Monday, December 31, 2007

Unexpectedly at home on New Year's Eve

I had planned to be at Seabeck, at Winter Eliot, on New Year's Eve, celebrating with 140 friends, but instead I'm home, after wrenching my back on Friday lugging suitcases up to my room (no elevators at Seabeck). I had foolishly assumed that the muscle spasms I get a few times each year were behind me, since I've been working out faithfully five days a week, and I didn't take any of the paraphernalia I usually haul along, "just in case".

So after a Saturday in pain which no amount of ibuprofen or naproxyn could allay and a night in which I slept almost not at all, I decided to call it quits and come home where the heating pad and meds were awaiting me. It meant finding another ride home for my passenger, but she was cooperative and we managed that, so after breakfast, I packed the car and left Winter Eliot.

It took three hours, what with ferry lines and icy roads, but by noon I was home and able to pop a Skelaxin and lie down with the heating pad. Whew!

Today I have had a good night's sleep plus a couple of naps and am feeling much better. I think I am well enough to join some friends for a celebration at their home, but I will have to forego the bubbly, since the meds already make me a bit dim. Of course, I could decide not to take a pill before I go. We'll see how I'm feeling.

Right now, the pain and spasming seem to be gone, but until I've gone several hours without the back support truss and microwaved buckwheat insert, I can't be sure I'm cured.

Whatever happens, I'm glad to be home experiencing it, not trying to have a good time through the pain at Seabeck, much as I like being there.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Countdown till the end of the year

I'm watching the clock right now, awaiting the magic moment of 1:25 p.m., when I will leave the house and head over to pick up my passenger for our trip to the Winter Eliot Institute at Seabeck Conference Center. We have to detour via the eastern mainland because the Port Townsend ferry is passenger-only these days, so we've built in a little extra driving and waiting time. We hope to catch the 2 p.m. Clinton ferry and then the 3 p.m or so Edmonds to Kingston ferry.

As always, I'm ready way too early and twiddling my thumbs in the interim.

My dad used to say that he'd rather be thirty minutes early than thirty seconds late, and I guess I've inherited that philosophy, as I am almost always early and almost never late. And when I am late, I'm anxious about it, as though it actually mattered a hill of beans whether I am five minutes late anywhere. It usually only matters to me.

Eliot always starts on the 28th of December and ends on January 1, celebrating the end of the old year and the beginning of the new in fine style. This gathering of Unitarian Universalists has been going on every New Year's for many years; some of my friends who attend have been attending for decades.

This year's speaker is my friend and colleague the Rev. Amanda Aikman, a skilled playwright, preacher, and humorist, and I am looking forward to seeing her again and spending four days in her company. I don't get to see her very often, even though she only lives across the water from me. Our paths don't cross much because of our differing ministries. So this will be fun.

While I'm at Eliot, I'll have my laptop so I can keep up with my blog connections and email. But generally, I hope it will be four nice long days of leisure and rest. No cats to feed, no newspapers or TV, just me and 200 friends and Hood Canal and the Olympics. Ahhhh.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

I fear for women in power.

I saw the news about Benazir Bhutto online this morning when I sat down to check email and my first thought was "I'm not surprised". Whether it is assassination by suicide bomber or assassination of character by swiftboaters, women in power are in danger.

I remember years ago reading an interview in Glamour or some such (yes, in my earlier days I read the fashion and how-to-get-a man mags), an interview with a woman who had been Bhutto's roommate/friend at Radcliffe. I thought at the time, "how cool would that be, to have a Pakistani woman for a roommate and then to watch her ascend to power in her native land! To see her education and intellect and charisma pay off in this exciting way!"

Today I'm wondering how that former roommate/friend must be feeling now, how she must have been feeling in the past years as her friend was exiled and then returned to Pakistan to challenge the military establishment, knowing full well that her life was in constant danger.

I worry about Hillary Clinton. She too is challenging many ingrained attitudes and expectations about how women are supposed to act. She is so hated by many, even some who are feminists, because she isn't doing things the way she's supposed to, whatever that means.

Women in power are in danger, real physical danger sometimes, other times real emotional and economic danger. Women are vulnerable to attack through physical violence, through innuendo and suspicion and rumor, through character defamation.

There must be a radical shift in world view for women to be safe, whether that is in the Oval Office, the Prime Minister's role, the home, the classroom, the congregation, the public streets and shops. When women challenge the current world view, they are branded as bitches, witches, and whores, and their lives and wellbeing are endangered.

Women are, in the current world view, supposed to be compliant, sexy, submissive, thin, pregnant, nurturing, motherly, sweet, servile, modest, what have I forgotten? And if we're not, we're in danger.

Actually, we're in danger regardless. I remember viewing a movie, The Color of Fear, in seminary, a movie that was supposed to wake us up to the physical violence inherent in racism. Eight men, White and Asian and Latino and Black, were filmed in a seminar where they talked about their experiences with racism. I listened to horrific stories about their lives, watched one white man have an epiphany about his own racism, and learned a lot about the fear of one another that they experienced.

But at the end of the film, I was still thinking "I'm afraid of all of them. Because I'm a woman, and even the wimpiest of them could hurt me physically." I'm not saying that sexism is worse than racism but they are equally dangerous. I fear for Barack Obama as well, because he too is challenging stereotypes and hatred of the same kind.

I'm not afraid for myself most of the time, but I'm aware that I am constantly on guard, constantly aware, constantly making sure of my surroundings, my companions, my safety. It is so ingrained in me to be alert to danger from men that I carry this into my everyday life. And I love men, generally! But until I know them, and know that they are safe, I am on guard.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Pondering things in my heart

I took the FS and FB to SeaTac yesterday afternoon, our last hours together for who knows how long, and though I am aware that I won't see them again for a long time, I was ready for some solitude again. The weather going down was blustery and spitting snow, though the roads weren't slushy, and I managed to be back to catch the 4:30 p.m. ferry home.

But the hours since I dropped them off have been full of ponderings in my heart. I have kept many memories of the time since his birth in 1972 and am now holding them up to the light of 2007, to see how our experiences together have changed and grown.

One thing I'm aware of is that, though I miss the days when it was just him and me against the world (a slight exaggeration, but we had some lean, unhappy times), the "mother and child reunion" (thank you, Paul Simon, for that phrase) is always changing. And that's a good thing.

I understand the impulse that keeps mothers resisting the entrance of another woman into the life of their sons. I understand the irresistible urge that prods mothers into continuing to treat their adult sons as though they had never left childhood. I think I was pretty successful at not succumbing to nagging him about health issues, though I did side with the FB when she expressed a concern.

But it all served to teach me that I no longer have a mother/son relationship with him in the same ways. He will always be my beloved child, but the generative step has been taken. He has moved beyond that relationship, whether I have or not, and it is now my task to move beyond it as well.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve

Yesterday's "Do You Want to Hold the Baby" pageant (by Joyce Poley, marvelous composer of Unitarian Universalist dramatic and musical literature) was a huge hit. Our DRE, Lorie, had spent hours with other staff members and volunteers putting it together and the result was a tableau of the Nativity story expanded beyond the bare bones of the story to portray it in the light of radical hospitality and the miracle that is every baby's birth. My part was small and I didn't have to do much preparing, so I could let myself flow with the story and songs, thrilling to the generosity of spirit and the joy of a new and important life beginning.

We had had a quiet day, hanging around the house, because there wasn't much time to get out and do something before I had to be at church, so we were ready for a little entertainment and inspiration and we got it in spades. Because not only was the pageant inspirational, it was also hilarious.

Imagine two adult men dressed as cows. Yes, cows, udderly true. Several cats, all sizes and shapes. A donkey's head on a tall, husky man. Teenage Joseph and middle-aged Mary. A little brown baby. Three Wise Ones (one preteen girl, her mother, and a man). Two sheep, a three-year-old boy and his mother, who exited briefly with him under her arm about the time my line was "Do you want to hold the baby?" "Yes, please, won't you?" was her murmured plea, as he squawled his way out the door. A dove, whose costume was only a white feather boa (over clothes, of course!).

One woman said to me afterwards,"you know, I had my doubts about this whole thing, but I have to say I wouldn't have missed it for the world!" Our several visitors were enchanted.

But the glory of the night made it hard to unwind last night and, coupled with more caffeine later than usual and cats who would not settle down, I had a hard time going to sleep, so this morning, very short on sleep and feeling groggy, I took the FS and FB up to the Keystone ferry dock to let them go to Port T. on their own. I came home, took a nap, and now am feeling more chipper.

They'll call me in the middle of the afternoon when they're ready to come home and I'll run up and get them. That will also give me plenty of time to make our Christmas dinner, which I'll enjoy, and have it ready for them a bit earlier than if we'd all gone.

Tomorrow they go home. There's a part of me that hates to see them go but our lives have become so different that I will also welcome a return to my own ways of doing things. We've had some good conversations, broaching subjects that sometimes don't come up until a crisis occurs. I want him to know where the documents are, the will, the insurance. I want the reassurance that he will step in for me, someday, when I can't do it myself. And, judging from his responses to the conversations, he will do so respectfully and sensitively. That makes me feel good. It's being a good Christmas.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Eve Eve

We're two days into the visit of the Favorite Son and Favorite Bride. It's been interesting learning how to be together in this new relationship of married adult son, daughter-in-law, and mother-friend-mother-in-law. It's a configuration I have not experienced before and I confess I was a bit tense during the first hours we spent together on Friday.

