–… apply your own oxygen mask first before you apply your child’s, right? Well, you are your child’s religious educator and oxygen mask. Not our (religious exploration) curricula. Not our volunteer teachers. Not (the) minister. You. That’s a big responsibility, and (maybe) you don’t feel up to the task because (few) of us do.

But if we aren’t getting our spiritual needs met–our religious yearnings satiated; our deepest cries in the night soothed; our need to serve and be served; our God-sized hole occasionally filled, emptied and then filled up again– then we are never going to be up to the task of helping our children do the same.”

She says, “Don’t go to church for your children; go to church for you. You deserve it. Your children deserve it. And this brutal and beautiful world needs you to.”

That last line is worth repeating, “This brutal and beautiful world needs you to.” How important is this congregation, not just to those of us who gather here each Sunday, but also to others in our town, in our state. I think we offer a vital service just by continuing to exist and to thrive. We offer hope to the young person wondering if their life is worth living because they are gay, to the man just released from prison expecting to be shunned by everyone he meets, to the recovering alcoholic, to the person who is homeless,to the eccentric thinker who everyone else thinks is just crazy, to the members of conservative religions who worry that their questions are somehow sinful, and to all the people who are suffering in so many ways from a culture that is far from accepting of differences and difficulties. Even if they never find their way here, even if they never sit in this room with us, if they know about us, we have given them some hope. We have made a difference. We have offered an alternative, a radical alternative, a community based on love.

So if you have been thinking this morning about the reasons you come here, I assume you have thought of more than a few.

I have another question for you. How much would it cost if you went other places to get what you find here at this church? How much more would you be spending on tuition, on therapy, on concert and movie tickets, or on drinks in a bar, if you did not come to church? What about the things that are truly priceless? How could you possibly meet anywhere else the diverse and wonderful people we have here in this religious community? Where else would you be welcomed with such open and loving arms no matter who you are and how you are feeling?   Where else are tears and laughter both not only acceptable, but treated as precious?

One last joke so we can end on a lighter note

Ready?

“If you don’t know what eschatology means, it’s not the end of the world.”

Hilarious right? OK, for those of you who don’t get that joke, eschatology is the theological stance of a particular religion on the end of the world. It isn’t something most Unitarian Universalists worry about much. We definitely don’t take the book of revelation literally. We may worry about environmental disasters or wars ending life on this planet, but our various views of God and the divine do not include the idea that God will destroy the world at some future date.

No, our theology is about life, about continual new beginnings, second, third and fourth chances. It is a life saving, life enhancing theology. We stand on the side of love, and that is why we are here. Amen and Namaste.

Why are we here #BFUU

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Why are we here?

Living at the intersection

Of Cedar and Bonita

This beautiful tree

Has deep roots

Watered by love

And sacrifice

A passion for justice

A yearning for peace.

The branches a shelter

For all who have need.

 

Growing and changing

Stretching tall and wide

Reaching out

Reaching in

Wrapping minds

Hearts and arms

Around a world

Around a vision

Love will win

We can make it so.

This tree will grow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 11, 2011

A reflection I wrote on the 10 year anniversary of 9/11

 

“We are the spirit of God. We are our grandmothers’ prayers, our grandfathers’ dreaming, mothers of courage and fathers of time, daughters of dust and sons of great vision, sisters of mercy and brothers of love.” (Sweet Honey in the Rock)

We need the spirit of God in the world. We need the spirit of humans who are willing to devote their lives to compassion, to work for justice and for peace, and to hold the love of our neighbors, our neighbors here and around the world, as our highest religious value.

This isn’t easy, especially when we are remembering that horrible day when we saw the planes crashing into the towers and so many died. Life has its tragedies of course. People die in floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, in car accidents, and of disease. We grieve at those times, but there is usually no one obviously to blame. These things just happen. When a tragedy is intentional, however, when another human being willingly sets out to cause others immense pain and suffering, it is so much harder to understand.

