Daily Bread #61

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I have begun the task of getting rid of clothes that no longer fit because they are too big.  This is so much more fun than the times I have gotten rid of things that were too small.  It is a daunting task, but one I need to do.  Those large clothes take up so much space!  Packing for a trip is also easier now as I can get a lot more outfits in a suitcase.  A “Large” is so much smaller than a 3x.  This is a non-scale victory for sure!

We had 10 people in group last night, with the facilitator asking us what we thought a pipe dream was.  My first thought was that it is a drug induced fantasy.  When I googled it, I found out the term came from the 19th century and opium dreams, so my 1960’s sensibilities held me in good stead once again, getting a definition just right. One man had an interesting definition, involving looking through a long pipe, kind of like a spyglass, so that you could visualize a goal without seeing all the distractions that surround you.  I love the creativity that can surface in our group in images like that.  We then talked about things we thought we could never do, things that we believed were impossible.  People talked about dance classes, pilgrimages in Spain, 5k walk/runs, and European walking tours.  Some of those things we are actually doing now, and others are in reach.

One woman said she never thought she could succeed in the program, and was discouraged now because she was gaining the lost weight back.  I wish she would have been asked what might help her get back on track.  I did catch her afterward and chatted some.  This journey is a hard and emotional one.  It is so easy to step off the trail, sit down to rest for just a minute, only to find yourself in free fall down the mountain’s side.   If one of your friends throws down a rope to you, maybe you can grab it and haul yourself up again.  I carry a lot of ropes in my backpack.

Depression, discouragement, and grief are really common.  Food, overeating, has been such a source of comfort for so many of us, it is hard to give that comfort up.  There is also grief and loss involved with losing weight. With every change, even positive ones, something is also lost and it is important, I think,  to grieve that loss.  New parents can be thrilled at having a child, but they might also need to grieve the loss of the freedom from responsibility they once enjoyed.

Some depression on this journey is normal as we grieve the lifestyle and self we have left.  If we stick with the program, we know that we won’t be able, ever again, to eat whatever we want, whenever we want. We will need to stay mindful of what our bodies actually need, not just what might taste or feel good in the moment. This will be a huge change for the rest of our lives.  I have grieved the loss of the “fat and happy me.” I am almost done with that now, I think, as I have fallen in love with the new, energetic, healthier me. And yes, I have occasional food “treats” after a year in the program, but I plan for them, count the calories, and don’t overdo anything. So I am not the old me anymore, and I am cleaning out my closets.

One last note.  This morning I got this reading on the scale.

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I think I am ready for the challenge of a road trip!  We leave on Sunday for who knows how many weeks.  I will try and blog when I can.  It might be hard to continue my current weight loss pattern of 1-2 pounds per week with restaurant meals, but I am determined at the very least to not gain anything back during my time away.  I am packing my scale so I can make sure of that!

L’Chaim!

(My stats for the last week – down  1.5 pounds, drank at least 7 gallons of water and exercised for over 870 minutes.  My cumulative weight loss so far is more than 119.6 pounds.)

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Daily Bread #60

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I am still startled by the changes in my body over the last year or so. It is taking some emotional and psychological adjustment.  Who am I?  We are so connected to our physical selves.  It is the most intimate relationship we have.  I believe our souls are woven into our bodies, at least for the duration of our lives.  What happens to our souls when our bodies change?  Sometimes the changes are really hard.  If our bodies are hurting in new ways, we need to adjust, to cope somehow, and to discover new ways of being in the world.  I went through some of that when my health was deteriorating. The more recent changes to my body are mainly positive.  I am healthier and stronger.  But am I the same person?  Yes, of course, and no, not really.  My focus is different.  I am living a more deliberate life than I did before, making decisions, even small ones, with more thought beforehand.  I still “go with my gut” when the Spirit moves me to do so, but in some weird, mystical manner, something has changed. As my body shrinks, perhaps my soul is expanding.

I increased my exercise routine this week and met my goal of burning at least 2460 calories every day.  This lets me eat 1300-1450 calories per day and still lose an average of two pounds per week.  That is enough calories for me.  I am not hungry, but then again the calories are all from protein, fruits, and vegetables.  They include some fat, but minimal carbs, just Dave’s Killer Bread (whole grain/thin sliced) and the sweet potatoes I have with dinner several times a week.  I avoid white bread, potatoes, rice, and sweets.  I did eat an 1/8 of a bagel last week at church. Moderation is the key.  