I waited for them at SeaTac's Concourse C/D spillway, where passengers from flights using those gates pour in a steady stream to enter the main terminal. And when I saw the two of them coming down the ramp, I couldn't hold back a little squeal and eager hand-wave, even though I could see FS grinning a little self-consciously at my uncool behavior. But he is a good guy and if anyone was looking at us weirdly, it didn't matter a bit as we three hugged and moved out of others' way.

It was only midafternoon and we intended to go to the Pike Place Market so that Jayde could check out a shop she wanted to visit, so that was our first stop and then on to Saba, an Ethiopian place on 12th to enjoy a little enjera and lentils, greens, lamb, and beef. By the time we were finished with supper, it was almost 7 and traffic had abated so much that we had a smooth ride north to the ferry terminal at Mukilteo.

It takes awhile to find conversational ease, for me, in exploring a new relationship. I felt uncharacteristically quiet at first, with the lightweight news shared and the heavier topics unbroached, yet hanging there, ready for consideration. When to bring up the new topics that his marriage and my aging suggest? How to do it?

Eventually, once we were home and the cats had done their preliminary circling of the new laps and legs, I brought out one set of topics---the few jewelry pieces that have sentimental or monetary value and the stories behind them. I find that, now that he is married to a woman I love and whose children I have taken into my heart, I have entered the stage of "what do I want my son to have for his memories and possessions from me?"

"This brooch is, I think, silver or maybe pewter and belonged to my Tante Caro. She gave it to my mother, who gave it to me. It is Swedish and at least 100 years old. I would like you, FB, to have it someday and perhaps pass it along to your daughter, my new granddaughter (would that be FGD?), if you think she would value it."

Murmurs of appreciation from both FS and FB. (It is a beautiful brooch, heavy and intricately designed, but very out of fashion and too heavy to pin on anything lightweight.)

"This is my wedding ring from your dad's and my marriage of 13 years. I don't know what it might mean to you, FS, but I'm grateful for the good years we had together and especially for you, who were the most important and most valued outcome of those years. Do with it whatever feels right."

FS takes the ring, slips it on and off his little finger, looks inside at the inscription, sets it down. I pick it up and look inside at the inscription, remembering it as having had a serious mistake in the etching. There is no mistake glaring back at me, only a slight scratch. My memory is faulty, perhaps the result of my long agonizing over this marriage. Today, December 23, would have been our 41st wedding anniversary.

"This box holds the Navajo turquoise jewelry that I got at a garage sale before you were born, for $35. I have no idea what it's really worth but it will be yours."

We sit in silence at the table. I want to talk with him about my life, about how my life will go in the future and ask him to be good to me. I don't say any of these things yet. Perhaps I will before the visit is over.

Yesterday we spent the day touring the island, as our trip to Port Townsend had to be postponed because of high winds on the Strait. We hope to go tomorrow, but today we are resting, going to church for the children's pageant in the afternoon, and enjoying ertasopa (Norwegian split pea soup), our traditional Christmas Eve meal for supper. Only it is Christmas Eve Eve and tomorrow will be our Christmas feast, since they have to leave on Christmas Day, too early for a big dinner.

Yesterday was a good day. My tension has ebbed considerably. We are again at ease and when I mentioned the "spiritual autobiography" I was writing, FS said he'd like to read what I've got so far. So I printed it out for him and both of them have now read it. I've only gotten to the place where his father and I have parted ways and I don't know how to write this piece. So it will take me awhile to find the words that will describe the breakup of our marriage without casting too many aspersions at either of us and yet be honest and true.

It is early morning and they are still sleeping. We will go to Neil's Clover Patch for crab benedict in a little while and we will see what this day brings, in the way of conversation.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Quintessential Holiday Reading for Unitarian Universalists...

is certainly NOT by me but is by my colleague, the Rev. Dennis Hamilton of Horizon UU Church in Carrollton, Texas. It was published in the December edition of Quest, the monthly publication of the Church of the Larger Fellowship and you can link to it here .

Delve into everything else Quest has to offer. It is one of the best publications the UUA puts out.

PS. Off to pick up the FS and his bride at SeaTac! Yay!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Preparation for an arrival

No, or rather yes, it's Advent, that season of the liturgical year when in Christian churches all over the world preparations are made for the arrival of the Son, the baby of Bethlehem, but no, that's not the arrival I'm preparing for.

I am preparing for the arrival of the Favorite Son and his bride who will be arriving on Friday via Alaska Airlines, not a donkey, and there will be a room in this inn for them when they get here, although I will have to move Maxie out of his deluxe accommodations to make that happen. (Maxie is routinely shut up in the guest room at 10 p.m. every night so that the adults can get some respite. I am not sure what it will be like to have him on the loose all night. Poor Loosy and Lily!)

Anyhow, I went to the grocery store this morning to lay in supplies-------heavens! I'd forgotten how much it costs to feed more than one person for several days! After laying out buckets of cash for supplies, I came home, took a look at what I absolutely had to do to get ready for them, and lay down for a nap.

Now I'm delaying the inevitable a little while longer, cooking a little supper, planning to watch a DVD after that, and vowing to do it all tomorrow, for sure. Luckily the FS has never been a stickler for pristine cleanliness, though I'm not sure about his bride. If I feed them well, though, I suspect I will get away with whatever degree of preparation I manage.

It will be wonderful to have them here. They visited me in Seattle three years ago but they've never been to visit me on Whidbey. Our plans for the weekend include stopping by the Pike Place Market in Seattle on our way home from the airport, a trip across the water to Port Townsend, and a little exploration of Whidbey. I want to take them up to Deception Pass, on the north end, because it is so beautiful.

I have a picture taped up on my wall of the FS and me, taken years ago when we were both much younger, for our church directory. He is long-haired and bespectacled, wearing a tattered jean jacket, a tie, and a black t-shirt with a slightly offensive slogan, his baseball cap on backwards, a maniacal grin on his face. I am long-haired myself, in a red dress, much thinner, beaming innocently, unaware of how this picture will turn out. As it was, we chose it for our directory picture because it was so much a depiction of who we were in those days. He must have been about 19 at the time and I was probably only 50 or so.

He was the ringleader of the youth group at our church and at the time, the church was in the middle of an all-church social action project which involved everyone in helping with a local agency for families in transition. The youth group was in charge of a drive to amass paper products for the agency.

One Sunday we were complacently listening to the announcements at the beginning of the service, when the rear doors swung open and through them marched a phalanx of black-clad young men, the FS at the point position. They reached the front of the church, swung around, legs planted wide, hands on hips. The FS, in his black leather trench coat, opened one side of his coat to reveal many paper products fastened inside.

"We need you to bring paper towels, disposable diapers, kleenex," he opened the other side of his coat; "also toilet paper, computer paper, all kinds of paper products for Family Tree". He closed his coat, put hands on hips, glared menacingly. "And ya better do it. Cuz if you don't.........I'm gonna date all your daughters!"

The paper drive was a great success.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Tragedy in Florida UU congregation touches us all

My friend and colleague the Rev. Millie Rochester is the associate minister at the Clearwater UU Congregation in Florida, where five members of her group are dead tonight after a murder/suicide that took the lives of two women partners and two children and the ex-husband of one of the women, a man who took his own life after killing the women and children.

I can't imagine what that must demand of Millie and her congregants. Please keep them in your hearts and prayers. Members of the UU Trauma Response team are in Florida with the congregation. The senior minister of the congregation, Abhi Janamanchi, is on sabbatical but will doubtless return to assist with care for the community.

Millie was the DRE at the Salem, Oregon, church for many years before studying for the ministry and ordination. She is well known in this district for her competence and cheerful nature.

How can these things be happening? There are no answers to that question that satisfy me these days.

An interesting challenge

The newsletter deadline is coming up and one of my monthly duties is to write a column "from the Minister". Here is my column for January, whose topic emerged from last night's Conversation on Source #4, "Wisdom of Jewish and Christian teachings".
Recently, as we considered the Fourth Source of Unitarian Universalism (the wisdom of Jewish and Christian teachings), the topic of language came up. I had asked those attending the conversation about that Source to think of one religious word that they liked and another religious word that they didn’t like----and why.

Among the words that folks liked were “spirituality”, “soul”, “grace”, “tolerance”, largely because they were words that felt big, inclusive, open to everyone. The words folks were uncomfortable with included “faith”, “church”, “cross”, and “salvation”, because they were words that felt limiting, excluding of some. Some evoked images that were foreboding.

A lively discussion grew out of this exercise and it became clear that those of us who had been UUs for a long time had less trouble with some words than others who were fairly new to the congregation. But there were other factors as well; a couple of people knew of someone who had chosen not to seek out a UU congregation because it felt “churchy”, i.e., Christian.

This has been a conversation in Unitarian Universalist circles for as long as I can remember---over thirty years of membership in a UU congregation! As new people join us and begin to experience the pluralism that is the essence of our universalist theology, there is a growing desire to open the circle as far as possible with our language. Naturally, there is also a resistance to changing old and comfortable language. Both sides have reasons and feelings to bolster their convictions.

So what can we do to live with this paradox, this tension between the historical language and the present reality? We don’t want people to be turned off by who we are, but we also want to be true to our roots.

My thirty-plus years of Unitarian Universalist membership also make me very aware that we can’t make rules about words. We can only listen to one another’s concerns and thoughts and try to understand how people’s experience has shaped their thinking. We can only be sensitive to one another’s positions.

