Archive | November 2013

Working on Sundays and Holidays

Maybe it is because I am a minister, but I understand working on both Sundays and holidays.  Somebody has to do it.  I work most Sundays, of course, so Saturday nights are never a good time to party.  I have worked Christmas Eve,  Christmas Day, and on Easter.  My family does suffer some from it, especially as my wife’s birthday is December 24th.  It is OK.  It is part of the job, one I consider a calling.

Lots of people work Sundays and holidays because the rest of us really need them there, on duty.  Hospital and nursing home staff, the police and fire folks, utility repair workers, prison guards, soldiers, and a host of others need to cover because their jobs are critical to the health and safety of others.

Others work Sunday’s and holidays in restaurants, movie theaters, and gas stations.  While not critical in the same sense, they are important services to offer.  Eating out or seeing a movie on a holiday can ease the sadness that sometimes comes when your family is far away and you can’t be with them.  Not everyone has the same holiday, of course.  Going to the movies on Christmas Day is a popular tradition for many of my Jewish friends.  Speaking of which, Sunday is not a day of worship for many people.  Jews, Muslims,and non-believers should be able to get groceries on Sundays.  Buying a bottle of wine of a Sunday should also be possible even though we cant do that here in Utah.

The retail stores being open on Thanksgiving Day does seem to be a problem to me, however.  The largely low paid workers may be glad for the money (think Walmart), but wouldn’t it be better if they could have a paid holiday off instead?  Employer’s could call it a Thanksgiving Bonus and include some extra cash.   Much better than a Christmas bonus anyway, as it could appeal to non-Christians and secularists as well.  Of course some of the native peoples of this continent don’t tend to feel quite the same way about Thanksgiving.  The day after all is a celebration of the survival of the European invaders.   Illegal immigrants they were and much worse than the undocumented folks of today who are mainly just looking for jobs. The pilgrims stole land that did not belong to them.  And no, the Dutch really did not buy Manhattan for  $24.  Maybe we should give it back as a way for expressing gratitude for those turkeys back in the day.

Time to quit blogging for now.  Tomorrow, Sunday, is a work day for me and I have some more preparation to do.  Monday will be my sabbath. I wish you a good one too, even if you have to work.

 

 

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A Holiday Request from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden

November 2013

Dear Friends of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden,

Happy Holidays!

We are approaching the end of yet another year.  I hope it has been a good one for you and for those you love.  If you have been having a difficult time, I hope things will be brighter in the coming year.

Most of our lives contain a mixture of joy and pain, and so it is in congregational life.

Many things at UUCO are going very well.  You know this if you come to our Sunday services.  There is energy, enthusiasm, and connection.  There are a lot of new people, including families with children.  Worship is just rocking with excellent music every Sunday as well.  A few other things of special note:

The Navigators group is going strong, providing young people an inclusive alternative to the Boy Scouts who are still discriminating against both atheists and GLBT leaders.

Our sermons are now posted on Youtube.  We have our own channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-4wsU7MeI14NgbOSsMcOjQ

This is not only a good place to catch a sermon you might have missed; it is also an incredible way to reach out to others who might be looking for a spiritual home such as ours.  Facebook and twitter both help in this as well.

Our Religious Exploration Classes are going strong and we are again offering comprehensive sexuality education to our youth with the OWL program.

One area is causing quite a bit of stress, however, and that is our finances.  Since the recession hit, we have been consistently bringing in less than we need to cover expenses.  Because of this, and because of some needed repairs to our aging building, we have been using up our cash reserves, which are now nearly down to the $30,000 limit we agreed to establish as a minimum to cover any emergencies. As a result, the board and our committees have needed to be in “penny pinching mode.”  One example is that we cut our advertising budget and our Sunday services are now no longer listed in the Standard Examiner.  We have also deferred some needed building repairs until we are sure that we will have enough money to do them.

We have several fundraisers planned that should help see us through the rest of this fiscal year without needing to make any really drastic cuts in staff or in programming.  But even with successful fundraisers, we will still have a very tight budget.

Financial prudence is a good thing, but too much penny pinching can be, as the saying goes, “penny wise and pound foolish.”  UUCO is a vibrant, growing congregation that has an impact in the wider community that is much greater than our size would suggest.  We need to have the ability to respond to opportunities to serve without having to worry if we have the hundred or so dollars that would be needed.  We need to keep our building in good repair.  Deferred maintenance is often more expensive in the long run.