I am being extra compulsive for these last few weeks before I go on a vacation which will involve some restaurant meals.  Restaurant meals are mysteries as far as calories go.     You can ask questions and try to be sensible, but you never know exactly what you are eating when you eat out. It makes the math so much less precise.

We had 12 people at the meeting last night.  The group seems to go better when we have more people.  We talked about how to say “no.”  “No” is something I don’t usually have a lot of trouble doing, but new strategies never hurt.  There are clearly cultural and gender variations that can affect how people navigate situations of being offered sweets – or wine!  It can be tricky as food is so often offered as a gesture of love and sharing meals is how relationships are often nurtured.  Being clear about what you need (or don’t need) and planning ahead can help.  It was interesting how many people in the group had experienced having to “clean their plates” as children before they left the table.  It was traumatic and did not establish a healthy relationship with food, or even I suspect with parents.  I don’t remember that happening to me, other than being asked to taste things (one bite) or being told not to take more on my plate than I knew I could eat.  We raised our kids the same way, although we counted and divided up the potstickers when we went out for Chinese food.  There were fewer fights that way.

Food is so much a part of every culture.  We need it to live, but too much can kill us slowly.  It doesn’t happen to everyone, of course, but it was happening to me.  My world was contracting.  I feel now like I have been reborn; my life is expanding.  This journey  has been one of transformation for both my body and my soul.

L’Chaim!

(My stats for the last week – down  2.7 pounds, drank at least 7 gallons of water and exercised for over 840 minutes.  My cumulative weight loss so far is more than 118.1 pounds.)

Daily Bread #59

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(I got some new exercise clothes!  My old ones were getting super-baggy.  It feels good to have a few things that fit.)

I have been thinking more about goals lately.  Stretch goals, the ones that you need to work at, are important, but they also need to be achievable.  There have been times in my life, in various careers and situations, where I set out to do something that seemed impossible at the beginning.  I helped organize a line management association at Social Security, and eventually we convinced the agency in add a new workload to our large inner city office, which saved jobs.  We also got upgrades for several positions that were under classified.  We didn’t know we could accomplish all of that when we started, but as we organized, the path became clearer.  We worked hard and we did what needed to be done.  We started small, mainly just securing invitations to participate in important meetings.

Ministry offered many opportunities to set goals and to meet them.  Stewardship campaigns were a yearly exercise in trying to increase the motivation to give.  For that, it helped most to celebrate the success we had already seen, leading to the hope that even more could be done.  Stretch goals were good there too.

When we wanted to pass a local non-discrimination ordinance In Ogden, Utah, it meant getting people to the city council meetings, hundreds of emails and phone calls, writing opinion pieces and letters to the editor, and it meant networking with many other groups and individuals.  It took us a full year, and although we were discouraged more than once, we got it done.

Going back farther, in junior high I realized I needed a scholarship if I was going to be able to go to college.  With that motivation, and some luck, ability, and hard work, I got straight A’s, aced my SAT’s and earned a full 4 year scholarship to UC Berkeley.  My life has been like that.  We wanted kids, and that took some serious planning for lesbians back in the 1980’s.  I could go on, but when I think about it, I am not all surprised at the success I have had in this weight loss program.  When I decide to do something, I work hard at it.  Success is never guaranteed of course, and luck, (and friends!) helps, but the hard work is always necessary.  I know how to work hard and to keep focussed on a goal.

Almost every week the facilitator tells the group that they need to commit to doing at least one thing that will get them back on track.  The assumption seems to be that most people aren’t “on track.” Maybe that is true.  It isn’t for me or for a couple of other people in the group, but that is OK.

We talked about plant based diets last night.  (11 people were there, including 2 new and quite delightful people).  I would like to be a vegetarian for all kinds of reasons, but right now, I am sticking with meat which gives me more protein for the calories than plant based proteins would do.  The protein keeps me from being hungry while I continue to lose weight.  We will see what I can do about eating less or no meat when I get done with losing weight and am simply maintaining. I am no longer diabetic, so the extra carbs in plant proteins wouldn’t be that much of an issue for me.

I adjust all my goals often to make them ones I need to work toward, but are also achievable.  I increased my step goal slightly so that I can make it every day, but sometimes need to work at it.  I decreased my calorie burn goal because it was way too high, and I could rarely meet it.