At the conversation that evening, it was also clear that it hurts to hear that the historic word “church”, which comes from our Christian roots, is painful for others who do not share Christian roots or feel uncomfortable with present-day Christianity. And it occurs to me that there is a need for understanding and a democratic spirit on both sides of this coin.

As we get closer to completion of our new building, I think it would make sense to consider naming it something big, not to avoid using the word “church” but to point us toward the larger mission of Unitarian Universalism, which is an invitation to the Whidbey community to experience what it means to have differing beliefs but a common concern for one another, for the larger community around us and for our planet Earth. Is there a way to do that? It would be exciting to explore that idea, I believe.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Controversy about GA 2008 in Ft. Lauderdale

I've been following a heated conversation on the UUMA ministers' chat about the pros and cons of having General Assembly 08 in Fort Lauderdale, where attendees will be required to show an official ID (more than a GA badge) in order to enter the conference center. Concerns center on the justice issues involved, the potential for our youth to be excluded unfairly at times, and generally the atmosphere that such heightened security involves.

A message came out today from UU leadership about this issue and its concerns, and I've reprinted it below. I've got problems with the scenario myself but am mostly watching it develop because there's no way I am going to be able to attend GA in Ft. Lauderdale, whether I think it's just dandy to be attending a UU event in a locale where suspicion and threat of punishment abound or not.

If you're going to GA, you ought to be aware of the controversy. Some are calling for GA to be cancelled if it can't be scheduled in a friendlier location or, at the very least, for there to be strong opposition shown to the security policies of the Port of Ft. Lauderdale.

Here's the email that went out to the UU-News list:

General Assembly Planning Committee Chair Beth McGregor, President
William G. Sinkford, and Moderator Gini Courter have sent a memorandum
to the UUA Board of Trustees and the General Assembly Planning Committee
regarding security issues at the Fort Lauderdale site of the 2008
General Assembly. The memorandum notes, "Our concerns include the
possibility of an unfriendly environment for youth, particularly youth
of color, and the problems inherent in using a site that is not open to
those not eligible for government-issued identification." The complete
memorandum can be found online at .

After studying reports on the Fort Lauderdale conference site and
following meetings held by UUA staff with convention center and law
enforcement officials in Fort Lauderdale, McGregor, Sinkford, and
Courter have concluded that "the conditions in Fort Lauderdale provide
us with an opportunity to shine a light on the issues that concern us
and to use the situation as a teaching moment: What is it that we, as
religious people, are called to say at this time and in this place? What
privilege do we enjoy that is denied to others?" They have recommended
to the Board of Trustees that the Board not take any steps to change the
location of the 2008 General Assembly.

Further information, including the security protocols at Fort Lauderdale
and a report from an onsite visit, can be found at (see related content links).

So whaddya think?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

In tribute to Beverly Anderson

My friend Bev died last Thursday and her memorial service is today. It is an honor to conduct her memorial service. Here are my closing words for her service this afternoon.

After hearing so many stories about Bev’s life, I regret that my friendship with her didn’t start sooner! As it was, we began to get acquainted when she was diagnosed about a year ago with the cancer which would kill her.

I was doing my volunteer chaplaincy work at Whidbey General, peeking in rooms to see if anyone wanted to talk or pray or laugh, and one of the nurses caught me in the hallway, pointed toward a room, and said, “the lady in that room has just had some pretty bad news. You might want to go see her.”

I went in the room and there was Bev, perched on the side of her bed, looking out the window at the wintry skies. In chaplaincy work, there’s no time for chit-chat, and I got right to the point. “Bad news?” I asked, and we started to talk.

Eventually we realized we had met before, during one of the sessions my congregation had sponsored about gay and lesbian issues, and our connection began to grow.

During the next year, I visited frequently at her home, met her family and friends, and came to love her for her spirit, her sense of humor, her love of life. And as she fought the cancer, clung to life tenaciously, finally letting go, she never lost her trademark humor or spirit.

In fact, on the last day before she died, Wednesday of last week, I visited her at Bailey Boushay, finding her feverish and barely awake. I took her hand, realizing it was probably my last chance to do so, and said, “Bev, it’s Kit, I’m sorry I haven’t been able to get here sooner,” and she, in a voice barely audible, said, “well, it’s about time…”

Twenty four hours later, she was gone, but not without giving me one last sassy remark, letting me hold her hand one last time, stroking her hair one last time.

Bev’s ashes will be distributed by her family. But her life continues in our memories. We loved her, we continue to love her, we may continue to be guided by her. Our grief, our emotion, our life with her does not end today. Remember this and be gentle with one another. We will relive our pain many times and this is natural. It is our nature as human beings to carry with us the experience of love, in all its joy and sorrow, and to learn from its teachings.

May we learn from Bev’s life and death. May we live on in the spirit in which she lived, with courage, fortitude, and love. Let us enter now into a time of silent reflection and prayer, remembering Bev’s life.


Let me close with this poem by May Sarton, which to me is a fitting conclusion to a celebration of Bev Anderson’s life.

“Now Voyager” by May Sarton

Now voyager, lay here your dazzled head,
Come back to earth from air, be nourished,
Not with that light on light, but with this bread.

Here close to earth be cherished, mortal heart,
Hold your way deep as roots push rocks apart
To bring the spurt of green up from the dark.

Where music thundered, let the mind be still,
Where the will triumphed, let there be no will,
What light revealed, now let the dark fulfill.

Here close to earth the deeper pulse is stirred,
Here where no wings rush and no sudden bird,
But only heartbeat upon beat is heart.

Here let the fiery burden be all spilled,
The passionate voice at last be calmed and stilled
And the long yearning of the blood fulfilled.

Now voyager, come home, come home to rest,
Here on the long-lost country of earth’s breast,
Lay down the fiery vision and be blest, be blest.

Be Blest, Bev, as you have blessed so many.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Source #4, Wisdom from the Jewish and Christian Traditions

We’ve examined, to this point, three of the sources of Unitarian Universalism. Let’s turn in our hymnals to the page where all of the Sources are listed and read together the list we’ve considered so far.

The Living Tradition we share draws from many sources:
Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces that create and uphold life;
Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
Wisdom from the world’s religions, which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life.

Today we come to our Fourth Source, probably our most basic source and, for some a challenge to understand and to acknowledge. Let’s read it together:
Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves.

The challenge I refer to is not this simple statement which focuses on ancient teachings of hospitality and inclusiveness, but the challenge of examining and taking to heart the wisdom of religions which have struggled to survive modern culture with integrity and grace.

Judaism and Christianity, as well as their Abrahamic cousin, Islam, have been beset by the fervor of fundamentalist thought and have diverged widely from the original teachings of their major prophets. Because of this muddying of authentic teachings, it has been hard for Unitarian Universalists to see clearly the depth of meaning in these two foundational religious traditions.

I hope that my thoughts today can take us to those depths, can help us see the profound impact that monotheistic Judaism and Christianity have had on our Unitarian Universalist sensibilities.

Let me read you an ancient text, Micah 6:verses 6-8, a passage in the Jewish scripture which is so well-known and well-loved that it appears in our hymnal as a selected reading.

In the passage, a Hebrew seeker for truth is asking a question:
“With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before God with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will God be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression? The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”

And the Hebrew prophet Micah answers the seeker: “God has told you, o mortal, what is good… and what is required of you (is) but to do justice and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

Now, to me, a young girl in the 50’s, struggling to figure out what I believed---the fantastic stories of Jesus’s miracles or the Ten Commandments, or the small town norms prohibiting nice Baptist girls from dancing and movies---these words came as a huge relief when I discovered them. Even a teenager beset by boy troubles and zits could understand them: be fair, be kind, be humble.

The law and the prophets in a nutshell. A guide for living a moral and ethical life. I’m reminded these many years later of Unitarian Universalist minister Robert Fulghum’s small essay, “All I ever needed to know I learned in kindergarten”.

I didn’t know at the time any of the historical or literary significance of these prophetic words in the book of Micah. I didn’t know the Seeker had recited a prioritized list of the possible ways for the Jews to honor their God with sacrifice. I didn’t know that this was a reference to a famous judicial verdict based on a covenant between the Jews and their God. I hadn’t been listening hard enough in Sunday School up to that point to absorb the knowledge that this is a perfect summary of what prophets from many world religions have said is true religion: to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly.

All I knew was that it was music to my ears. It answered a good many of my questions in language that was very clear to me. It said nothng about dancing or movies, but that was okay---at the time, nobody was asking me to dance or to go to a movie. However, people were inviting me to be unfair, unkind, arrogant and egotistic.

This passage became kind of a blueprint for my life. It was the internal plumbline that I came to depend upon as I made decisions. Later I added that famous quotation from the teacher Jesus in the Christian scriptures, when Jesus says that the greatest commandment is to love our God with all our hearts and souls and minds and that the second greatest is to love our neighbor as ourselves.

This seemed to me to be a restating of Micah’s truth: that our relationships with God as we understand the concept of God, our relationships with our neighbor, and our relationships with our selves must be of the highest and most loving quality.

These two Bible passages, one from the Jewish scriptures and one from the Christian canon, seemed to me to be the essence of living right. And I eventually decided, over the years, that these two teachings summed up all of the Ten Commandments, all of the intent of Jewish law, all of the original wisdom of Christian doctrine.

I didn’t see a need for anything else, not hashing and rehashing the finer points of Christian creeds or the literal interpretation of ancient purity laws which seemed unrealistic in the 20th century. It seemed to me that theology, a word which literally means “knowledge of the Divine”, theology had to be based on life in the real world and had to be accessible to all, regardless of education, reading level, brain power, nationality or age.