We ask you every year to make an extra donation to UUCO, above and beyond your regular pledge.  This year, we are asking you to dig deeper.  We would like to raise $20,000 in this end of year appeal. 

If four of you gave $5000 each, we would meet that goal.  If 20 of you could give $1000 each, we would meet that goal.  If you can write a check in one of those amounts, or somewhere in between, please do so today.

Many of us do not have enough resources to do that, however, I know that, we all know that.  Some of us struggle just to put food on the table, but most of us are somewhere in the middle. If you can’t contribute $1000, then could you give UUCO $500?  What about $100?  If even $100 is too much, $50 would help too.

Together we can do this.  Let’s raise the $20,000 quickly so we can stop limiting ourselves because of a lack of sufficient resources.  Let’s create an atmosphere of abundance, where our spirits all can grow and flourish and where our doors are always open wide to welcome whoever and whatever may come.

Consider what the existence of UUCO means to you and to Ogden and write a check that is as generous as you are able.  You might also consider asking some of friends and family members to make a donation to UUCO in your name instead of buying you a gift.

If you would like more detail on UUCO’s financial situation, please feel free to contact our church treasurer, Jeff Lensman.

Thank you, and may you and yours have a wonderful Holiday Season,

Rev. Theresa

PS.  This year, we are again saving the postage costs by sending this via email.  You may mail your holiday gift check to:

Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden
705 23rd Street

Ogden, UT 84401

You may also drop it in the offering basket on Sunday.

In both cases please note “end of year gift” in the remarks section of your check.

If it is easier for you, you may make a donation online.  To do so, please go to the following web address:

https://www.wepay.com/donations/uu-church-of-ogden-2013-year-end-appeal (Donations received or postmarked by December 31st will be tax deductible for 2013.)

Gifts

What gifts do we bring

To offer here

With close caught breath

And trembling hands

It could be gold

An exotic spice

Perhaps a bitter perfume

What lies beneath these wrappings

Shiny and tied with a bow?

Pain, hurt

Grief, loss

Sorrow, regret

A despair that can’t be eased?

Look deep in the box

You’ll also find

Joy, compassion, and love.

Untie the strings

Pry open the lid

Give the gift

That’s yours to give

A present whose time is now

If you offer yourself

Just as  you are

The holy embrace

Will leave you stunned

Take it in and give it back

Gifts are meant

To be opened

As roses are made

To bloom.

Thanksgiving Leftovers

What shall we do

When the turkey is gone

The leftover bones

Stirred into a soup

The soup it should last

For a couple of days

Warming our stomachs

In the chill of the night

 

What shall we do

When the soup is all gone

From the fridge, freezer, and bowl. 

Stir the memory

Into your soul

Copy the recipe down.

Everything changes

But everything lasts

If held in a grateful heart

 

 

 

Benediction – offered at Interfaith Thanksgiving Service, Ogden, UT

Divine Spirit,

God of many names and understandings, within us and around us, in each and everyone,

We are so very grateful for all the blessings you have bestowed upon us and we are grateful tonight for this interfaith gathering of Thanksgiving.

Celebrations such as this one can remind us that all the diverse faith traditions of the world are, in their hearts, simply different ways to honor the sacredness of life.

Help us to remember that all life is a holy gift and that all people and all creatures are worthy of this blessing.

We are so grateful for these gifts but we are not yet truly satisfied.

There is still too much trouble in our world. There is too much hunger and despair.  There is too much hate, too much violence, and too much war. There is too much poison in our oceans, in our rivers, and in our air.

So we are thankful but we cannot yet be truly content.

Forgive us, God, for all the damage we have done to our planet and to each other.

Forgive us too for all we have not yet done to begin the work of healing the damage we have caused.

We pray that you will stir our hearts with the compassion from your holy fire.

We pray that you will give our bodies the strength we need, that we might lift our arms in action even as we lift them to you in praise.

Help us be steadfast in the true task of all religion, to bring hope to those who are in despair, to bind up the broken hearted, to feed the hungry, to tend to the sick, to care for each other, to care for the earth, and to bring freedom, justice, and mercy to all who are oppressed in body or in spirit.

Send us forth this evening full of gratitude and even fuller of a renewed commitment to bring more peace and generosity into our own lives, and into the lives of others.