My FitBit went a bit nuts on Tuesday and I had to reboot it.  The swim function disappeared when I was about to get in the pool and “pilates” showed up instead of “swim”.  I don’t even know what pilates are.  The reboot worked and all is well, but I HATE IT when technical glitches happen!

L’Chaim!

(My stats for the last week – down  2.7 pounds, drank at least 7 gallons of water and exercised for over 705 minutes.  My cumulative weight loss so far is more than 115.4 pounds.)

Daily Bread #58

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A flock of turkeys flew up to our neighbor’s roof this morning.  Sometimes one can look out at a distant horizon, and feel that they are all alone.  But very nearby (gobble, gobble, look to your right) there just might be a whole flock of friends.

Much of this work is solitary.  Counting calories, exercising, just staying on track. I look at my stats everyday.

My resting heart rate up, which is good as it was depressed below normal by the medication I no longer have to take.  Figuring out how to adjust the various goals based upon my changing weight is, for me at least, necessary mental work.  Doing the math, I realized that I needed to change my calorie burn goal.  The old one was becoming impossible to meet as my resting metabolic rate was decreasing.  Larger bodies use more calories just by being alive. The step goal is hard, with my knee crumbling, but I still increased my daily goal by 900 steps. The cortisone shot I will get tomorrow will help.  Surgery will most likely be in October.  I am getting ready to dance!

This week I moved from Obese Class II down to Obese Class I.  I hate those charts, but will take every chance to celebrate that I can get.  30 more pounds and the charts will show me as merely overweight. I will see where to go from there once I get there.  If it stays this easy, I made continue to lose.   I might even become “normal”.  Nah, not a chance on that, no matter how thin I might become.

We had 10 people in group last night, which felt like a crowd after all the skimpy  turnouts.  The facilitator asked us to rate on a scale of 1-10 what we felt was our most successful time in the program and also where we are now.  The answers varied, with most feeling like they were more successful when on the full meal replacements.  The meal replacements were easier, it is true; no thought was required.  During that phase I was, as it says on the tee shirts my cohort gave me,”100% compliant. ”  Last night, however, I said I feel more successful now, because I don’t have to be as regimented.  I can have an occasional dessert – or a martini.  It feels more real, and I enjoy eating actual food rather than only chemical constructions.

I did go on a rant last night about Nestle being an “evil corporation.”  I mentioned the boycott that started in the 70’s because of their aggressive marketing of baby formula in poor countries, to the detriment of babies and their families.  Information about that boycott is here.

Another article about Nestle is more varied, has some positives about them, and also includes the concerns about their bottled water business practices. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nestlé

All that said, no judgment on those who still need the Nestle’s products to stay successful.  We all do what we need to do.  (I feel like my body needs meat, although my ethics tell me than being a vegetarian or vegan would be better for the world.)  I am just glad I don’t need to use the Nestle’s stuff anymore.  Most evenings I have either a Kind Bar (5 grams of protein) or a Pure Protein Bar (20 grams of protein), which are a sweet treat for me at 200 calories.  I also carry them in my purse if I get caught hungry somewhere with limited food options available.

We each have to look toward our individual horizons, and figure out how we can get to where we want to go, but it is also wonderful to be part of a whole flock of friends!  Let’s fly above the rooftops!

L’Chaim!

(My stats for the last week – down 2.4 pounds, drank at least 7 gallons of water and exercised for over 745 minutes.  My cumulative weight loss so far is more than 112.7 pounds.)

Charge of the Weight Brigade

I am not sure why, but this morning I had Tennyson’s poem, “The Charge of the Light Brigade”, running through my brain. (His poem is at the end of this post.) I must have memorized it sometime in school.  When I weighed my self this morning, I was down a half of a pound from yesterday.  Then this happened:

Half a pound, half a pound

Half a pound downward,

All in the valley of Life

Moved the six hundred

“Downward, the Weight Brigade

Head for the scale”, she said

Into the valley of Life

Went the six hundred

 

Cookies to the right of them,

French Fries to the left of them,

Ice Cream in front of them

That’s as far as I got, but it is more than enough isn’t it?  Maybe I am missing those who have fallen by the wayside while some of us continue.  I miss my buds who started this program with me more than a year ago.  Maybe it is also because of the news, because there is a war on – a war against women, against people of color, against GLBT people, and against our very planet.  We need courage, lots of courage.  We need heart.  Ours is but to do and live.  We cannot let Glory fade.

Enough, it is am unseasonal rainy day here.