So when I found that Unitarian Universalism seemed to think the same thing, I was hooked! For a religion to focus on justice, kindness, humility, and love seemed to cut through the doctrinal hype and get to the heart of human living.
I was looking for a faith that made sense, that took the ancient teachings, validated them where it was reasonable to do so, and let go of the rest. So much of the ancient doctrine in religions was based on cultural norms that simply didn’t work in the 20th century and I wanted a faith that worked fulltime, in my life.

Since that time, my education has included a detailed look at both Jewish and Christian scripture. In seminary, everyone studies the Bible. Whether we are Christian or Jewish or Buddhist or UU or whatever, we live in a Judeo-Christianized society and it is essential for a minister to understand the Bible, whether it is our favorite sacred text or not! So many literary and cultural references originate in the Bible that we neglect its words to our own detriment.

As I have studied the Bible and have looked at its wisdom through the lens of my Unitarian Universalist faith, I have sorted out the importance of its stories, its laws and directives, and the credibility of its prophets by holding them under the lights of justice, kindness, humility, and love, examining my own attitudes and behavior in the same ways.

And what I’ve come to believe is that beneath the trappings of modern Judaism and Christianity there beats a heart of goodness and mercy. We often don’t see it in our world which is so convinced that fundamentalist Judaism or Christianity are true examples of these religions.

When presidential candidates tout the doctrines of their faith rather than the bedrock on which those doctrines are loosely stacked, the world sees only the doctrines, the picayune trivia which distinguish denominations and sects from one another. The world does not see the character of the candidate, only the candidate’s desire to suck up to a certain political base. And, of course, that says something right there about the character of the candidate.

Are there other teachings from Judaism and Christianity that we UUs have incorporated into our faith tradition? I think so. I think there are moral examples in both religions that we have absorbed and taken to heart. They are portrayed more in stories than in adages and proverbs.

The history of Judaism is the history of a people who have consistently spoken truth to power, whether we see that in the Hanukkah story of the Maccabees or in the tales of the prophets who spoke the words of justice and righteousness to a wayward nation. The Jews have lived out the story of the quest for religious and cultural freedom.

Oppressed and persecuted, the Jews continued to come back, to persist, to overcome adversity and thrive. This has not made them popular with everyone because victims are supposed to continue to be victims, at least according to conventional, but unspoken, so-called wisdom.

But the lesson of faithfulness to a cause, to a principle, to a concept of right behavior and right relationship---this is something we have taken to heart in Unitarian Universalism, even though we do not live it out as successfully as we might.

The story of Hanukkah is a good example of this faithfulness. Let me offer the essence of that story as told by my colleague the Rev. Debra Haffner. She writes: (and I have adapted her words slightly to make them more accessible in the spoken word)

In (the year)167 (before the common era), a Greek leader named Antiochus attempted to institute a Greek state religion. He ordered the takeover of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, had a statue of Zeus built on its altar, and called for ritual sacrifice there and in other Jewish temples throughout the countryside.

(In protest) Mattathias (a Jewish leader) killed the first Jew who came forward to offer a sacrifice (plus) a state official, and Mattathias and his five sons were forced to escape to the hills. Together, they organized first a small band of rebels to resist Antiochus, which grew to a 6000 person army that retook Jerusalem and the Temple.

Three years from the day that the statue of Zeus was erected, Judas Maccabeus and his followers rededicated and purified the Temple in an 8 day celebration. Chanukah has been celebrated more or less continuously for 2,170 years.

Chanukah is the first recorded battle for religious freedom and against efforts to have a minority religion assimilated into a larger whole, reason enough for us to celebrate it in today's world where religious fundamentalists claim that theirs is the only truth.

“But the legend of Chanukah also speaks to me (as a UU). According to a very short passage in the Talmud, the Maccabees came into the temple and after purifying it, went to relight the eternal flame. They only had enough oil for one day. Pressing new oil from the olive trees would take another week. Miraculously the oil lasted for the entire eight days. The Rabbis who wrote the Talmud transformed the telling of the history from a heroic military battle into a story of God’s miracle and grace to the Jewish people. They moved it from a story based on the facts to a story based on the universal need for faith and hope and redemption.”

In addition to the story of Hanukkah, we remember the courage of Moses who spoke the truth of oppression and injustice to the Egyptian Pharaoh, forcing the Pharaoh to let the Hebrew people escape slavery.

We remember the story of Job, who lost everything and railed at God for the injustice of God’s treatment. Job and God had a major argument, according to the story, and in the end, Job was restored to good health and long life, despite his terrible losses. God got in a few choice words but God did make amends.

And the Psalms are full of angry and agonized fist-shakings at God. Why are you doing this to me, the psalmist asks. The Psalms really give it to God. And we do too, questioning the goodness of a God who tolerates the cruelty of the world.

In addition, we find the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year which begins a period of ten days of self-examination and repentance and culminating in Yom Kippur, a time of atonement and reconciliation, to be valuable reminders of how important are our relationships with the Divine (however we conceive that), with each other, and with ourselves.

We may not celebrate these holidays as do our Jewish friends and neighbors, but this wisdom---of self-examination, acknowledgement of mistakes made and forgiveness given and received---is implicit in our seven Principles.

And what is it about Christianity that we find inherent in our UU faith? We often are so repelled by the behavior of some who call themselves Christian that we fail to see the goodness in this religion which is our closest spiritual ancestor.

At our conversation evening this coming Saturday, I want to spend time talking about our concerns about Christianity, about the sense of betrayal some of us have as we see our childhood religious heritage turned into something that feels wrong, feels unwise, even foolish and foolhardy, and sometimes cruel.

Leaving aside the supernatural aspects of Christianity, which are problematic in themselves, we are deeply troubled by the message of many more conservative Christian denominations.

We see the teachings of Jesus set aside, ignored; his behavior of inclusiveness overlooked in favor of branding an outsider as sinful.

So we feel angry and resentful. We may remember unkindness and prejudice directed at us or at our friends and family by so-called Christian leaders who were cruel and exclusionary, unable to offer compassion because of adherence to strict doctrinal laws.

We may know of the hypocrisy of perverted adults who misused us or our family and friends for their own pleasure. We may feel scorn for those who refuse to acknowledge scientific understandings as reasonable. We may wonder at those who are not reflective or introspective about religious teachings and prefer an unchanging dogma.

All these attitudes can really get in our way when it comes to appreciating the contributions of the teachings of Jesus, because we conflate those legitimate teachings with the hybrid conglomeration of ancient purity laws, exclusivity, sanctimonious piety, and political conservatism that characterizes many Christian denominations today.

There is more than one kind of Christianity out there. There is politically conservative Christianity, there is mainline middle-of-the-road Christianity which takes few positions, there is liberal Christianity, like many of the denominations which support such social causes as marriage equality and other justice issues, there is Unitarian Universalist Christianity, which studies and lives out the teachings of Jesus as seen through a 21st century lens. There may be others too!

But the Christianity that has fed our Unitarian Universalist faith is the religion that, taking a lesson from Judaism, offers radical hospitality to the stranger, to the outsider, to the one who is different, whose behavior is not mainstream.

Our Christian roots go deep into the soil under Jesus’ feet, as he spoke of the Kingdom of Heaven being within each of us, as he chided the Pharisees for their hypocrisy, as he spoke of peacemaking and humility. Our Christian roots get nourishment from the parable of the Good Samaritan, the story of the prodigal son, Jesus’ kindness to the children he met on his travels, the courage he and other prophets displayed as they faced death as punishment for their idealism, for speaking truth to power.

And we see, in the legends of resurrection, the certainty of love that does not die; in the stories of a miraculous birth, the miracle that is every child’s birth. In the love and loyalty of his parents, the love and commitment of parents everywhere.

Legend has it that Jesus lived a perfect life. We are inclined to believe that Jesus led a perfectly normal human life, but lived it with greater integrity and vision than his peers.

We have much to revere and celebrate in our Jewish and Christian rootsource. We may look askance at the distortion and violation of Jesus’ teachings by some groups, but we ourselves have a great deal to live up to because of our those roots.

Our seven principles reflect the respect for human life, compassion and justice, liberty and community which are the bedrock of essential Jewish and Christian faith. We are wise when we acknowledge and revere these teachings and live them out in our daily lives.

Let’s pause for a time of silent reflection and prayer.

Our worship service, our time of shaping worth together, is ended, but our service to the world begins again as we leave this place. Let us go in peace, pondering the gifts of the ancient religious teachings of Judaism and Christianity. May we see past the superficialities that trouble us and behold the heart of faiths that sprang from a deep desire to honor the Divine and to care for our fellow human beings and the earth. Amen, Shalom, Salaam, and Blessed Be.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Ms. Kitty as Performer

There's been something in the air this fall, I think, something that induced me to sign up to be a cast member in the upcoming Vagina Monologues performance (Feb. 9/10) AND to say yes to the enthusiasm of a member who wants me to be the lead vocalist for a house concert offered as a UUCWI auction item by a trio---herself on mandolin, another friend on guitar, and me.

