November 30, 2018 – The Beauty of the Irrational
It is the irrational season
When love blooms bright and wild
Had Mary been filled with reason
There’d have been no room for the child. – Madeleine L’Engle
How wonderful to dedicate this season for the irrational, and for love that blooms bright and wild!
Irrational, bright and wild. Not words we usually use as Unitarian Universalists. But they are words that I think we need. We need them in our theological repertoire and we need them in our lives.
Not all of life is grasped intellectually. Not all hope is grounded in data. Not all that sprouts and grows is what we thought we’d planted. Life is full of surprises. Wisdom recognizes that surprises come because the world of the possible is often beyond our perception and we are blessed when it foists itself upon us.
When we are wise, we can drop the expectations, and allow what is out there and possible, to enter, gestate and be born.
Wisdom is not always fullness. Sometimes it is emptiness…emptiness ready and waiting for what the universe needs to be born and celebrated.
Blessed and wise we enter the season willing to be irrational, bright, and maybe even a little wild.
Blessed and wise, we enter the season as willing co-creators of what will be the hope and joy of the world.
Sounds maybe overly optimistic, extravagantly bright, irrational, even wild, but truly, we are the co-creators of the tomorrows of which we dream, born of the irrational love we cherish and nurture.
So, come dream and play, rejoice and wait, generate and celebrate with us this season. Who knows what it will awake in you?
With good cheer and warm blessings,
October 31, 2018 – Dayenu – It Would Have Been Enough
Tuesday evening, I was at Congregation Bet Ha’am, for the beautiful and moving interfaith service honoring the victims of the horrific massacre that took place on Saturday morning at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. Eleven people died that day. Others were physically injured. The numbers traumatized cannot be counted. They extend beyond the people who were there, and the people whose family and friends were lost, although those certainly sustained a trauma of a magnitude I cannot imagine.
Hundreds of people turned out for the service that lasted more than two hours. I am sure many of you were there- there were too many in attendance for me to find you. That part was gratifying and a cause for hope. The horror is not going unnoticed.
I am deeply troubled. The most obvious reason is that innocent people were murdered.
Dayenu is a word said and sung during Passover, to affirm all of the ways in which God has been good to us. It means it would have been enough. In these troubling times all the events that call me to be awake, engaged and proactive, come to mind. Any one of them would suffice as a call to stand up and be counted.
Eleven people were murdered.
Dayenu. It would have been enough.
They were innocent.
They were murdered in the sanctity of their place of worship, in the midst of prayer.
This happened in a week when:
Thirteen pipe bombs were sent to people who oppose the current administration’s policies.
A caravan of asylum seekers and refugees, women, men and children, was called an invasion by criminals.
Our president announced he wants to change the constitution by executive order, revoking the universal right of citizenship to all persons born in the United States.
I fear for my country. I fear for the vulnerable in these times of scapegoating.
I fear for the children, the elders, the poor, the people of color, the LGBTQ community, the disabled, the ill.
And I fear for myself, a Jew.
I call to mind Pastor Martin Niemoller, arrested by the Nazis, who wrote:
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Let us heed the call to speak out clearly while there are still enough of us to speak out.
Yours in love and faith,
October 20, 2018 – Preparing for All Souls’ Day
Sunday, November 4 is All Souls Day, when we will be remembering those who have gone before us who have died. While the tradition comes to us directly through our Universalist heritage, there are many traditions and ways in which to honor our departed. Some of those you may know about or you may have participated in celebrating. They include the ancient tradition of Samhain (there will be a Samhain celebration at A2U2 October 31), and the Dia de Muertos, the Mexican Day of the Dead. It is not surprising that this time of honoring our dead comes when the harvest is done and the plants are freezing over. The earth itself seems to be pulling into its own winters’ death, waiting to be recalled to life again in spring. And we, with the earth, seem to sit on the very edge, feeling the closeness of death and the persistent resilience of life.
We know that not all of our departed were dearly beloved, just as we know that not all of our ancestors made us proud. Yet, they are all part of the narrative that brought us to where we are here, together, today.
I invite you to participate in our ritual of recognizing and honoring those who have died. Feel free to bring some token of remembrance with you, a photo or an object that is a touchstone of your memory, to place on the altar of remembrance we create. We will have pieces of paper available onto which you can write the name of the person (or pet) if you have not brought a photo or object of remembrance, thereby including all those you would like remembered.
There will be a special place with candles to be lit by those of you who have experienced your loss in the past year, since the last All Souls Remembrance Day and to speak their name aloud if you so choose.
It is a special time for all of us, remembering how deeply we are connected to others, sustained by many who no longer walk this earth with us.
Yours in faith,
September 28, 2018 – I Am Changing the Things I Cannot Accept
When I see the photo of a young woman, young enough to be my granddaughter, standing in a crowd and holding a handmade poster that says “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept,” I feel hope, and pride in our young people, and through them, in our country.
Sadly, it is not what I feel when I listen to the proceedings coming out of our United States Senate. It is my vision of that young woman, and my recollection of the millions of women with whom I marched in January, 2017, that keeps me from crawling into bed and pulling the covers over my head. And it is not just because I want to escape. It is because I feel unsafe, and vulnerable, feeling the pull to retrieve the primordial safety and comfort I knew in my bed as a child. It ought not be that way.
“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept”.