The Charge of the Light Brigade

I
Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!” he said.
Into the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.
II
“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the soldier knew
   Someone had blundered.
   Theirs not to make reply,
   Theirs not to reason why,
   Theirs but to do and die.
   Into the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.
III
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
   Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of hell
   Rode the six hundred.
IV
Flashed all their sabres bare,
Flashed as they turned in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
   All the world wondered.
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right through the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reeled from the sabre stroke
   Shattered and sundered.
Then they rode back, but not
   Not the six hundred.
V
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
   Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell.
They that had fought so well
Came through the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of hell,
All that was left of them,
   Left of six hundred.
VI
When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
   All the world wondered.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
   Noble six hundred!

Daily Bread #57

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I realize that I have never shared my weight loss graph.  I love it and look at it often.  It keeps me focused.  There are a couple of upticks, but the trend line is really cool.

There were only 5 people in class tonight, the lowest I remember.  No one was really new, but I had forgotten two of their names.  I asked one of them afterward to remind me of their name.  I work really hard at remembering names, and still forget sometimes.  I do believe it is better to ask multiple times.

Our facilitator was being observed by her supervisor last night, so there we seven of us in the room, but only 6 talking. We did a lot of going around the circle so to answer various questions, so all the participants were able to speak a fair amount. We first talked about vegetables and we all said what our favorite was and a few of us said how we cooked it. (Roasted Brussels sprouts for me!)  One man did not like anything but corn, and he thought corn was too high calorie.  I think fresh corn is fine, although there is the GMO issue to worry about if it isn’t organic.

We then talked about sleep issues (which made me a little sleepy) and its various affects on weight loss.  The biggest one to me was if you are tired, you might crave foods that will give you quick energy – like carbs and sugar.  I have been tired sometimes from not enough sleep since starting this program, but coffee and a high protein breakfast seem to do the trick for me.  We were also given an excellent handout that included descriptions of the various hormones that are affected by sleep.  Here is an article I found that explains it in more detail, but briefly, Ghrelin tells your brain that you need to eat and if you are sleep deprived your body makes more.  Leptin is a hormone that tells you that you are full, and lack of sleep reduces its level.  Cortisol, the stress hormone, spikes with lack of sleep and tells your body to conserve energy by reducing your metabolism level.  Insulin sensitivity also drops by over 30% if you are getting insufficient sleep.  Get your zzz’s!  Don’t you love science?

I had heard that as one gets older, less sleep is needed so I did some research on that too this morning.  While it is true that the amount of sleep one needs does vary by age,  7+ hours is considered appropriate for all adults (See chart).  Children and teenagers need more!  Babies (like cats) sleep most of the day, but sadly for many parents, only a few hours at a time.  I remember that when our babies finally slept for 5 hours in a row, it felt like a miracle.  Talk about sleep deprivation!

We should all love science, but math is my real favorite! 

The Lose It app was driving me nuts this week because there were a few days when I couldn’t get my usual exercise in.  Without the “calorie bonus” for exercise I couldn’t stay on the budget it was showing, which was 1183.  I went into the app goals section and changed my goal from two pounds loss per week to 1 1/2 and my calorie budget went up to 1417.  It also showed an alert that less that 1200 calories per day was too little for women per the NIH.  My body knew that! (so smart really) I just felt like I had to eat at least 1250 and so went over some days.  And I hate those red marks and I want everything in the green zone on all my apps!  Changing the goal should give me a steady green, at least most of the time. I can still go under when I am exercising and getting the bonus.  Today I ate 1361, but had a 492 calorie bonus for exercise. That gave me a net of 869, which looks like a weirdly low number, but it feels OK, that my body got what it needed.  A lot of this is math. Have I mentioned I won a slide rule in a math contest when I was in high school?  I still have it somewhere.

My heart rate is going up some now that I am no longer on a beta blocker.  It was slower than normal when my doctor took me off that med.  All is well it seems.

Last Sunday was Mother’s Day and our kids took us out to dinner.

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This other picture is from two years ago.

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I look pretty different, but the important thing is that I feel so much better!

L’Chaim!

(My stats for the last week – down 2.4 pounds, drank at least 7 gallons of water and exercised for over 605 minutes.  My cumulative weight loss so far is more than 110.3 pounds.)