As you might be able to infer from the title of the blog, Ms. Kitty has a strong desire to be a performer. And I've had my stellar moments in the spotlight: with friends, in 8th grade, won first place in the Weston-Athena talent show singing "Gotta put shoes on Willie"; shone at summer camp leading campers in "Sippin' Cider Through a Straw"; spent four years in the Linfield College a cappella choir; appeared as Mary in the play "A Family Portrait" as a staffer at the American Baptist Assembly in Green Lake WI; led small children in a variety of junior choir experiences; knew all the words to all the folk songs of Peter, Paul and Mary and their ilk in the 60's and 70's and sang in informal jams for years; met great boyfriends (after the divorce) through those jams and actually started to sing at open mics and informal church services because of them; sang in sleazy bars with my pal Pat in Colorado; sang at friends' weddings; performed as Ms Piggy in a pledge campaign skit at my former CO congregation; harmonized with pals at parties; made up lyrics to sing to the lunch room kids to hurry them outside onto the playground as a lunchroom monitor during my school counselor career; and, as a minister, developed a sermon-opening gambit of asking the congregation to sing some old song with me (Whispering Hope, Last night I had the strangest dream, etc.), a song relating to the sermon.

So you see, I've had my moments in the sun. But always there has lurked in me a desire to really perform for an audience, not sneaking in as a harmonizer, or leading a hymn, or tormenting junior high kids with my parodies, or acting silly in a skit. I've loved doing the goofy things, yes, but I've never taken myself very seriously when it comes to singing or acting. I don't want to be a professional singer or actor, but I would like to know more about the craft of both arts.

So when the VM opportunity arose, I jumped at it. And then Debbie asked me to do the house concert, singing old Hoagy Carmichael stuff, and it feels like I've stepped into the artist's circle, completely unexpectedly. We won't be putting on this concert very soon; it will take a lot of preparation and I may get some advice about styling a song, breathing, the kind of stuff non-serious singers never think about. But it's given life a new and interesting twist, and that's always a thrill.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

How would you answer this challenge?

Our North Sound ministers' cluster met today in Port Townsend for a few hours. Three of us went across on the passenger ferry that is substituting for the car ferry until it can be repaired or replaced. Instead of the huge Klickitat lumbering across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, we zipped across in the sleek, fast Snohomish, in a third of the time the trip normally takes.

We always do a brief check-in, about five minutes per person of "how's it going" kind of stuff, both professionally and personally, and once we finished that, one colleague introduced the program he had planned.

At the top of a piece of paper, he had written: THEODICY: a vindication of God's goodness and justice in the face of the existence of evil...The goal of theodicy is to show that there are convincing reasons why a just, compassionate and omnipotent being would permit pointless and debilitating suffering to flourish.

And then he set up a scenario, after reading us a story to illustrate the terrible paradox that theodicy represents. What if, he asked, you were charged with telling a group of homeless people what the meaning of Christmas is? They know you're a minister and they expect a ministerial point of view. What would you say to them, considering their circumstances and the contrast between their circumstances and yours?

These are the kinds of challenges we regularly discuss at cluster meetings and this particular colleague revels in them. He is a scientist first, a minister second, and a musician always, and he loves to hand us heavy questions to tussle with. We had a good time with this one.

Here are the notes I wrote for myself:

All human actions or events have both good and bad outcomes. We can't know what these outcomes will be. We don't know that suffering is pointless and debilitating because we don't know or can't know ultimate outcomes. I have faith in "growing wisdom" rather than in my limited concept of God's justice or goodness.

"God" is not a just, compassionate and omnipotent being. God is a process. Creation and destruction are two sides of the same coin. Things must often fall apart in order to come together in a better way.

Life is a cycle of ups and downs which often feel random. At Christmas, the visibility of these cycles becomes vivid. We see the downward moments in sharp detail and we strive to accentuate, provide, and attempt to maximize the upward moments.

We have varying degrees of success at this and we feel angry and frustrated if we can't produce an upward movement for ourselves or others who particularly need it (like a homeless person). We feel jubilant if we are experiencing an upward moment or if we are able to produce an upward movement for others, particularly those who need it badly.

I don't know for sure what this all means. I do know that I have a paradoxical concept of God, whom I see as both process and personal confidant. I know God can't be both. But to me God is both the creative energy in the universe and the one I go to with my concerns. Maybe someday I'll understand intellectually what my intuition tells me is so.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Was anyone else appalled?

I opened up the Seattle P.I. this morning and was browsing through the chilling tales of flood rescue, landslides, IEDs, and the like, when I turned the page and WHAMMO! a full two-page spread advert from DeWars whiskey celebrating the day Prohibition was repealed, with red, white, and blue coloring, huge headlines, pictures from the 20's of revelers holding a flappergirl aloft with a bottle in her hand, suggesting rituals appropriate for celebrating Repeal Day, the end of Prohibition, Dec. 5, 1933.

Now I'm not a complete prude about alcohol and I think Prohibition was a foolish mistake, but this ad repels me and I have to wonder about the mentality that thinks "We're All Winners" because the law was repealed. Hmmm. Freedom is definitely better than non-freedom, but I have to wonder how that slogan plays with people for whom alcohol is a death sentence. They know, if they've been sober for awhile, that they had the freedom to be drunks, dead drunks, in fact, and that was actually not so freeing. They were trapped, not freed, by whiskey.

I know I sound like Carrie Nation here and I'm sorry about that. It's probably the leftover influence of my glory days after winning the poster contest for the WCTU back in the Athena years. The only thing I could draw worth a darn was the head of a horse, so my poster had a gigantic horsehead on it (before the Godfather made it yucky) with the words, "use a little horse sense, horses don't drink alcohol". It went over big in Athena, at least with the WCTU (Women's Christian Temperance Union) mamas, of whom my mama was one.

I have a love-hate relationship with alcohol. It's fun to have a margarita or gin and tonic or other drink with friends, refreshing to have a beer or glass of wine with dinner. One drink does me; I have a very soft head. I am a cheap date in that regard. But having seen first-hand the ravages of too much alcohol on relationships, children, ethics, and health, I am inclined to advocate strict moderation, not over-the-top drinking behavior, which is what this ad implies is the way to go.

Just don't call me Carrie.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Dodged a bullet this time...

Whidbey Island did, that is. Last Hanukkah Eve, the island was hammered by a huge Pacific storm which downed trees, knocked out power, and made ferry crossings miserable or non-existent. This Hanukkah Eve, the Oregon and Washington coastlines shuddered under the onslaught of high winds (over 100 mph in some areas), frog-strangling rain (5 inches in Seattle in a day), and floods and mudslides which have shut down our major interstate (I-5) for an undetermined length of time. The devastation on the mainland is immense but here on the island, we are in good shape.

Tomorrow I'm going into Seattle to visit my hospice-bound friend and will have a chance to see some of the mess. I am so grateful that the price we pay this year for living on the island isn't quite as steep. Last year, cleaning up and repairing the damage around the island, including my basement, took months. Of course, we could still get hit again, but it seems that the transition time as the seasons get ready to change is when these kinds of storms often hit.

I remember, living in Denver, how we would frequently get huge snowfalls a week or so before Halloween or right during spring break, the "adolescent" times of the weather cycle when air flows are shifting and temperatures going up or down.

It seems to me that changes often bring on storms, whether they are real physical storms or metaphorical/emotional storms.

Sunday, December 02, 2007


Four of the folks who attended yesterday's New UU class joined the congregation today! We were thrilled, to say the least. We were pretty sure they would join eventually, but to have them all want to join today was a wonderful reward for our efforts yesterday.

This fall has felt very productive in the visitor/new member department. Our groundbreaking ceremony on Sept. 9 was the beginning of quite an influx of visitors, especially visitors who have kept coming back. As any membership committee member can tell you, the tricky part is getting visitors to return. We've had pretty good luck with this, this fall.

Who are you calling...

I took the "the temperment type" quiz on
I am...


According to Galen's ancient theory of temperaments, people with phlegmatic temperaments seek peace and resolution in their everyday lives. Sympathetic, kind and adaptable to different situations, they often act as mediators in conflicts...

What's your temperment?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Teaching the New UU Class...

always jazzes me up. This morning, I spent four hours with a group of five folks who are interested in membership at UUCWI. The membership chair and I collaborated on this orientation session and after it was over, about 1 p.m., we turned to each other and said, "Wow, that was a great session!"

This is the first time I've taught this class at UUCWI. In the past, a lay person taught it, as there wasn't enough minister-time available. But this particular layperson has gone on to study for the ministry at Seattle U and doesn't have time to take on the project this year. I love to teach, so I gladly agreed to prepare and teach the class.

We'd settled on a one-morning session, hoping to cover all the basics and give some time for questions. I've looked at what other congregations offer (3 two-hour Saturday sessions or 4 week night sessions or some combination of weeknights and weekends) and decided to pare it down to what I feel a prospective member absolutely must know, giving plenty of time for questions.

We started out with a chalice lighting and the words of John (old "give them not hell but hope") Murray from the 18th century and a little bit about the significance of the flaming chalice, then watched the latest UUA DVD, "Voices of UUism". Each person then took time to tell a brief version of their spiritual journey, what their religious heritage was, if any, how they had found UUism, and what they were looking for. I love hearing people's stories, what their questions and concerns are, and I love responding to those questions and concerns. And I like for them to hear my story, how I found UUism (I married into it), where it has taken me, my call to ministry, and where I am today.

I gave a brief timeline of UU history, highlighting the big stuff, like Michael Servetus, early American Unitarian and Universalist figures, our social justice record, and the changes since the merger in 1961. And we read together the seven principles, discussed them briefly, read together the six sources, and discussed them briefly.