The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were not the first such events in history, even our own history here in the United States. Oklahoma City and Columbine come to mind. And can we forget the mass lynching of African Americans, the mass murder of the Native American peoples, the shame of the lives lost during the middle passage during the slave trade?

The Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire in NYC in 1911, where 146 workers died because the owners had locked the exit doors was one of the worst disasters in NYC and it is all but forgotten.

The holocaust, Rwanda, Bosnia, the Belgian Congo, South Africa, Hiroshima, the Crusades, how can we forget those events and how can we feel alone in our suffering?

How can we forget the murders of Gandhi, of Martin Luther King and the Kennedy brothers, of Jesus, and  of John Lennon?

How can we stand silent when people are being attacked and beaten in our own state simply because of who they love and who they are?

How can we stand silent about two wars that seem they will never end, wars where there will be no victory, just continued, pain, sacrifice and suffering? Revenge does not relieve pain, it just creates more.

One of the images that has most stayed in my mind from ten years ago is one that is not often shown on television anymore. Some of you probably remember it. Just before the first tower collapsed, people jumped out of the windows. Certain death, I am sure they knew, but it was an action they could take, something they could do. I was most moved by seeing two people holding hands as they fell. Do you remember that? As far as I know they were never identified. How could they be? Two people, maybe they were friends, maybe lovers, or perhaps they were even strangers. Were they a man and a woman, two women, two men, maybe one of them was transgender?

Were they Muslim, Christian, pagan, Jew or atheist? Does it matter? Whoever they were, they each reached out in that moment and held on tight to the other person’s hand. With courage and with faith, they knew they were not alone. They knew what they were holding in their hand was another human being, just like them, another human soul, precious and rare, fragile and miraculous. At the very last minute of their lives, they were holding on to what matters most. They were caring for each other.

That is what matters most. It is what we need to remember when we think about all the times and places where we humans have committed atrocities. None of us are alone. We are all connected. We all have each other, all the hurting hopeful people of the world. It matters. We matter. We just have to reach out and take that hand. Together we can manifest the spirit of God in the world. May it be so, amen and blessed be.

Gathering of the Waters – 9/7/14 Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists

dry lake

Opening Words: 

Come in peace, come in hope.

We welcome all:

The thirsty and searching,

The steadfast and stalwart,

We welcome the stubborn and the strange.

You are not a stranger here.

First time visitor or charter member,

This place, this time is for you.

Your precious spirit is a blessing to the world.

Your unique gifts, your joys and your sorrows,

Your strengths, your weaknesses,

Your worries and your ideas,

All have a place within these walls.

Come in this morning,

Let the gentle waters of the larger spirit,

Soothe you and heal you.

Shed your tears,

And drink your fill.

We come together

Pausing for a moment

Our busy, separate lives.

We come to worship

In song, in words, in silence, and in ritual.

The river flows on with the force of all our yearnings.

Come in peace, come in hope.

Let our thirst be quenched this day,

That we may have the strength

To carry the water of life to the wider world.

Amen and blessed be.

Reflection:

Reflection:

 

Today is our water communion Sunday; something this fellowship has been doing each fall for quite some time. It is not an ancient tradition, however. It was created in 1980 at the Women & Religion continental convocation and it is a celebration of both community and of what each individual brings to that community.

Over time, the tradition changed from one that contained deep spiritual meaning to one that was fun in some ways, but also quite problematic. People would come forward and add water to the common bowl, saying where it was from. Unfortunately this rather quickly turned into “what I did on my summer vacation.” Sometimes people even competed to bring water from as far away as possible. It wasn’t very spiritual or meaningful at all and tended to privilege those who could afford an expensive summer vacation.

I understand that Rev. Joy did this service a little differently last year and today we are going to try yet another way. See how it feels to you.