Daily Bread #56

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There were twin fawns at the retreat center.  They had a delightful energy., as they pranced along with their watchful mom.    I can’t say I rested well for the 3 days and two night we were there; the programing was full and the beds not as comfortable as at home.  Still, it did my spirit good to have some time for prayer and reflection and to connect with my minister colleagues.  Some of whom inspire me, some who challenge me, and some who help me laugh.   Tender and holy is the work we do together.  I don’t do ministry for money anymore (it was never for the money), but I am still a minister.  It is a life, not just a job.

It was also fun talking  about this journey with people I had not seen since in awhile.  They definitely noticed the changes in me and were happy for the improvements in my health.  I was hardly a “prancing fawn,” but it was clear I felt a lot better than the last time they had seen me.

The center did not have an exercise room, so no stationary bike time on those days, although I did get in more steps than usual.  I ate pretty well, with only one small 1/4 slice of carrot cake despite the fact that there were tempting desserts at every meal.  The food is all locally sourced and organic, so there were lots of veggies with chicken and eggs for protein.  One lunch was more challenging as only vegetable proteins and cheese was available, both of which have much higher fat or carbs and therefore calories per gram of protein.  It would be very hard to be a vegetarian and sucessful in this program.

Because of the retreat, I did not attend the weekly “lifestyles” meeting, so no official “weigh-in” this week. My home scale shows I am still on track, but I will still stick with only the official numbers in my stats below.

And because I wasn’t there, I asked my friend, Lindsay Lacker McKenzie, if I could share what she posted about the meeting.  She said yes!  I have used initials for the other names.  I hope others in my group will want to do “guest blogs” from time to time.  There is so much wisdom in this group of people and we all have different experiences, challenges, and perspectives.  Here is her post:

“Slim group tonight…we started with 4,  and then 2 more showed up. It’s not a bad thing to have variations on group density, I think it really changes the dynamic and allows for different interactions and conversations. Tonight we discussed Seasonal Foods and favorite recipes. The big winner for me was S sharing a ZERO calorie salad dressing: Walden Farms(and yes I went to Safeway right after and found some!)and C mentioned a greek yogurt called Two Good…only 2 g’s of sugar and 80 calories(I picked up some of that as well!). Definitely a lighter conversation that left me a bit hungry at the end but more importantly my head is still in the game. My brain can get lazy so quickly and I find it making every excuse why NOT to go to these meetings…I didn’t track, I didn’t measure, I didn’t stay on plan, SMART goals? What SMART goals? These are exactly the reasons which, at very least, I need to keep going to the meetings. It’s like every Wednesday is Groundhog Day and I get to do it all over! We went to an annual camping event this past weekend which at this event last year I was in the first week of the program so was mixing soups and shakes in our VW Bus all weekend…and yes it’s a party event so last year I just went to bed early feeling sorry for myself. Not this year! Party girl was back in full force but on a plan! I was very mindful of my food choices…I didn’t track but interesting how my brain calculates calories now. NSV moment when we got the annual event t-shirt and last year I was in a men’s XXL and this year rocked a women’s L(which still had room). I hope all of you are having a great week and not giving up! Hope to see everyone next week.”

Lindsay rocks!

L’Chaim!

(My stats for the last week – down ? pounds, drank at least 7 gallons of water and exercised for over 655 minutes.  My cumulative weight loss so far is more than 107.9 pounds.)

A Curious Faith @ UUCM 5/5/19

Let’s start with a responsive reading. Please turn to #650 in the back of the gray hymnal.  Your part is in Italics.

Cherish your Doubts, by Robert T. Weston

Cherish your doubts, for doubt is the handmaiden of truth.
Doubt is the key to the door of knowledge; it is the servant of discovery.
A belief which may not be questioned binds us to error,
for there is incompleteness and imperfection in every belief.
Doubt is the touchstone of truth; it is an acid which eats away the false.
Let no one fear for the truth, that doubt may consume it;
for doubt is a testing of belief.

The truth stands boldly and unafraid; it is not shaken by the testing;
For truth, if it be truth, arises from each testing stronger, more secure.
Those that would silence doubt is filled with fear;
their houses are built on shifting sands.
But those who fear not doubt, and know its use are founded on rock.
They shall walk in the light of growing knowledge;
the work of their hands shall endure.

Therefore let us not fear doubt, but let us rejoice in its help:
It is to the wise as a staff to the blind; doubt is the handmaiden of truth.

I’ve always loved that reading.  It helps keep me from being too sure of myself; from thinking I have all the answers.  Sorry to say, not one of us has all the answers, which is why we are called to continually engage in our 4thprinciple, a free and responsible search for truth and meaning.  Curiosity is an essential part of the practice of our faith.  We are the type of people that just have to sample the fruit from the tree of knowledge.

