Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Every now and then I think, "I should really have a blogroll off to the side, like other blogs do." I have a list of favorite links - but setting up a list of blogs? Most of the blogs I visit are those of other UUs, and adding links to them from my blog would be duplicating the efforts of many other bloggers - as well as the efforts of both UUpdates and
Discover UU. But there are several that I read avidly that aren't listed at either of these sites. Here are a few:
Of Course, I could be wrong...: This site will disabuse you of any notion you might have that Anglican priests resemble the oh-so-proper (and dim) vicars of old British novels. MadPriest posts commentary on news of the Anglican Communion, Roman Catholicism, and world politics - as well as music both sublime and dreadful - encouraging lively debate among a diverse community of regular readers and commenters. I know some of our UU bloggers pride themselves on snark - I think MP is the champion, but maybe it's just his accent...
Tensegrities: Shortly after GA 2007 a colleague told me about this blog. Mary Hess from Luther Seminary posts links to articles, blogs, just about anything on topics related to religion, education, politics, computers, and more - often with a bit of commentary that lets you know (a) what you might expect, and (b) what she thinks about the article as well. Subscribing to the feed is a good idea, as this one is updated several times a day.
Street Prophets: I haven't quite figured out how this site works - I mostly just read the "front page," not the individual diaries. Pastor Dan presides over this free-for-all on liberal religion and politics, with an emphasis on congenial community. Differing opinions welcome - nastiness is not.
Rant and Reason: Blog of the American Humanist Association. Often thought-provoking, sometimes infuriating because there is a lot of "tunnel vision," but the posters still bring up issues that demand discussion.
Racialicious: the intersection of race and pop culture: Another thought-provoking blog with depth discussion of issues on race and culture. I just found this one (thanks to a friend), and immediately added it to my feeds list.
Orcinus: Anything and everything on liberal politics, discussed in detail & in depth. Wonderful recent series by Mrs. Robinson on the FLDS.
Every Shade of Green: A blog written by three women on striving to live more lightly on the earth in their suburban environment.
And finally, On Faith: A panel of regular contributors, who hold widely divergent views, respond to questions about religion in our society raised by/in current events.
Friday, April 25, 2008
photo: Canis Major constellation, someone sent it to me & I don't remember who...
I know, Friday is supposed to be quiz day – something fun leading into the weekend. But I haven’t posted anything of substance for a bit, and this has been on my mind.
I’ve been praying a lot lately. There have been people and things to pray about. Like Lizard Eater and her daughter, Sean's son, UUMomma and her family, people in my church who are hurting or struggling, classmates, friends, and others in other communities. I’ve written about prayer, and I’ve written prayers for worship, but a prayer life? Not so much, until recently.
I’ve been challenged in worship class to perform advanced mental gymnastics – the kind practiced by many Unitarian Universalists in church – also known as the “translation game.” The majority of my classmates are Christians, but not all the same denomination – and they definitely represent a range of theologies. A few of them are very good at inclusive language that expresses their beliefs clearly but compassionately, a few are still on the learning curve – and I’ve come to understand that I’m still on that learning curve, too. But it was a fellow UU who made the connection, expressing sorrow that non-theism had become a form of UU orthodoxy. Aha! Even liberal theology can be seen as exclusive when one refuses to use certain words, words like God, or prayer, or… well, just fill in your own favorite problematic word.
The invitation to prayer is one example. Most in my class thought nothing of saying “Let us pray,” until I said I heard that as a command instead of an invitation. The flip side is that some heard my “please join me in an attitude of prayer and meditation” as too wordy and unclear. So, okay, in this context it’s more appropriate to say something like “will you join me in prayer,” which seems to be both inviting and specific without being an order.
Then comes the hard part: To what (or whom) do I pray? And for what? And why? What do I expect to happen? My brain hurts already.
I like addressing pastoral prayers to “Spirit of Love and (fill in the blank), called by many names.” Where it says “fill in the blank,” I offer a quality or attribute there that is uppermost in my mind for a specific prayer. For example, I wrote a quick prayer this morning for a specific situation a friend is dealing with and addressed the Spirit of Compassion and Hope, because it seems these are what is needed most. A generic pastoral prayer – like after joys and sorrows in church – might call upon the Spirit of Life and Love. And I almost always end with something like “we call upon the living spirit within each of us to make this so.”