This ritual really is for young and old, for rich and poor, for gay and straight, for the able and less able, for people of all backgrounds, races, and situations. It is for founding members and first time visitors. The water will be poured into a common bowl symbolizing that whoever we are, that for whatever reason we have come here this morning, we bring with us something of value, something to be treasured, and something to be shared. Some of the water will be used to water the plants in our garden, but some will be saved both for next year and to use in special ceremonies such as child dedications.  Water is a wonderful symbol, a wonderful metaphor. Single drops of water, over time, can change the hardest stone. The power of water is even greater when those drops are gathered together and flow as one, one stream, one river, and one ocean. Water is essential to life. Without it we would die. People need access to water in order to survive. Community is also essential to our lives as human beings. Without human contact, the soul withers and dies. Times of solitude can be good for self-reflection, but long lasting solitary confinement is one of the worst punishments that have ever been devised.

One of my favorite poems is I’ve Know Rivers by Langston Hughes, an African American poet from the Harlem renaissance of the 1920’s and also a gay man. It is in our hymnal #528. Let’s read it together.

 

I’ve known rivers:

I’ve know rivers ancient as the

World and older than the flow of

Human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

 

I bathed in the Euphrates when

dawns were young.

I built my hut near the Congo and

It lulled me to sleep.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

 

I looked upon the Nile and raised

The pyramids above it.

I heard the singing of the

Mississippi when Abe Lincoln

Went down to New Orleans and

I’ve seen its muddy bosom turn

All golden in the sunset.

I’ve know rivers:

Ancient dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

Our souls grow deep, I believe, when we become more aware of our connections. Souls, like rivers, cannot stand still, movement, change is in their very nature. Just as rivers seek the sea, we humans seek connection with something greater than ourselves. One of our tasks, as human beings, and collectively as a religious community, is to deepen our souls, to increase our understanding, and to move forward toward that transformative moment when we know that we are not alone. That no one is alone. Just like in our opening hymn, the peace, the sorrow, the joy, the pain, the love, the tears, and the strength each of us has within us, fills us and binds us together as we move toward the sea of mutual care and understanding.  All of it, all of the individual drops of our complicated lives come together and create the spirit of life that can both heal and transform. It is then we really feel the power of the river, the power of love. It is a wellspring of the spirit that calls us to drink deeply and be satisfied and renewed.It comforts us when we are lonely and gives us the strength to work for justice.

Some of you may have brought water with you today that you gathered from somewhere special to you. If you have done that, please think for a minute about the moment you gathered that water. What did you feel? Perhaps the water is from a distant place, a river, lake, or ocean. Maybe it is from a drinking fountain or from your kitchen.  If you forgot to bring water or if you simply didn’t know that we would be doing this today, we have some water here for you to use. Think about where you would have collected water; think about what might have been meaningful to you. Water is precious, no matter where it is from. Too many in our world do not have access to clean and safe drinking water. Too many people are hungry.

People are precious. Too many in our world do not have access to a caring and inclusive religious community. It takes many drops of water to form a river and it takes many individuals to form a community, to form a congregation. As we gather the water together this morning, let us remember to share the best of ourselves with each other and to hold each other in tenderness. It is each of us singly and together that create this community, and it is together that we make this ceremony sacred and holy. I invite you each to think for a moment about what you bring with you today, something that is important, that is in your soul, in your heart, something that makes you the individual you are, precious and holy. You don’t have to name this in words; it can just be a feeling, maybe a hope that has rested quietly inside of you, maybe a passion, a yearning, whatever your heart, your spirit suggests.

If you have found something, a feeling, whatever it is, even if is a sense of confusion, consider it as a gift, an offering, a blessing that you bring to both this community and to the planet. If you haven’t found it yet, continue to let your mind and emotions swirl around it. Something will come to you. Each of you has something very special inside of you that can give you the power to bless the world. Maybe it is a type of energy that can feel like a refreshing rain, and perhaps it is the simple tears of tenderness and longing.