Bonnie Withers, in Owning Your Religious Path,says that(Many) “Unitarian Universalists come into the denomination from other religions; often there have been several stops along the path into our congregations. Some bring with them angry and unresolved feelings about experiences in other religious institutions, others have warm memories. Some move easily into an identity as a Unitarian Universalist; others experience a traumatic estrangement from family and from the center of their culture.

We can be most fully and completely present in our religious identity when we see our path as a continuum rather than a series of unrelated episodes. Because we are usually more certain of what we left in another religion than what we bring forward from it, (it can help to) establish connections, bridges, and resonances between (our) past and present.”

A religious path can take many twists and turns. It is a journey that I think never ends but continues for our whole lives and perhaps even beyond death.  Those that believe in reincarnation believe that. Personally, I am not sure what happens after we die, but I believe that if our souls do live on that they will continue to change and grow, that we will also find ourselves arriving at new and different understandings.

But even if our path toward spiritual understanding has no definite end, it usually has a beginning.

Most of us can remember a time when we had some sense of the divine, of mystery, a time when we began looking for answers, for something that would give our lives meaning, something that would help us make sense of all the chaos, of all the pain and confusion that we saw around us. We may have been struck with awe at something in the natural world; we may have gazed in wonder at the stars or a new born baby’s face.  We may even have experienced that within the walls of a religious institution.

We all have a religious past, even those of us who did not grow up in any faith tradition.

Just out of curiosity, which is the monthly theme after all, how many of you here today did not regularly attend religious services before you entered your teens?

How many of you grew up UU?  Jewish? Liberal Christian?  Catholic? Conservative Christian, including Mormon?  Other religions?

Most of us here have experienced other faith traditions.  We have memories of them. Some of those memories are good ones, but others might be haunting us in ways we might not even understand.  Particularly for people who were hurt by a religion or by a religious community, anything that reminds them of that can be incredibly painful. I have heard stories from people whose religious leader mentioned them specifically in a prayer in a way that made them feel sinful and wrong.

If our worship service includes a prayer, it might make them nervous as a result of that past.

Others have been judged, shamed, and shunned by their religious community when they expressed disagreement or doubt. Some people, even though they may have rejected the concept of an angry God, still feel some fear when the word God is used.

How can we honor our diverse religious pasts, care for those among us who have been wounded, and move forward together as a community of love and acceptance?

First, I think we need to acknowledge the pain. The hurt some of us knew in other communities is real and it was wrong.  There has been abuse, physical and sexual, and perhaps the most damaging of all, spiritual abuse.  Too many times our innocent hopes, dreams, and spiritual yearnings have been shattered by the actions of humans and, yes, by demeaning and damaging theologies.

So, if you have been hurt in any of those ways, please know that it was wrong.  Please know that you are loved just the way you are, by God if you believe in God, and by those who really do try to love their neighbors as themselves.

Please know too, that others here can relate to those feelings and fears.  For myself, I avoided all churches for almost 30 years and even after I found a Unitarian Universalist church, I still freaked out some if God or Jesus were mentioned in the service in a positive way.

I am not in that place anymore.

Part of what I did was to consciously reclaim the good things from the religion I grew up in.  It wasn’t a terribly coercive one, so maybe it was easier for me than it has been or will be for some of you.

I was raised in the First Christian Church, which is now part of the Disciples of Christ. I was baptized by full immersion at around age 8 and said yes when I was asked if I took Jesus Christ as my lord and savior. But as mainline Christian Churches go, there wasn’t a lot you had to believe in order to belong; no creed but Christ was their motto. I did not have to worry about the virgin birth or literal interpretations of the Bible.  Sunday school was Bible stories, singing songs like “Yes, Jesus loves me,” and memorizing Bible passages.  I got a prize once, of a small plastic glow in the dark cross.  I loved it!

I left the church in my teen-aged years, shortly after the experience I spoke of earlier.  I had questions, doubts. Was I somehow so fundamentally flawed that I needed saving more than once? It seriously creeped me out and I began drifting away.  Somewhat later, although still in my teens, when I realized I was a lesbian, I knew the church would not accept that part of me. I felt somewhat relieved that I had left before they decided to kick me out.