We also touched on the history and structure of our congregation and what the privileges, opportunities, and expectations of membership are. We outlined the process for joining and the ceremonies that accompany that act. We also described some of our important extra ceremonies, like child dedication, and gave plenty of time for questions.

Our attendees were full of questions and we spent a productive few minutes talking about the heavy words: church, worship, God, and the like. Is it okay to re-define or metaphorize these words so that they feel better? If the dictionary defines them one way, is it legitimate to veer away from that definition? Not easy questions to deal with.

I am initially challenged by these kinds of questions, but I always feel glad that the person felt safe enough to raise them. I'm never sure if I've answered them adequately but I've done my best.

I'm hopeful that all of the folks present today (and one absent partner) will join the congregation. All of them are already contributing their time and energy to the new building or the activities of the congregation and I hope we will have them around for a long time.

Friday, November 30, 2007

What do our pets mean to us?

For you Maxie-philes, here's the latest picture. Max and Loosy were caught out in a compromising position: in bed.

What do our pets mean to us? My friends, when they ask how many cats I now have, warn me against becoming a cat lady, which is, by their definition, anyone with four or more cats. I've been a cat lady in my time and know that there are good ways of being a cat lady (which is how my cyberfriend Miss Kitty seems to do it, rescuing strays, caring for them temporarily, and finding them homes) and not-so-good ways, as in the woman on TV whose house is full of cats and their less-desirable end products (so to speak), meaning that the Humane Society has to step in.

I don't have hoarding tendencies, so I'm unlikely to fall into the second category, but if my experience adopting Maxwelton is any indicator, I'd better stay away from places that offer free kittens. Actually, I probably wouldn't have taken Max home had he not been so distinctive-looking, with his white and orange face. I'm a sucker for a cat of great color. Loosy and Lily are both beauties that way. One friend said yesterday, after a gathering here, "each one of your cats is gem-like in its coloring". Very true.

So one of the things my pets mean to me is beauty. Not all the animals I've owned have been traditionally beautiful; I'm talking beauty of an additional sort as well. A beautiful nature works for me. Any part of any animal which is soft, pettable, responsive to me---I'm easy.

As I sit here at the computer with Max on my shoulder, his little pitons of claws gripping the skin through my shirt, I'm aware that another characteristic of my pets' meaning is their sacred trust in me. They are utterly dependent on me for food, water, clean litter, affection, and this is important to me. I am trustworthy, in their experience, and I take that very seriously. It's good for me to be trusted. It strengthens my character and my character often needs a little tweak of that sort.

The reason I'm thinking about this is that my household dynamic has changed since Max arrived. I've started to worry about Lily, who was the baby up until a month ago. A large, four-year-old baby, to be sure, but she was the adored and pampered youngest member of the family, secure in her relationship with me and with Loosy. Now that Max is here, she's not sure of her place and I catch her hiding out in odd places or staring wistfully at my lap---which has Max in it. Loosy is willing to share the lap; Lily is not. She's trying to figure out what it means to be a big sister, rather than the little sister.

Max is hugely entertaining to me but he causes the two adult cats a lot of anxiety. They'll go out on the deck in pouring rain just to get some respite from his leapfrog ways. Loosy has taken him down and sat on him. I stop overly rough and tumble stuff, especially when I hear cries of distress, but natural consequences are a useful thing and Max has to learn some manners.

And pets are a major source of companionship for me. They are someone to talk to, someone to take care of, someone to plan for, someone to comfort me when a human isn't available. They keep me warm on a cold night, don't talk back, don't have to be consulted if I make plans, and stay reasonably clean. Now if I could only get them to take out the garbage!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sunday, November 25, 2007

An Alternate Salvation?

In Saturday's Post Intelligencer, the Rev. Anthony Robinson wrote a wonderful essay for his column "Articles of Faith", which you can link to here. The headline is "Quest for wellness is headed toward idolatry".

Rev. Robinson is a retired UCC pastor in Seattle and his wisdom has graced the pages of the PI for several years. I always enjoy his thoughts. He's every bit as liberal as I am, at least on the issues I'm aware of, and firmly grounded in his Christian faith. As I watch the teachings of Jesus being plowed under by theologies that seem to lean more toward anti-love and pro-prosperity, I'm thankful to read something that offers a more truly Christian outlook on our culture.

I've been thinking about this topic for a long time, as I'm bombarded by print and TV ads for drugs, for exercise programs, for diets and diet gurus, for anti-aging potions, and the like. Virtually all of these ads and much of our TV and print programming as well are focused on staving off death, subtly expressing a fear of death, a fear of aging, a fear of illness. These are normal human fears and we deal with them in a variety of ways.

If we are young or if our children are ill, we will naturally do everything we can to extend life. This is a reasonable thing to do. I think of my brother, who has battled heart disease since he was 30; it feels reasonable to me that he explores every avenue possible to extend his life. I think of the friends whose children fight cancer or other devastating illness; of course we/they will expend every effort to save their lives.

But physical health has come to be an obsession in our culture. As Rev. Robinson says, it has become idolatrous, worshipped to the point of giving over our lives to it. The media tell us that we need to be focused on our physical health all the time, watching our weight, checking our blood pressure and blood sugar, exercising a certain amount daily, taking the right vitamins, eating the right food, never letting up in our efforts to extend our physical lives. To what end? We're going to die anyhow!

But they're right, to an extent. We do need to be proactive with our health. If we have a chronic or acute condition, we need to deal with it and maintain the medication regimen prescribed by our doctor.

But we're scared to death by the ads, by the articles, by the hype on health. We read the latest research as though it were the word of God. Alzheimer's disease risk is lowered by aspirin in umpteen percent of women? Let's double our aspirin. Never mind that all the research seems to indicate conflicting results!

What if we spent the same amount of time focusing on our spiritual health? What if we spent as much time in prayer or in justice activism or meditation or other spiritual pursuit? What if our quest for physical health was only as important as our quest for spiritual health?

Which would give us a better life, make us happier? Physical health guaranteed to make us live until our creaking bodies can no longer be resuscitated by exercise, drugs, and potions? Or spiritual health guaranteed to give us peace of mind and heart until we keel over smiling?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A Miraculous Device

Here's something I'm thankful for. This is a picture of my brother in the hospital, though wearing street clothes because he's feeling so much better, holding the Left Ventricle Assist Device that is saving his life.

A Spiritual Odyssey

One of the traditions in many UU ministers' chapters is the sharing of one's spiritual odyssey with one's colleagues, often done at one of the retreats of the chapter. Our group here in the Pacific Northwest District meets three times a year: in the fall, at the winter General Meeting of the district, and in the spring. At each retreat, one colleague shares his or her spiritual odyssey, their spiritual life's journey, during an evening reserved for that particular purpose. Whose turn it is depends on one's seniority in the district, the date when one arrived in the district; a chronological list is kept of when each person came to the PNWD to serve a congregation.

I learned last spring that my turn would be at the spring retreat in 2008. I began serving a congregation in this district on August 1, 1999, and by the time I offer my odyssey, I will have been in this district for almost nine years. I can hardly believe that it's actually my turn coming up; I still feel like such a rookie in some ways.

For me, recounting my life's history and the events and circumstances that have shaped my journey into ministry is something I am relishing for more than one reason. Not only will I present a one-hour version of my life to my colleagues next April, but I will leave my son and my siblings a detailed record of what I feel has been important about my journey, why I made the decisions I did, and how those decisions have landed me where I am---a Unitarian Universalist minister serving a small thriving island congregation.

So I started writing it on Thanksgiving Day, as I was reflecting on the many joys of my life (not the least of which was that someone else was roasting the turkey and I only had to show up with the rolls). It will be way too long to post; it's already seven single-spaced pages and I've barely gotten to my high school years.

But I will offer it to my son and sibs when it's finished, and they'll get the long version, in print. They can read it or toss it, depending on their mood. But my mother did this for us, as best she could as she got older and less able to write. For some of the earliest years, I have relied on her account of my parents' life together, and I am aiming for a document that includes some of that history plus what I think have been the most influential events and circumstances of my life.

Today I have a lunch date with a couple from the church; we are planning our upcoming service auction and I suggested we include a chili cookoff as part of the festivities, so we're getting started on that planning. And this evening, congregants will gather here at my house for our third Conversation on the UU Sources. We're playing the game Enlighten for a little while, to get people jazzed up, and then we'll discuss what we see as being the importance of world religions to Unitarian Universalism.

It's shaping up to be a good day. Loosy just gave Maxie a tentative lick with her ever-ready grooming tongue (though she quickly realized it was the despised kitten she was grooming and got a very odd look on her face); now they are both on top of me---Loosy on my lap purring away, secure in the knowledge that she usurped Maxie's place, while Maxie the Magnificent roosts on my shoulder. Lily is sleeping near the heat vent, having worn herself out by chasing Max earlier this morning. Ahh, many thanks for it all, Universe!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Thoughts

I'm sitting at the computer, which faces an east window in my house. It's 7:17 a.m. and the sun is just turning the sky pinkish. When I went out to get the newspaper about 6, two owls were calling back and forth, one in an alto range and the other in a deeper, maybe tenor range of who-hoohoo-hoohoo. I imagined that they were telling each other about my progress up and down the long driveway.

Back in the house, I unwrapped the papers, which were so packed with ads that they were three times their normal size, even though on the island we don't have much access to most of these stores. But it's interesting to leaf through them and marvel at the effort the ad people go to to get us out there in the holiday crush. They all go in the recycle bin, as I have no intention of spending any time whatsoever in the big stores this holiday season.