Holly will begin playing some music in a moment. First I will add the water in this small vial. It was given to me at the UU Church of Ogden during my last Sunday service there. It contains a mixture of almost 25 years of their water communions. This congregation is now connected to them. They grew me into the minister I am today and those dear souls now minister to you through me.  Then, I will invite each of you to come forward to share your gift of the spirit as you add your own water to the bowl.  First the elders and then the children, and then the rest of you.  Add your water without words if that feels right or, if you want, perhaps whisper a word or two that describes what you are feeling. Holly will be playing while we do this, so not everyone will hear whatever words may be spoken, but we will all be listening to each other, with the fullest attention of our hearts.

 

Got to be Tough

You’ve got to be tough

She said

Or you would not

Have survived

Yes I am

I said

For survive I did

 

Hard headed yes

With few illusions

But tender hearted too

True strength

Is brave enough

To risk everything

For love

 

 

 

 

 

“Say Hello” 08/24/14

 

 

photo 2-2

Opening words:

Come in today come in.

Bring yourselves your friends your family

Come alone or in a crowd

Bring your faith and bring your doubts

Bring your gladness and despair

You are welcome here

In the fullness of who you are,

this hour, this day

Come in come in

 

Relax in your chair

Take a deep breath

and rest awhile.

Listen to the music

Close your eyes.

Feel the pulse

Of beating hearts.

Let the stillness stir you

To laugh to sing to move

Whatever you came for

Whoever you are

We are glad you are here

Today

 

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Sermon notes:

 

Well hello there.

 

I am so happy to be here. I met a lot of you last Sunday and have gotten to know some of the staff and the leadership during the week. I have appreciated the warm welcome I have received.

 

I am here as your developmental minister and I likely have a style that you are not really used to. That is probably obvious to most of you already. Let’s talk about that some, as we begin to say hello in a deeper way, in a way that goes beyond the fairly easy “hi, how’s it going, pleased to meet you”, kind of conversation we engage in with people we have just met.

 

And while we are having those conversations, our very human tendency is to begin to judge the person we are meeting based upon pretty superficial things. How do they speak? Do they seem well educated, politically aware? Are they smart or pretty clueless? Hairstyles and clothing also make an impression on us and we also make assumptions about the person’s racial or ethnic background. Appearances are just that, however, appearances. There is a deeper truth, the reality and quite incredible uniqueness of the individual as a whole person. Just as in the song we sang earlier, they are somebody.

 

Most people have a need, I believe, a need to be really seen as who they are and to not be dismissed and diminished by someone else’s stereotype.

It is part of respecting the inherent worth and dignity of every person and it is part of practicing our faith of Unitarian Universalism, to look just a little deeper, to really say hello to the person, not just who they might appear to be.

 

OK, let’s talk about the robe I am wearing. I suspect it makes a few of you a little uncomfortable. It emphasizes my status as ordained clergy, and frankly that is the main reason I wear it. It is not a demand for respect that I do not have to earn. Instead, it is for me, an important reminder of the role I am in. I am your minister, not your friend. I am part of this community, but not of it. I am here to serve not myself or even you as individuals, but to serve something higher than all of us. That something would be called God, if one were a theist. It might be called something like the common good by a humanist. The work I do for you as your minister should also be for the overall good of this institution, the BFUU and also, for Unitarian Universalism as a whole. It isn’t about me. The robe and stole remind me of this each week. It reminds me that being a minister is a sacred calling. Don’t worry about that word, “sacred” for now, it can also just mean precious and important.

 

As mystical and impressive as that explanation might sound, and it is the most important reason, I also like to wear a robe just because it is very practical. I don’t have to worry so much what I will wear on Sunday morning. It is so much easier for a male minister; they can just switch up their shirts and maybe their ties and they are good to go.

I do have several different robes and stoles, so it shouldn’t be too terribly boring looking at me every week.