But as I have grown into my Unitarian Universalist faith, I have reconciled that experience, and come to understand that I also received gifts in my childhood church home, things that were much more important than a glow-in-the-dark cross.  I heard of a loving God and a gentle Jesus.

I learned about the quiet comfort of prayer. I leaned about service to the church as I helped my mother prepare the communion that we shared each Sunday. Grape juice and unsalted crackers, tiny little cups and paper doilies, it represented the Holy and once baptized, I too was allowed to participate. We washed all the little cups afterward by hand. It felt like important work.  I think it was.

I loved the singing, and I still love to hear the old songs, even though they do not express my current theology.  Milton will be playing a couple of them later in the service.

They are happy songs to me, songs about being loved and held.

If you can reclaim some of the good things from your personal religious history you might just find them comforting.  If you grew up Catholic you might find lighting candles particularly meaningful.   Be curious about why.  What do you like about our worship services that resonates with the positives from your religious past.  What feels like it might be missing? Do you yearn for silence, for prayer, for shouting, for incense, for bells, for calling out amen or hallelujah during the sermon?  We are all different, with different histories, and I wonder sometimes, I am curious about, whether we can, as a congregation, tolerate a wider diversity of worship styles.

Our current worship practices are not tied to our Unitarian Universalist theology so much as they are to the white, upper class, New England culture of the early Unitarian Church. The Universalists were not nearly so heady, being mainly farmers and working folks.

For those of you who left behind a religion that caused you pain, acknowledge the bad things, the things that moved you to leave. Those were real.   You can feel good about your decision to try something different, just as you can feel good about sticking with your childhood faith if that is what you have done.

Cherish your doubts as it said in the earlier responsive reading. Doubt will help us move into the light of growing knowledge and understanding.

But cherish your history as well because if nothing else it has brought you to where you are today.

When I served our congregation in Ogden Utah we had a lay sermon series where our church members shared about what they learned from their childhood faith tradition.  It included those who grew up Unitarian Universalist and also those who grew up without any faith at all.  There was only one rule.  They could not say anything bad about their prior faith.  Those that participated found that speaking about the positives was a good way to begin healing from old wounds.

Those of us who listened learned not only about the people who were speaking, but it gave us ideas about what we might want to do differently as a congregation, both in worship, and in our social justice work.

Our hearts can be in a Holy Place, and we can be like that lone wild bird, held by the spirit in a way that is beyond words. “Great Spirit come and rest in me.”

Those words remind me of the yearning I felt as a young teen, standing in the back of a sanctuary, wondering if I dared go forward, wondering if I could possibly be worthy, because my spirit really was longing to be made whole.

And now, I know, deep in my heart, that this faith tells me we are already whole.  This religion is an expansive one with plenty of room for our yearnings, for our curiosity, our doubts, and for what feeds our spirits.

During the offering time, if you come up to light a candle or if you just sit quietly, I invite you to reflect some on your own religious history.  Acknowledge the bad if there has been hurt there, but also try to see what good you might have put aside in order to avoid pain, things that could still have positive meaning for you.  Be curious about it.

Our closing hymn will be about laying some of the burdens we carry down.  That song always makes me feel like dancing.  I hope it does the same for you.  Amen and blessed be.

 

Daily Bread #55

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I will be on retreat next week with my UU minister colleagues.  Above is a picture from last fall’s retreat.  I am looking forward to it.  I am not worried about the food, which is served buffet style, but this retreat center has healthy options available.  As long as I avoid their yummy desserts, any heavy carbs, and watch my portions, I will be fine.  Exercise will be more of an issue, but the retreat is only two nights, so I can make it up the rest of the week.

There were a lot more people at group tonight.  I did not count, but I would guess close to 15.  It made for a much better discussion.   I asked if we could go around the room to check in which meant everyone talked at least some.  Maybe we would have done that anyway if I hadn’t said anything, but I am reminded of the joke I saw (and shared) this week on Facebook.  What’s the difference between “aggressive” and “assertive”?  The answer = “Gender.”  I could say that I am working on being assertive, but that would be a lie.  It is how I am and have been for a long time.  I am simply shameless when I think something needs to happen and I am worried it might not.

We spoke of successes and challenges.  It was clear that most of those who are able to maintain their weight (or continue to lose) are careful to log everything they eat, and count all the calories.  It is easy to get “food amnesia” if you aren’t recording what you eat.  I have a tendency to underestimate calories and portions, so to compensate, I try to overestimate at least half the time.  It is working for me, and this week I had a largish weight loss of almost 5 pounds.  That is becoming a pattern for me, a couple of weeks of staying roughly the same, followed by a relatively large loss.  My average loss is holding steady at 2 pounds per week.