Stay with us and guide our steps in mindfulness, in strength, compassion, and in courage.

Help us to heal this hurting world.  Help us to honor the sacredness of life.

Blessings on each and every one of us here tonight.  Blessings on the world and all of its creatures.

Insha’Allah, Shalom, Amen, Blessed Be, and Namaste

335 Days of Ingratitude

As Thanksgiving Day approaches here in the states, it seems everyone is preaching about gratitude. I have done it myself.  Many of my Facebook friends post daily about something they are grateful for.  30 days of gratitude I think it is called.  It is a good thing, and I don’t want to disparage it.  If we have a practice of counting our blessings, we tend to be much happier people.  A positive outlook on life  is better for your mental, spiritual, and even your physical health.  Optimists live longer than pessimists.  Hope is better than despair.  I believe all of that, I really do.

We had a wind storm here in Utah yesterday.  I posted something on Facebook last night about being ready for the wind to stop.  The wind was howling and it was scary; garbage cans were blowing down the street.  The storm didn’t do a lot of damage, just a few trees and fences came down.  Shingles blew off a few roofs.  Our backyard gate was damaged slightly.

One of my friends responded to my post by saying that they felt grateful that it wasn’t a tornado or a typhoon.  People in the Philippines and in the midwest are still suffering from the aftermath of terrible storms.  My friend had a good point.  It is almost always true that someone else has it worse.  Your roof might be leaking, but you aren’t sleeping in a vacant lot in the rain or snow.  Someone you love may have died, but others have lost not only all of their families, but all of their neighbors as well.  So don’t complain, just be grateful that things aren’t worse.

No.  Just no.  We get to complain.  I even think it is important to do so.  Yes, sometimes it is about relatively trivial things, but sometimes the complaints are hugely significant and just might motivate us to do something about  them.  Apathy, resignation, despair are all much worse than being ungrateful.  So I am making a new list of things I am NOT grateful for.  Feel free to add to it.

1. War

2. Poverty

3. Self-righteousness

4. Pollution

5. Greed

6. Hatred

Those are the biggies, but I will also add:

7. Cl0thing that falls apart after being washed once

8. Food that is full of dangerous chemicals

9. Parents who let their kids play in the street

10. Tailgating

11.  Movies with gratuitous violence

12. Sexism, racism, homophobia (these belong up top)

13. That George Zimmerman wasn’t convicted

14. That we have some really stupid laws

15.  That too many politicians sell their votes

16. That we have to fix the gate

You get the idea.  What would you add?  Better yet, what are you going to do about it?

Path

In the landscape of my dreams

There is a path.

I have followed it for years.

It goes through the city streets

Climbing to the hills

Then down a wooded lane

Until a choice is needed.

One way leads to a lake

Or sometimes it’s the sea

The other goes by farmland

Or sometimes a small stream

The details change

But still the path

Makes a loop

It always leads me home.

Sunday Twitter Feed 11/17/13 #uuogden #tdor2013

  1. Those who are remembered, live on. #uuogden

    Favorited by DedasGrace

    Expand

  2. Reading the names of those killed because in their gender identify they challenged expectations of their culture. #uuogden

  3. Something changes in me when my arms are held wide open. #uuogden

  4. How could anyone fail to notice that your loving is a miracle? How deeply you’re connected to my soul. #uuogden

  5. The snow is on the ground but not falling from the sky. See you at church 10:30 #uuogden

Gender Games

To watch a video of the sermon click (here)

Call to Worship (click)

How many of you have seen or read, “The Hunger Games”?  Quite a few of you have, I see.  I haven’t read the book yet, and probably won’t go to see the movie.  I get a large enough dose of violence just reading about world events.   Watching violence on the big screen just freaks me out.

But from what I have learned from reading about it, the hunger games are very deadly.

So, unfortunately, are many of the gender games we play.

It is much more than just stunting the potential of more than half of our population.  We do that when we limit the possibilities and career paths open to girls.  We are still guiding them mostly toward the caregiving roles. We are also stunting the emotional growth and the career possibilities for our boys, trapping them in the stereotypes of what it means to be a man.

That is deadly enough because it means that we are killing people’s spirits by not allowing them to flourish into their own individuality, with their own unique gifts.   It is a huge loss for the person and a huge loss for the world.