 

So if my robe makes you uncomfortable, if prayer makes you uncomfortable, if anything makes you uncomfortable, I want to ask you to try and develop a practice of and imagining that you are just saying hello to something new, something or someone you may not fully understand as yet. What is this all about? What are my assumptions?   What does it mean to me? What does it mean to other people? We have had the use of language as a species for quite a long time, but we haven’t yet really learned how to communicate well. I am an extrovert (no kidding) and I sometimes just keep talking if it seems someone doesn’t understand. Feel free to ask me to wait, that you need to think about something more. We all process things a little bit differently.

 

And know that it is OK to be uncomfortable. Frankly it can be a good thing. If all we ever do is just sit on the sofa, we don’t really get to experience life. Discomfort can be a sign that change is happening, and there is no growth without change. Change is simply part of life. Growing pains are real.

 

So hello. Who am I? A little bit of biography: I was born and grew up in Watsonville CA. I am 64 years old, married, finally last year to my wife, Anne, who I have been with since 1975. We have three adult children in their mid-to- late twenties. The boys both live in the Bay area and our daughter is currently living in New York City. We don’t have any pets.

I went to UCB from 1968-1974, getting a BA in demography and a MA in sociology. I then worked for the social security administration for twenty-five years in Richmond CA, in the big red brick building next to the downtown BART station. I took early retirement in 2001, partly because George Bush was elected, but that is a long story and not appropriate for worship. I was an active lay leader at our Congregation in San Rafael from 1994 until I started seminary at Starr King. I did my internship in Annapolis, Maryland and served as the minister of the UU Church of Ogden from September 2007 until the end of June of this year.

 

Whoa! Now I am here. Hello.

 

I am here as a developmental minister. That means I am here to help lead you through the changes you will need to make so that BFUU will continue to not only exist, but to thrive. You want that, don’t you? You want BFUU to continue, and for it to thrive, yes? Not that you aren’t beautiful, as Rocky said so well last week, just the way you are. But, let me say this clearly. You can be much better than you are. You can have awesome worship services each and every week. They can combine words and music, ritual and, yes, also prayer and meditation, in a way that will not just make you think, but will also stir your emotions. There can be the kind of services that can feed your spirits and renew your energy so that you are better able to face the week ahead, with all the challenges that we all face in our lives.

This can be a place that is truly welcoming to all, regardless of their theological beliefs or even their politics.

 

You can also be self-sustaining financially. Frankly, the level of support that most members of this congregation are giving is embarrassing. If you care about this place, you need to kick that up several notches. Double or triple what you planned to put in the plate this morning.   We will talk about money a lot in the coming months and probably years. We need to, because you are spending way more than you are taking in. It simply cannot go on forever that way.

 

You can also treat each other well, all the time, not just when you agree. This is a faith community. Our religious values and our seven principles should guide how we are together.

 

Oh, we are just getting started. I have only been here a little over a week and we have a lot to learn about each other. Your trust in me will develop over time. In the meantime, let’s just keep saying hello, and look a little deeper into each other’s eyes. There is a reflection of the holy there, if we only stop and really see.

 

Namaste – from the Hindu tration, the divine in me greets the divine in you. Hello.

 

I am going to end with something I wrote late last night

How do we say hello?

It’s easy

And it isn’t.

 

A quick glad hand

Averted eyes

Don’t get too close 

Too soon

Ah, but the time may never

Seem quite right

To speak for real

What lies inside the heart

 

Fearless we must be

Faithful from the start

Brave the danger

Live in the mystery

Held behind our eyes. 

Steady now

Looking listening

Our souls just might

Begin to dance

We don’t have to be

Alone

 

photo 1-2

 

How Do We Say Hello?

How do we say hello?

It’s easy

And it isn’t.

 

A quick glad hand

Averted eyes

Don’t get too close 

Too soon

Ah, but the time may never

Seem quite right

To speak for real

What lies inside the heart

 

Fearless we must be

Faithful from the start

Brave the danger

Live in the mystery

Held behind our eyes. 