My email this morning contained another encouraging report from my sister in law, who tells a crowd of friends and family that my brother is making good progress in his recovery from 8 hours of heart surgery a week ago, to implant a Ventricle Assist Device which will enable him to live fairly normally until he can get a heart transplant. He's cheerful and optimistic, though he has had his ups and downs since the surgery. This is a huge thing I'm thankful for this year, that his health will again improve and that he will have a reasonable quality of life for a time. We don't know for sure if he'll ever get a heart transplant, but the odds are fairly good that he will. And in the meantime, he does what he needs to do to stay alive.

It makes me thankful that my own heart troubles eight years ago were so well-resolved by the surgery to fix a formerly-undiagnosed congenital heart defect. My brother and I have apparently inherited our father's heart weaknesses; my brother had a heart attack at age 30, related to a congenital heart defect, and his heart has steadily deteriorated since that time, with many interventions keeping him alive and functioning during the years since that happened (about 25 years now). My saga began with a heart murmur first heard at age 12 or so, never figured out until I was getting ready to begin my first pastorate. A year after the atrial septal defect was diagnosed, I underwent surgery myself and it was repaired, with no aftereffects that I can tell.

So I'm thankful this year for the skill of doctors, the love of family, and the reprieve that my brother has received. I'm also grateful for the role model he offers us all. Determined to live as well and as long as he possibly can, my brother refuses to give up. He explores every avenue, checks out every lead. He is better informed about cardiac surgery and cardiac care than most general practitioners. Faced with a horrible choice---to give up and let nature have its way---he chooses to pursue life. Our dad died at age 62 of his heart troubles; my brother is determined to outlive him. When I passed that age 62 milestone, I felt a huge sense of triumph, that ministry wasn't going to kill me early.

Lots of thoughts this early island morning. I hope your day is as full of gratitude as mine.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Eye Spy

gURL.comI took the "If You Were a Spy..." quiz on
I am a...
harriet tubman

We bet you're the type of person who'll do anything for anybody--as long as you have a plan of attack. Since Harriet Tubman is your spy personality, it probably means that you're generous, kind and tend to use your street smarts more than brute strength when it comes to getting out of a jam.Read more...

Which spy are you?


Completely ecstatic! My son and his bride are coming to visit me for Christmas! It is the best possible Christmas gift I could get. They will arrive on Friday afternoon and leave on Christmas evening. For a couple of Christmases in a row now, I have been unable to get together with him or other family members for Christmas and have choreographed other celebratory times to stave off the inevitable "why me?" feelings that can come creeping in when everyone else is with family and I'm not.

It can be done, but it's not my favorite way of spending Christmas, though it has been bearable, even pleasant. One year I took a "sabbath" on Christmas Day, reading only meaningful literature or non-fiction (saving the latest Stephanie Plum hootfest for Dec. 26), writing meaningful thoughts in my journal, eating a meaningful meal of exactly what I think of as a proper Christmas dinner---prime rib, mashed potatoes, salad, and mince pie---, and opening presents in the middle of the day, not at 5 a.m. as we used to do when the Favorite Son was small and not so hard to get out of bed.

This year will be such a pleasure! I was just over at the grocery store, getting the rolls for the T'giving dinner I'm invited to tomorrow, and I wandered through the aisles looking at all the things available and plotting what I would serve while they're here. On the phone Monday night, the FS described a recipe he wants to make for us and it sounds delicious, involving fish and tomatoes and other delights. He's a great cook and I love it when he does meals.

Today is a beautiful day on the island, clear blue skies, sunshine slanting in the windows, cats basking in the warm spots. Max is stretched out on the window sill above the computer desk, his eyes half-closed in drowsy contentment, soaking up a few rays. Lily is outside, safe from the depredations of small cat leapings, and Loosy is hiding out somewhere else, getting a few Maxie-free moments herself.

I noticed that Maxie is making his mark on all of us: I have many slight scratches on my legs from the many times he has launched himself at me and hooked into both flesh and denim on the freefall trajectory. Such a small price to pay for the kind of entertainment he offers, however. And I can't wait for the FS and FDIL to meet him!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

How do I love this job? Let me count the miles...

In a few minutes, I'll be off to Clinton, 10 miles south, to join the South End Koffee Klatch for a couple of hours. At noon, I'll head for Coupeville for lunch at the hospital cafeteria and to do my chaplaincy rounds. At 2:30 or thereabouts, it's farther north to Oak Harbor to visit a shut-in member and give her the memorial service info that I gave to others Saturday, plus the latest edition of Quest, the newsletter of the Church of the Larger Fellowship, and last Sunday's sermon manuscript. After visiting her for an hour or so, I've got to hit the Oak Harbor Safeway or Albertson's for cat food, as the price at my local grocery store is much higher than it is at a chain store. And tonight is the book club, if I can find out where it's meeting.

I figure I'll log about 100 highway miles on the job today. At current IRS rates, that's almost $50 of job-related car expense, unreimbursed. Good thing I have a fuel-efficient car.

But I'm looking forward to the day. The Koffee Klatch is always great, lunch at the hospital is delicious and free to volunteers, our shut-in member is a hoot and I love visiting her, and it will be good to be able to throw in a grocery trip at the same time. Since Maxie came to live here, my catfood bill has gone up by another 5.5 ounces per day, so it makes sense to get it on sale. Here in Freeland, the price is 55 cents per 5.5 ounce can; at Fred Meyer, Safeway, and Albertson's, it ranges from 40-50 cents per can.

But they're worth it. They are all thriving and healthy, and the two older cats are running it off as Maxie chases them and does his tricks to get their attention. Max has turned into quite the lovebug, wanting his human mama to hold him when he gets tired of chasing and wants to purr instead. I love the lovey-dovey stuff, but not the snags it puts in my sweaters!

Monday, November 19, 2007

What does this mean?

I must be getting more erudite. I think the last vocab rating I got was junior high or high school.

cash advance

Cash Advance Loans

Source #3: Wisdom from the World's Religions

Rev. Kit Ketcham
Nov. 18, 2007

I invite you to turn in your hymnal to the pages just before the hymns start and let’s read together the wording of the Third Source of Unitarian Universalism, including the introductory phrase: The Living Tradition we share draws from many sources: and scrolling down the page to the third sentence, Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life.

We Unitarian Universalists draw our religious ideals and values from many sources, one of which is the wisdom of the world’s religions. We use this wisdom to inspire our ethical and spiritual lives.

I remember, as a youngster growing up in a small Baptist church under the tutelage of my preacher dad and teacher mom, hearing in Sunday School one day that members of other non-Christian religions were going to hell.

I could hardly believe my ears! Little children were going to go to hell because they were born into a family which was Jewish? My Catholic classmates were going to hell? My Sunday School teacher was pretty adamant----yes, they were going to hell, unless…… Unless what?

Unless a missionary or other person told them about Jesus and how Jesus had died for their sins and that they only had to believe this and then they would go to heaven. That’s why we have missionaries and why we are supposed to witness to everyone we meet, he said.

But what if they didn’t want to change religions? Well, then, they had had their chance and God would send them to hell. Little kids too? Adults ----I could see the logic there. But little kids?

What if they were too young to understand? My teacher wasn’t sure but he said “God knows best” with a look in his eye which said pretty clearly that he thought I ought to be out there witnessing to my Catholic and Jewish acquaintances, though there were few of either in our little town.

I went to my mother with this conundrum and she was somewhat more comforting. No, she said, little tiny children who can’t make that decision won’t go to hell; God will take them to heaven if they die. But adults, if they hear and reject Jesus’ message, they will go to hell, she said. Jesus said “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by me”. In other words, she assured me, Jesus is the only way to heaven.

I was only in elementary school at the time, maybe 9 or 10, and this didn’t sit right with me. Being a well-brought-up little girl and nervous about rocking the religion boat, I didn’t question her much further, but the injustice of it all stayed in my mind.

I didn’t even know anyone who was identifiably of another religion, unless you did count Catholics. I knew about Jews and a little about the Holocaust and that added more questions. Hadn’t the Jews suffered enough? They should also go to hell? in addition to the concentration camps?

And what about other Christians who weren’t Baptist? Were they going to hell too? How come everyone was supposed to believe the way we did? And did I really want to believe all this anyhow?

Well, you can see how I’ve answered some of those questions as an adult and why I am particularly appreciative of Unitarian Universalism’s recognition that the world’s religions have great wisdom to offer for our lives.

I knew from an early age that to draw exclusionary boxes around people and religious faith felt wrong and that is one of the threads that has drawn me to this unusual and accepting faith.

What are the religions of the world that have particularly contributed to the theology and values of Unitarian Universalism? Most of us have Judaism or Christianity in our religious heritage, whether or not we were raised as observant Jews or Christians, and we definitely live in a Judeo-Christian milieu. We will explore those roots in December, for the Fourth Source of Unitarian Universalism is the wisdom of Jewish and Christian thought.

Today we will take a look at our Abrahamic cousin, Islam, and the traditions of China and India. If you are not familiar with the idea that Islam is our Abrahamic cousin, let me expound briefly.

The Abrahamic religions are Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, because all three grew out of the original monotheistic religion of the early patriarchal figure of Abraham who lived in about 2000 bce, and is considered the father of the Israelites.

Islam was founded in the seventh century of the common era by the prophet Muhammad, who is said to have received the holy book of Islam, known as the Koran, directly from God, known as Allah.