The rules of the gender games are enforced primarily by social pressure.  If someone really breaks the rules, however, the penalty can be not only violence, but too often it is death.

When Malaya Yousafzai broke the rules in her native land of Pakistan by trying to get an education, an attempt was made on her life.  That young girl’s courage and persistence should inspire us all.

How much would you risk to get an education?  How much would you risk to be what your culture tells you is not only impossible but wrong?

This coming Wednesday, November 20th is Transgender Remembrance Day.  It is a day set aside internationally to remember those who have been killed in the last year because of their gender identity.  Pakistan is not the only country where the penalty for breaking gender rules is violence and death.

Some years, we have held an evening service on that day, but the attendance was always sparse.   Part of the format of that service is to read the list of names of those people who have been killed in the last year.  It is always a partial list.  We know there are many more who have died, but reading the names of those we know about can help us remember that they were all someone’s child and that someone loved them.  I will now read their names, their ages if known, and their city and state or country where they were killed.

Natália Sotero (age:20)
 Brazil

Rafael da Silva Tavares (age:21)
 Brazil

Valeria (age:30)
 Brazil

Joales dos Santos (age:22)
 Brazil

Wagner Paula Rodrigues (age:42)
 Brazil

Otávio Nascimento Valadares (age: 20)
 Brazil

Ronald Feitosa Souza (age:26)
 Brazil

Fábio da Conceição Machado (age: 26)
 Brazil

Jorge Luciano Soares De Oliveira (age: 38)
 Brazil

Rosa Fernando Domingues (age:36)

Joelma
  Brazil

Mônica Lewinski (age:38)
 Brazil

Nicole Galisteu (age:20)
 Brazil

Stephanie (age:33)
 Brazil

Dalvalei José Alves Pereira (age:37)
 Brazil

Camila
 Brazil

Fernanda Queiroz
 Brazil

Angel Francisco Martinez Gonzalez
 Mexico

Ashley Sinclair
 Orlando, Florida

Kelly Young
 Baltimore, Maryland

Palmira Garcia (age:37)
 Venezuela

Gaye
 Istanbul, Turkey

Naomi Estrada (age:19)
 Mexico

Karen
 Mexico.

Tiffany” Wesley Holder (age 19)
 Guyana

Adán Amilcar Iglesias (age 20)
 Honduras

Daniel Mendoza Ricardo Macias (age:23Mexico

Domonique Newburn (age:31)
 Fontana, California

Islan Nettles (age:21)
 New York City, New York

Dwayne Jones  (age 16)
 Jamaica

Cemia “CeCe” Dove (age:23)
 Cleveland, Ohio

Renato Espinosa Reyes (age:23)
 Mexico

Yeison Ramirez Acosta (age:22)
 Colombia

Eyricka Morgan  (age:26)
 New Brunswick, New Jersey

Mylene (age:42)
 France

Evon Young (age:22)
 Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Artegus Konyale Madden (age:37)
 Savannah, Texas

Dora Oezer (age:24)
 Turkey

Natascha (age:27)
 Brazil

Brunete Nascimento Chagas (age:22)
 Brazil

Hilary Molina Mendiola
 Mexico

S. Athiswaran (age:31)
 Malaysia

Gunce Hatun
 Turkey

Diamond Williams (age:31)
 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Terry Golston
 Shreveport,Louisiana

Jock Maurice McKinney (aka Valarie)
 Shreveport,Louisiana

Dicky Othman
 Malaysia

Fatima Woods (age:53)
 Malaysia

Melony Smith (age:28)
 Baldwin Park, California

I wish that list was much shorter even while I know that in reality it is much longer.  Some countries, such as Brazil, are just better at reporting these deaths.  If we knew all the names it would take us more than a full day to read them.

These people were victims of our static gender roles.  They broke the rules by not living within the cultural norms of how women and men should be.

Those norms are maintained by violence, and people who appear to be transgender bare the brunt of that violence.

Just the other week, an 18-year-old high school student named Sasha was riding a city bus in Oakland, California and fell asleep.  Sasha was wearing a skirt, but appeared to be male.  A sixteen year old set fire to the skirt.  Sasha is still hospitalized with severe burns.

As horrible as these crimes are, it is important to understand that that they are not isolated aberrations.  They are not simply crimes committed by warped individuals.  They are part of the gender system.  It is hard to call it a game because it is so deadly, but they are only the most obvious means of social control and for punishment when you break the rules.