Steady now

Looking listening

Our souls just might

Begin to dance

We don’t have to be

Alone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enough Already

Enough already

I am ready for it to stop

All of it

The wars

The shootings

In schools and by cops

Enough children left to die

In hot cars

Enough children left behind

Without hope

In schools that only test

And forget to teach

Enough billionaires

A million or two should

Easily be plenty for anyone

When so many have nothing

Nothing to eat, nothing to do

Nowhere to go

Where they won’t be afraid.

Enough hands held up

And bodies shot down

Enough hard workers

Who can’t pay their rent

Everyone must die

Pain is part of life

We can’t do much

About earthquakes

And only some about disease

But we are here

To make it better

Not worse

Enough already

 

 

 

#ferguson

My hands are up

Don’t shoot me please

Young black man

Just walking home

It makes his mother cry

 

It is my right

Leave me alone

Young white man

Asserting his rights

Assault rifle on his back

 

Oh waste of loss

America we’ve failed

Storm clouds gather

Justice must rain down

Tears are not enough.

 

 And from Sweet Honey and the rock: Ella’s Song

 

 

 

 

 

Red, Blue, and Purple

Cute-Purple-Backgrounds

 

I recently moved from one of the reddest states, Utah, to one of the bluest, California.   One of the reasons I moved was so I could live in a state where my marriage would be recognized.  After almost 40 years together, it seemed like time.  Two of our three adult children also live here, and it makes my heart glad to be near them again.  There was also loss involved with the move.  Hardest of all was to leave a ministry and a congregation full of people that I loved.

So what does it feel like to have made this change?

On the GLBT issue it feels totally great.  I have noticed that while I still pay attention to the court cases on marriage equality, it is with much less emotion.  They aren’t impacting me personally anymore.  Utah’s Governor Herbert and Attorney General Sean Reyes can say all the hateful and bigoted things about GLBT people they want, but MY governor and attorney general are nothing but supportive.  So are my neighbors and random people I meet in the street and the supermarket.  Life is pretty good for GLBT people when the state is a blue one.   The weather here in California is also delightful.

I also think the move is going to be good for me as a minister.  I was beginning to feel very frustrated and almost bitter about Utah’s red state politics.   It wasn’t just marriage equality, it was also their failure to expand medicaid, their love affair with guns, and their total disregard for the environment.  I won’t even go into the corruption.  Their last two Attorney Generals are being indicted for selling their influence to the highest bidder.

It does not serve a minister well to wear frustration and bitterness underneath a robe and stole.  As a minister, I believe I must always serve something much greater than myself.  I must always hold up hope for the people and the community I serve.  I must help create a clarity of vision that is untarnished by any of my own personal angst.  That was becoming less possible for me in Utah.  I had done it for seven years; I just couldn’t do it anymore.

Since June 30, I have not been serving a congregation.  How different that has felt.  Even when I was on sabbatical, my heart and spirit were still entwined with all that was going on with the church that I would continue to serve.  I was still their minister.  This break has been different.  I haven’t been anyone’s minister for almost two months.

That is about to change. I will begin with a new congregation in less than a week.  It is in Berkeley CA, no less, one of the most liberal communities in this very blue state.  I am extremely excited.  I haven’t met any of them in person yet, just a video interview and a few emails, but  they need a minister and I believe that I can serve them well.  I am ready to love them and lead them as best as I am able.  In a red state or a blue state, people need community, they need comfort when they are hurting, they need meaning in their lives, they need laughter and music, and a way to connect to what is holy in life.  Life itself is sacred, but we need help sometimes to learn to live that way.   Our liberal religion of Unitarian Universalism offers all of this.

Red and blue when mixed together make the color purple.  Purple is a color that is associated with religion.  Lighten it up just a bit and you have  lavender.  It is not a menace but a dream.   Amen to dreams.

 

 

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