This week I reached the weight goal the knee surgeon had set for me, so I emailed him to schedule my knee replacement.  He had the nerve to be on vacation!  No worries, I am looking at the fall anyway.

In group, we also talked about the need to get enough sleep.  I stay up fairly late, but being retired I rarely need to set an alarm.  The problem is that when I need to use the bathroom in the night or early morning, it can be hard to get back to sleep.  After class, a friend suggested using a nightlight so I don’t turn on the bright bathroom lights which wake me up more.  A good idea that I am trying.  Last night I slept 7 1/2 hours and did not get up at all.

L’Chaim!

(My stats for the last week – down 4.8 pounds, drank at least 7 gallons of water and exercised for over 680 minutes.  My cumulative weight loss so far is 107.9 pounds.

Daily Bread #54

 

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It has been a full year since I started this journey, so it was time for another before/after pic.

In this year, I have turned into an exercise nut, lost over 100 pounds, ditched my C-Pap machine, and ALL my prescription meds.  My body is in good shape except for my knees, but surgery should fix them before too long.  I’d like to lose another 40 pounds, which feels totally doable at this point, and I certainly don’t want to gain any weight back.  The health benefits I have achieved have been simply too miraculous.  I saw my regular doctor this week, for an unrelated minor issue, and she was amazed with the changes she could literally see.  She said that my motivation and dedication has been impressive.  So nice to have a doctor express such a positive message rather than what was before primarily concern.

There were 9 of us tonight at the meeting, and at the end, when one person had not spoken at all, I asked him if he had anything to say,  He did!  As a program participant and not a facilitator, I don’t have to be at all tentative.  The group dynamic is so important and me being the class clown sometimes seems to help when the discussion is lagging.  Plus, I just can’t help myself.  I loved it that after the meeting someone I don’t know that well reached out for a spontaneous hug.

A couple of us had reached out to some our original cohort members who had not attended for awhile.  One of them came! It was so great to see her!  She promised to come next week too.

We talked some more about “drifting” and someone came up with a nautical image of being at sea without a rudder.  This equates to being “off plan” and not having a quick and easy way to reset your direction to where you want to go.  The danger of not having a rudder is that you might drift into the open sea and never reach land.

What being  off or on plan varies by individual.  Some can have a meal or a day when they chose to eat less sensibly, and the next meal or day, they are back on course.  Kind of like stopping and dropping anchor to do some snorkeling and look at all the pretty fish.  For others they need to stay always on board, with their hands on the wheel.

This is so much harder for people with young children or with adult family members who aren’t particularly supportive.  It doesn’t bother me when Anne eats her sweets or chips, but some people may need to ask their family members to not eat ice cream right in front of them.  It can also be harder with extended family members, particularly if they are older.  Neither Anne of I have any surviving parents or siblings, which is not exactly an advantage in the larger scheme of things, but it does make things easier to be the “respected elders.”  I can tell my adult children and nieces and nephews what I need them to do to help me with this program and they (mostly) listen and do what I say.  We are going out to dinner tonight with one of our sons.  I will ask both him and my wife not to order any appetizers (which are really hard for me in restaurants) and I am completely confident that they will comply.

Family members NEED to be supportive if they want us to be healthy and live longer.  IT is one important way they tell us that they love us.  I DID suggest last night that some people might want to play the guilt card fairly heavily in order to bring their family members in-line.  “What, you want me to die?  You are literally killing me!  Get that damn ice cream OUT of the house!”

We also talked about “de-cluttering” and how messy apartments or houses or kitchens with no counter space, refrigerators and freezers stuffed with things that aren’t so great for us to eat, can all increase our stress levels and make staying on course much harder.  Luckily, I have Anne who is a compulsive neat-nik.   Everyone needs a wife like her I think.

I was up a tad this week, (.6 of a pound) which was due not so much to what I did this last week, but what I did not do in the last couple of days.  It may be TMI, but more prunes will be in my food plan this coming week.

Go boldly where others have gone before.  Mind your rudder, steer that ship.  Land Ahoy!

L’Chaim!

(My stats for the last week – up .6 pound, drank at least 7 gallons of water and exercised for over 620 minutes.  My cumulative weight loss so far is 103.1 pounds.)