You know this.  How many of the men here have been called a sissy when you were young simply because you dared to shed a tear or two?  How many of you were beaten up or called a faggot because you were lousy at sports?

Girls are called dykes if they are too assertive.  If they are brave, they are told they have balls.

It is crazy.  It is mean.  It does damage to people’s souls and their sense of wholeness and worth.

It is where a lot of homophobia comes from I think.  If gay people have all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities that heterosexuals do, then what will we threaten our children with if they want to do something that is out of the norm for their gender?

Telling a child that they “must be gay,” loses all of its negative punch if it is no big deal to be gay.

There may be some natural differences between the genders.  Anne and I have three children.  One of our sons is an accountant and the other is a chemist.  Our daughter has been a special education teacher and she is now working for an educational non-profit.  They all seem well suited as individuals for what they are doing, even though they have chosen careers that match the stereotypical gender roles in our culture.

There aren’t any wrong choices for our children, but we do have to make sure that they are real choices, not just the results of the limitations imposed upon them because of their gender.   We always told our kids that they could choose to be and do whatever they wanted.  There was no guarantee of success, but ours was definitely a family that did not have specific gender roles that they felt compelled to follow.

Which is why the legalization and acceptance of same gender marriage really is a threat to traditional marriage.  It isn’t a threat to heterosexual marriage at all, but it does directly challenge traditional gender roles.  Guess what, though, all you straight couples that try and equalize the power dynamics within your relationships, you too are a threat to traditional marriage.

Congratulations!  It is work well worth doing for your daughters and for your sons.

But let me go back to the issue of violence for a minute.  The violence against people who are transgender is the most extreme example of punishment for breaking the gender rules.  Anti-gay violence is another.

We also have sexual violence, usually used against women and girls, but sometimes against men as well.  Some have referred to it as a culture of rape.  Women and even young girls are sexualized to the extent that their bodies are seen as primarily objects of sexual desire. Fashion and popular culture play into it.  Girls are cautioned not to go out at night unless they are in a large group or have a male escort.  The risk of assault and rape is high, so it is understandable that parents offer this advice.  The fear of rape limits the choices of women.  It too is a form of social control based on violence or the threat of violence.

Let me share some statistics:

Average number of rape cases reported in the US annually 89,000

Percent of women who experienced an attempted or completed rape 16%

Percent of men who experienced an attempted or completed rape 3%

Percent of victims raped by a friend or acquaintance 38%

Percent raped by a stranger 26%

And perhaps the scariest statistic of all:

Percent of rapes that are never reported to authorities 60%

That is a truly horrifying number. All the numbers are disturbing because violence is disturbing, but why are so few rapes reported?  If someone is robbed or their home is burglarized, it is almost always going to be reported to the police.  People are not afraid of admitting that their wallet was stolen.  They know that no one will say it was their own fault.   No one will consider them “damaged goods.”

So we have the violence of rape, coupled with the social stigma that, in some circles at least, becomes attached to the victim.  No wonder young women are afraid to go out alone at night.  No wonder some boys learn that they don’t have to take no for an answer.

But some young women do go out at night.  Some, like Malaya dare to learn what girls are not supposed to learn.  Some young men learn that no means no and that the freely given love and respect of an equal is so much sweeter than anything they can demand or try to force.

The gender games don’t have to be so violent.  We all really can be just who we are, respected and treasured. We need to recognize the courage of those who dare to live authentic lives.  They are heroes who refuse to play the gender game by someone else rules.

In the words of Holly Near, that Beth sang earlier,

“Something changes in me when I witness someone’s courage

Something changes in me anytime there’s someone standing

For the right to be completely all the good things that we are

Do not forget the children, they are singers in the storm

And when their hearts are threatened, well a fire is bound to start

It wakes us up at midnight, we feel an ancient pain

And I do believe that loves directs the flame”

May we let love direct our flame.  May we let its light shine upon the gender games.

Solstice Snow

Like a white veil

It coats the ground

Falling soft like ashes

From an ancient fire

The dark is long

The days grow short

Rest more easy

In the winter

Knit your sorrows

Into a shroud

Bury them beneath

The falling snow

Feed your fire with embers

Of your patient

Hopeful dreams.

The sun will come

The earth will turn

Green will be

Reborn.