I was struck a number of years ago by a quote from (I think) the Rev. Jack Mendelsohn about how prayer doesn’t change things, but people change things and prayer changes people. But prayer is supposed to address something larger than us, some resource we can turn to for spiritual sustenance. I see the holy not in a divine “being” but in our being – in our lives and our bodies. When I pray to the Spirit of Life and Compassion I’m really calling on the life within all, and for the quality of compassion to be manifest in all of us. I am calling on something larger than us, because without effort – often collective effort – whatever is being prayed about won’t change.
Does it help? The safe answer here is that I think it doesn’t hurt. My real answer, which I’ve not come to easily is that yes, prayer helps.
It helps, because for many of us prayer becomes action. On a marker commemorating Cong. John Lewis’ (D-Georgia) role in the Selma to Montgomery march, there is a quote: “When we pray, we move our feet.” I think this rings true for many UUs.
Praying for peace becomes writing letters and lobbying legislators. Prayers for justice manifest in countless volunteer actions to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and house the homeless. Praying for mercy becomes sponsoring peer mediation programs in schools. And because we are the hands of the divine, we are the ones who collectively respond to laments… like those of the people of New Orleans, and Darfur, and so many other places.
It helps a person going through a difficult time feel a little bit stronger and a little bit comforted, to know someone (maybe that many someones) are praying for her or him. It has helped me in this way. When I faced serious health issues several years ago, my women’s circle as well as the people in my church AND people in my in-laws’ Catholic church as well as my mother’s Lutheran church were all praying for me. Did it cure me? No. Did it help? You bet.
It helps people at a distance feel like there is something they can do when they feel helpless. Can I actively do something to make someone well? No, but I can pray, and hope it helps her or him to keep on keepin' on. And yet… I feel awkward saying I’ll pray for someone. I think it’s because I don’t pray in what I was once taught was the “right” way.
The Friends (a/k/a Quakers) speak of “holding one in the light” when they refer to praying, and that seems to describe what I do. There were Friends in my family a couple generations back, and some of the beliefs linger on in my family's and my own religious non-conformity. I do believe we all carry that of God within us – the light within – so when I hold someone in the light, I hold them close to God, trusting that what is needed will manifest itself somehow. That is what I expect to happen, whether I’m praying out loud in church as worship leader, or quietly holding someone in the light.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Friday, April 18, 2008
And, if anyone was wondering... I had my constructive paper defense this week. I passed - but it was not fun.
|I took the "Constellation" quiz on gURL.com|
Does commitment come naturally to you? Are you willing to put yourself in difficult situations for friends? Are you known for your perseverance? Cygnus, the swan, may be your celestial alter ego. Read more...
What constellation are you?
Ms. Kitty says I need to get back to work
Monday, April 14, 2008
A busload of us, some seminarians - most not, journeyed through several states in the deep South, meeting veterans of the Civil Rights Movement, pausing at monuments and memorials, meditating and praying at gravesites of those who died too young. I'm not too proud to say I cried several times - and the UU principles we covenant to affirm and promote were tested. It is HARD to continue believing in the inherent worth and dignity of every person, when one is confronted with a gravestone that has been repeatedly vandalized and still bears marks of having been used as target practice. The people who denied others their rights, who worked against justice and perverted the democratic process... remind me how they deserve my compassion? Even harder - how do I change the system in which we're all embedded that still works to divide people along lines of color and culture?
One of my fellow travelers picked up a stone at a significant spot, which is being allowed to fall down, we think in hopes that people will forget the tragedy that occurred there. The smooth, flat stone was something for that person to hang onto when the going got rough - and there were rough times.
I picked up a couple of stones, too, remembering the admonition from my child to "bring her a rock." When I got back, I showed her the stones and said she could choose one. But, I told her, they both have stories - and you might want to hear the stories before you choose. "So, tell me the stories," she sighed. So, I told her what I remembered (any errors are mine).
Well, first is this muddy, reddish-black stone. It's smooth to the touch, and almost as long as my little finger. It came from the parking area next to a church in Marion, AL. It was at this church that Jimmie Lee Jackson attended a mass meeting of people organizing to work to get their right to vote. After the meeting, the people leaving the church were attacked by a mob of angry white people who did not want Jackson and other African-American people to get the right to vote. Jackson hurried to the cafe around in back of the church, where his grandfather was waiting for him. (The marker in the photo is at this site - the cafe is long gone.) When he got there, someone was about to beat his grandfather, so Jackson intervened. He was shot in the stomach. The closest hospital wouldn't admit him because it was for whites only. He died several days later of an infection. I don't know if this stone was there back then, but that's where I found it, next to a building where people told us about that night when Jimmie Lee was shot, and the pain and rage that still lives because his killer has never been brought to justice.