My Unitarian Universalist colleague Peggy Clark recently posted:
“To the hundreds of men on my friends list:
Be gentle with the women in your lives. You are likely not to understand how devastating this last week has been. Women are suffering a lot these days as they are reliving all the stories they never told…”
She is right. I am reliving all of the stories I never told, and all of the stories that have been told and entrusted to me, and possibly not to anyone else. It is a lot to relive. It ought not be that way.
“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.”
It is not that I don’t recognize the reasonable expectation that justice be allowed to take its course, withholding judgment until the facts are in. I do. I wish it would be offered as an option. Surely it is always possible that a free and fair investigation would exonerate Judge Kavanaugh, at least as possible as that it would find him guilty. But the cards are stacked against Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and the men in charge do not want to know.
We are not guiltless. These men are our elected representatives. We are not the Rip Van Winkles of the world who woke up one day and found the country in this state. It has been like this all along. And it has to change.
Yours in faith, sorrow, and hope,
September 14, 2018 – Meet Willy!
It was wonderful meeting so many of you on Sunday, introducing ourselves and sharing stories. However, there was no vehicle or format in which I could introduce you to my dog Willy. Although many of you have met him, please, let me introduce you.
Willy is eight years old. We have been together for seven and a half years. We found each other at the Northeast Animal Shelter in Salem, Massachusetts the day after he arrived from Puerto Rico. His breed is a mystery mix.
Willy is a licensed Therapy Dog. I bring him to nursing homes and hospitals where he brings love and comfort to people in what are often stressful situations. He loves children. He loves church. And he loves to be cuddled.
Behavior around service dogs depends upon that dog’s service. While it is important to refrain from touching a seeing eye or other guide dog when they are working, Willy’s job is quite different. His job is help people feel comfortable. His job, basically, is to be patted. So while it is essential that you not touch or pat a working guide dog, it is fine to pat or cuddle Willy. But you don’t need to. If he goes up to you offering to be patted and you prefer not to do so, just refuse him. He understands “No.”
Willy is a hypoallergenic dog, meaning that he has hair, not fur, and therefore has nothing to create allergic reactions unless one is allergic to hair.
One request: Please refrain from feeding him. If he gets fed at church gatherings he will learn to bother people for food, and it will compromise his ability to function as a good church dog. Besides, in my experience, people sneak him food when I am not looking (I have seen it happen at pot-luck suppers) and Willy has been gaining weight at the rate of a pound a year! I need to lift him up to put him into his doggie car seat, and each year it gets more difficult as he
Thank you all for your warm welcome. If you have questions or concerns about Willy, or anything else regarding my ministry, please do speak with me. Together we learn.
August 23, 2018 – Feeling Welcomed!
How does it feel to be welcomed? For most of us, it feels good. It may be that for us to feel welcomed is to feel included or accepted, acknowledged, valued, or offered a space. How that happens is different for each of us.
I met many of you when I came to worship at A2U2 the beginning of August and met others at our one-on-one meetings, and through many, many telephone conversations. I felt warmly welcomed. Nothing suggested that I might have a significant culture-shift to navigate, until the day I tried to mail a letter.
I had come up to Portland on a Thursday, with Friday, Saturday and Sunday fully scheduled. On the way from Swampscott, Massachusetts, I’d intended to mail a letter, but had forgotten to do so. No problem, I thought to myself. I will mail it when I get to Portland. Easier said than done.
I drove around and around Portland looking for a mailbox. There were none to be found. I grew up in New York City. I live in a small town in Massachusetts. I once lived in Dayton, Ohio. Everywhere I have lived, there were mailboxes. Apparently, not so in Portland. I gave up looking and retired to the cottage I’ve rented on Cape Elizabeth. On Friday morning I drove to church, eyes peeled for any mailbox sighting. None.
When my appointments were over on Friday, I Googled for the nearest post office. Hoping there would be a mail box in front, I took off, following my GPS. Yes! In front of the post office there was the familiar shape and color of s US Mail mailbox. I slipped in my letter, relieved.
That evening I wrote a thank you note to my step daughter for something she had done. I sealed it, addressed, stamped it, and then looked at it in my hand. Oh no! How was I going to mail it to her? The disorientation of moving into anew community fully registered. Reassured that after my day at the office I could always drive to the post office and the lone known mailbox in all of Portland, I relaxed enough to go to sleep.
In the morning, I tucked the thank you note between my dashboard and the windshield, and took off for Allen Ave. Suddenly, up ahead, I saw a mail truck with a carrier delivering mail into residential mailboxes. I followed for several blocks, waiting for a long front walk that would require him to be out of the truck long enough for me to put my car in park, jump out and thrust my envelope into his hands with a plea to take it.
The truck stopped. The mail carrier got out of his truck, and instead of walking up the front walk of the house, turned and started walking toward me, laughing. I yanked the envelope out from between my dashboard and the windshield, leapt out of my car, and breathless thrust my arm out, envelope waving like a flag. He met me half way, grinning, took my precious note and assured me he would mail it. We both laughed, and I returned to my car.
Portland for me was changed, and I was changed with it. I felt welcomed. I felt like I could belong to this city, maybe even love it.
What does it take to feel welcomed? To be welcoming? It might take surprisingly little, even while being hugely important. We will have lots of practice, as we embark on our journey together, welcoming each other, the familiar and the yet to be known. I am delighted,