Muhammad is not considered the founder of a new religion, at least by Muslims, but as the restorer of the original monotheistic faith of Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and other prophets. Islamic tradition holds that Judaism and Christianity distorted the messages of these prophets over time either in interpretation, in text, or both.

The scholar Huston Smith, who has written extensively on the religions of the world, has an interesting theory about the origins of each of the world’s religions.

Just as we are interested in the Sources of our faith, he is interested in the sources of the Abrahamic or Western, Chinese, and Indian religious traditions and his theory connects each of these very different religious paths to the natural environment from which they sprang.

The scholar Bertrand Russell has pointed out that human beings are perennially engaged in three basic conflicts: against Nature, against others, and against themselves. These are humanity’s natural, social, and psychological challenges and, according to Huston Smith, Western religion has accented the natural challenge, China the social, and India the psychological, all based on their relationship with their “cradle environments” or the part of the earth where they originated.

Because the Abrahamic traditions grew up in the Fertile Crescent, where nature was more hospitable, these traditions, Smith asserts, have an underlying and strong connection with nature, using the seasons, the stars, the moon, and other naturally occurring cycles to develop religious doctrine.

Islam, like Judaism and Christianity, see God as creator of the goodness of heaven and earth and that God has given dominion over the earth to humankind.

Chinese religion, on the other hand, became the social philosopher. Chinese culture was founded on the Yellow and Yangtze rivers, but these rivers are unpredictable and devastating in their behavior, coming to be symbolized in early China by the figure of the unmanageable dragon. Therefore nature came to be revered and respected but not to be used and mastered.

Chinese religious thought developed in times which were tumultuous socially, a period of endemic warfare and anarchy. Therefore the question for philosophers and scholars was “how can we live together without destroying one another?” Chinese philosophy and religion emphasize how humans may be best helped to live together in harmony.

The teachings of Confucius, then, became widespread in China, with the ideal human relationship being thought of as benevolence or simple goodness. This idea was developed into a cultural expectation that society will be held together by the power of moral example. Rulers are to inspire their subjects to want to live together decently and in harmony.

Though today Chinese religious thought has morphed into a variety of expressions, the character of Chinese society and culture has historically emphasized a life of reasonable enjoyment and has rejected the destructive. Chinese religion is, despite the changes it has experienced over the past decades, based on the teachings of Confucius and subsequent philosophers, which emphasize harmonious relationships.

The third great tradition---Indian---also springs from an unfriendly natural environment, the Ganges tropics with its thick vegetation, unbearable humidity and burning heat, plagued by drought and monsoon. The Indian could not govern nature either and it was impossible to understand. And so the Indian relationship with nature became one of mystery, magic, unreality.

At the same time, India was challenged by racism which grew out of language differences and skin color differences between northern Indians and southern Indians. This resulted in the caste system which further perpetuated the problem, and India abandoned hope of solving life’s problems socially. Instead India turned inward, according to Smith, and centered her attention on the psychological, the inner self.

We might remember how, in the 60’s and 70’s, that New Age of Enlightenment, according to some, pilgrims of various sorts---hippies, celebrities, ordinary people---flocked to India to sit at the feet of yogic gurus, seen to be holders of mystic wisdom from the Hindu scriptures, the Bhagavad Gita and other texts. These scriptures and gurus urged seekers to find peace within themselves, not in externals.

The differing world views of each religion have been problematic in a global society where to believe anything implies that one’s own belief is right and everyone else wrong. You’ll rarely catch any firm believer saying “this is right for me and it might not be right for you”, meaning that my beliefs support my world view and I understand that yours support your world view---and that’s okay.

Yet that is exactly what Unitarian Universalism is all about. Our principles state, in part, that we accept each other, encourage each other’s spiritual growth, support each other’s free and responsible search for truth and meaning, and acknowledge each other’s right of conscience. And we strive toward the goal of world community which offers peace, liberty and justice for all.

There’s a wonderful analogy in a small book entitled “Our Chosen Faith”, written by two of our primary preachers and teachers, the Rev. John Buehrens and the Rev. Forrest Church. They use the visual imagery of a beautiful cathedral, the cathedral of the world, ancient, in a state of constant creation, destruction, and re-creation.

In this cathedral there are windows without number. Some are long forgotten, covered over, others are revered by millions as shrines. Each window is, in its own way, beautiful. Some are abstract, others clearly representational, some dark and meditative, some bright and glimmering.

Each window tells a story about the creation of the world, the meaning of that creation, life’s purpose, human nature, death and after-death. And these windows are where the light shines in.

Fundamentalists from both the right and the left claim that the light shines only through their window. Skeptics too can make this mistake, if they conclude that, because there are so many windows, so many variations, so many ways to view the light, that there is probably no light.

But the windows are not the light, they are merely the avenue for the light. The whole light, whether it’s called God or Truth or Love or Life or whatever you choose, is beyond our perceiving.

Let me quote one passage: “Every generation has its terrorists for Truth and God, hard-bitten zealots for whom the world is large enough for only one true faith. They have been taught to worship at one window, and then to prove their faith by throwing rocks through other peoples’ windows….If you are right, I must be wrong, but I can’t be wrong, because my salvation hinges upon being right..therefore…in order to secure my salvation I am driven to ignore, convert, or destroy you.”

So what does it mean to us UUs that we are open to the wisdom of the world’s religions? How do we use the wisdom of other religions? What have we found in other religions that is valuable and contributes to our understandings of life?

I’ve given some of you short reflections to read about some of the world’s religions’ teachings. If you would, please, stand where you are and at the sound of the chime read your piece slowly, loudly, and clearly. I’ll sound the chime in between each reading. It doesn’t matter what order you read in. (These reflections are from the work of the Rev. Barbara Hamilton Holway and her curriculum about Unitarian Universalist values and ideals, from the Tapestry of Faith series, entitled "Spirit of LIfe".)
Hinduism teaches that religion cannot be religion without compassion to all living beings. To love is to know the nature of the divine.

Sikhism teaches that compassion, mercy and religion are the support of the entire world.

A Buddhist chant asks that all sentient beings be free from suffering. Buddhism teaches that the essence of Buddhahood is the great compassionate heart.

Shintoism says that the divine’s body is universal benevolence.

Chinese philosopher Mo-Tse taught a universal love to end oppression and inequality.

The Hadith, narratives of the prophet Muhammed, includes this story: A man once asked the prophet what was the best thing in Islam, and the latter replied, “It is to feed the hungry and to give the greeting of peace both to those one knows and to those one does not know.”

Gandhi modeled his teaching, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”
When we honor, respect, and use the teachings of the world’s religions in our own spiritual quest, we are acknowledging that our wisdom as middle class Westerners is not the only wisdom worth noting, that women and men of many cultures and geographies have distilled their life’s experiences into ideas and philosophies that have universal meaning and are relevant in our world today.

And many of us have created a personal theology that draws from global sources. We have studied and learned and incorporated wisdom from across the world as well as from within our own hearts and minds. We do not have a one-size-fits-all theology in Unitarian Universalism. We do not have a doctrine based on the supernatural; yet we do not “believe whatever we want to believe”.

Each of us is charged with finding a spiritual path that acknowledges and enriches our relationships with ourselves, with each other, and with the Universe. Thinking back to Huston Smith’s theory about the origins of the Abrahamic, Chinese, and Indian religions, I am struck by the parallels: Indian religion emphasizes relationship with self; Chinese religion emphasizes relationship with others, and Abrahamic religion emphasizes relationship with the Universe.

On my blog recently I put out a plea for readers to share with me how world religions had shaped their Unitarian Universalism, and one reader offered this whimsical analogy, which I will share in closing:

“My eclectic bag of theology is like a scrappy (dog) who bounds from the Humane Society in purebred pieces of glory. One day I roll in the muddy earth to scratch my pagan itches and then arise amazed and filled with awe at the beauty that surrounds me and sustains me, never failing even in my darkest hours.

“The scent of magic draws me down the next path where I find my daily bowl, my sustenance, the map of all the trails I can explore which have been trod for thousands of years in mindful practice. This grid of kibble coalesces my spinning thoughts into the quiet "thoughtless", thoughtful-ness of the moment, my diverse brand of Buddhist Taoism or Taoist Buddhism, with splashes of Judaism from my favorite Holiday, Yom Kippur, the day of Atonement where I can join with the pack annually to publicly, ritualistically, apologize and forgive myself and others for my lack of skill in living, and my muddy paws.

“My collar is the Mala bracelet which I wear to constantly remind myself to come home, home to the moment, the heart of all joy, peace, and possibility. My leash is the Sangha, my pack of other practitioners who compassionately help with my training and discipline.

“And the heart of my 
dog-eared life, my bed, is the Dharma, comprised of all that teaches me, from the mountains of Tibet, the rice paddies of Vietnam, the back roads of Canada, to just the outline of my muddy paws on the clean floor. What a lucky dog I am.”

The writer of those whimsical, yet powerful, words is Emma Macaillin, who was our visitor for several weeks here on the island in October and sends her greetings to us all.

Savoring the richness of a faith that brings such great meaning into our lives, let’s pause for a time of silent reflection and prayer.

BENEDICTION: Our worship service, our time of shaping worth together, is ended, but our service to the world begins again as we leave this place. Let us go in peace, remembering that our wisdom as Unitarian Universalists comes from many sources, including the world’s great religions, though their practices and rituals may be very different from ours. May we sort out the meanings that are relevant to our lives and keep that timeless wisdom fresh in our hearts and minds. Amen, Shalom, Salaam, and Blessed Be.