The other stone is lighter colored - mottled, beige to tan - still semi-cylindrical in shape, but smaller. This stone came from the end of the Pettus Bridge in Selma, AL, where there are monuments to a day called Bloody Sunday. (Some of them are in the photo.) Still hurting from the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson, a large group of people decided to march from Selma to the state capitol in Montgomery to protest and demand their legal rights. At the front of the line were two men, John Lewis and Hosea Williams. (Williams is on the marker to the left, Lewis in the center.) As they crossed the bridge, the state troopers met them and told them to turn back. They politely asked to speak to the person in charge, but were refused. When they took another step, the troopers attacked. Many people were injured that day in the midst of tear gas and mayhem. Some of the people we talked to in Selma were part of the march, and shared their memories of fear and hope with us.
When I finished telling her the stories, she said she'd have to think about it. The next day, "Mom, I wanted a stone - I didn't want a stone with a story. You can keep them."
I guess she hasn't learned yet that every stone has a story. Maybe she's never heard the stories of the other stones she's received - maybe her mom is the only person she knows who thinks that it's important to know a stone's story, to know where it came from and what happened there. I know at least one other person who believes it's important to talk about a stone's story - our guide in Selma had us pick up pebbles and then told us stories of holding a piece of stone that different people had stood upon during the struggle.
I have a small collection of stones at home, myself. Some are from nearly forgotten rituals with a women's group. Some are from vacations. Some have been shaped and carved into beads - and some of those have been made into jewelry. On my desk now are three stones, the two I describe above and a third from a ritual a class member offered a few weeks ago.
I try to remember where I get the stones I have. If we don't know the stories of the stones, we don't know the stories of the people - their hopes, fears, and dreams. In fact, one of my friends maintains that it is/was fear that motivates the people who do things like desecrating graves - and that it is/was fear that motivated similar people to act with violence against people who were only trying to gain rights that every citizen of this country should have easily been able to exercise. I choose to think of hope over fear - and these stones will represent for me the hopes and dreams of the people in the places where I picked them up. I will remember these stones' stories, for I have been changed by these tiny, unlikely touchstones.
...We are made of Dreams and Bones..."
(lyric from "The Garden Song" by David Mallet)
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Your Score: Rabbit
You scored 16 Ego, 15 Anxiety, and 16 Agency!
IT was going to be one of Rabbit's busy days. As soon as he woke up he felt important, as if everything depended upon him. It was just the day for Organizing Something, or for Writing a Notice Signed Rabbit, or for Seeing What Everybody Else Thought About It. It was a perfect morning for hurrying round to Pooh, and saying, "Very well, then, I'll tell Piglet," and then going to Piglet, and saying, "Pooh thinks--but perhaps I'd better see Owl first." It was a Captainish sort of day, when everybody said, "Yes, Rabbit " and "No, Rabbit," and waited until he had told them.
You scored as Rabbit!
ABOUT RABBIT: Rabbit is generally considered Clever by his many friends and relations. He is actually a much better reader and writer than Owl, but he doesn't consider it worth mentioning. Instead, Rabbit's real talent lies in Organizing Plans. He organizes rescue parties, makes schemes to reduce Tigger's bounciness, and goes on missions to find out what Christopher Robin does when he's not at the Hundred Acre Woods. Sometimes, however, his Plans do not always go as Planned.
WHAT THIS SAYS ABOUT YOU: You are smart, practical and you plan ahead. People sometimes think that you don't stress or worry, but this is not the case. You are the kind of person who worries in a practical way. You think a) What are my anxieties about and b)what can be done about them? No useless fretting for you. You don't see the point in sitting around and waiting for things to work out, when you could actually work them out today and save yourself a lot of time and worry. Your friends tend to rely on you, because they know that they can trust you help them work things out.
You sometimes tend to be impatient with people who are less practical in their ways. You don't have much patience for idiots who moan about things but never actually DO anything about them. You have high expectations of everyone, including yourself. When you don't succeed at something, or when something goes wrong despite your best efforts to prevent it, you can get quite hard on yourself. You need to cut yourself some slack and accept that everyone has their faults, even you, and THAT IS OKAY. Let yourself be faulty, every now and then, for the sake of your own sanity.
|Link: The Deep and Meaningful Winnie-The-Pooh Character Test written by wolfcaroling on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test|
View My Profile(wolfcaroling)
Thursday, April 10, 2008
The subject of the week in worship practicum was weddings. Weddings of all kinds, with liturgies both canned and newly created. One classmate created a beautiful tea drinking ritual as part of the service, highly original! I concentrated very hard on writing a piece that had gender-neutral language throughout, with blank spaces where I could write in names and more blank spaces where I could write in "husband/wife/spouse/partner" as a couple might wish.
And, we practiced marrying people - volunteers from our classmates - several "traditional" couples, several same-gender couples. My friend, D, was a "good catch" - she volunteered to get "married" three times, and won the prize for serial monogamy. The couple I married was traditional-looking... but they'd never be a real couple! (He's gay, she's an old married lady like me.) It was really a lot of fun - but a bit awkward, too. I realized I've only been to two weddings in the last 20 years - the one pictured here just a couple years ago, and my niece who was married the weekend after the Oklahoma City bombing (what a time marker, eh?). Then there was a renewal of vows by my dear friend and her husband at a very special place.
It was also weird to write rituals when we didn't know who the people involved were going to be. It just felt artificial - but it was just practice.
At any rate - we all had fun with weddings and it was really interesting to hear what others thought was important to include in the liturgy. I tried out a poem I like a lot as the reading on which I based my "brief remarks" to the couple. Here it is:
by C.S. Lewis
Love anything and your heart will be wrung
and possibly broken.
If you want to make sure of keeping it intact
you must give it to no one,
not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with
hobbies and little luxuries;
avoid all entanglements.
coffin of your selfishness.
But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless,
airless—it will change.
It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable,
To love is to be vulnerable.
Sunday, April 06, 2008
You are Superman
|You are mild-mannered, good,|
strong and you love to help others.
Click here to take the Superhero Personality Quiz
thanks for the diversion, Ms. Kitty!
Thursday, April 03, 2008
We are not our own.
Earth forms us,
human leaves on nature's growing vine,
fruit of many generations,
seeds of life divine.
#317, "We Are Not Our Own,"
Words by Brian Wren,
Music by David Hurd
from Singing the Living Tradition
Ms. Kitty has written a post asking bloggers & readers to chime in with how UUism and their pagan connections intersect. Several have already done so - and I thought I'd add my perspective.
My first introduction to pagan practice was in a UU context. Women's groups which borrowed liberally (and not always appropriately) from Native American traditions, wicca and other pagan practices, and wove them into do-it-yourself rituals for their own gatherings. I've written a few such rituals myself, it's one of the things I loved doing - and it gave me the confidence to try my hand at a "real" church service. I have to say I enjoyed these rituals - still do, when my schedule allows me to join my longstanding women's circle. I even co-facilitated the "Rise Up and Call Her Name" curriculum a couple of times.
But I'm not a pagan. I found I couldn't devote myself to the worship of gods, or the practice of wicca, any more than I could have faith in a Big Daddy-Judge in the Sky. I have been touched and marked by my involvement with what is called pagan/wiccan practice though.
The anthropology section of my constructive theology paper is titled "We Are Not Our Own," from the above quoted hymn. I believe that we humans are truly creatures of this earth - this planet. Any speculation that we may have been left here by some spacefaring race from another galaxy is science fiction (or fantasy), though we are indeed made of the same stuff as the stars.
Here is where we came into being, this earth is where we evolve(d), we live, we die, we live on in those who come after us. We emerged, with other life forms, from the chaos, part of continuous creation/ongoing evolution. Holding this belief, I can view the Genesis creation stories as lovely metaphor: the first human formed "from the dust of the ground," with the breath of life breathed into its nostrils. This is at the very core of my theology. Heck, even my blogger moniker should give everyone a clue that I deeply feel bound to the earth - source of life and solace.
I have two little stories that I like to tell about my relationship to this planet. One I shared previously in another post.
The other is in a sermon I'll preach somewhere, someday. I was sure I'd posted it here, somewhere, but I can't find it (obviously there's a flaw in my labeling system!). The short version is that my family and I have visited Mt. St. Helens in Washington State twice, once about 21 years ago and again 10 years after that. The change was profound. On our first visit we only saw devastation - scorched ground, the remains of mighty trees tossed around like toothpicks, and the sturdy fireweed which would prepare the ground for new life. Our second visit, there was a new visitor center, a new lake for recreation, and the mountain was greening up again. I looked out over the lake, at the mountain, the sky, and the words to a familiar chant ran through my head: "the earth, the air, the fire, the water - returns, returns, returns, returns." New creation - the earth & elements of what felt like a sacred space, was renewed, with human cooperation.
No, I'm not a pagan - but I feel deeply connected to this earth, my home. And Unitarian Universalism affirms earth-centered traditions - which allows us, pagans and non-pagans alike, to revere our source of life.