Friday, August 31, 2007

Finding an online quiz that I like the results of.....

was hard this morning. Trying CC's "what state am I?" quiz first thing (twice, no less), I came up Alaska both times but didn't like the description. I mean, Alaska's beautiful and all and I have friends who love it, but really, Ted Stephens?

So I clicked on the "animal quiz". Yuck! A scorpion? No way I'm putting that out there on the blog. Having been accosted by a scorpion on a river trip long ago though escaping without a sting, I am not fond of scorpionii.

Let's try this one: "What University are you?" Yeah, that's the ticket.

You're the University of California, Berkeley!

A true hippy, you really wish you could spend the rest of
your life in the 1960's. It's not that you haven't been able to settle down
and be quite successful, but you yearn for the days of agitation and
revolution. You're fond of the old comic Bloom County, as well as the more
recent Outland. The rest of your life looks like a struggle between your
prestige and your radical nature. You really like those cheap Sathers

Take the University Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Being unable to let go of anger and mistrust...

is a terrible burden to bear. There are a few things that still bother me, even years after the fact: old wounds from a marriage, misunderstandings of a friend or lover, underminings of my work by discreditors. And when I see it in another person, I see again how painful and debilitating it is, to continue to carry this burden.

But when I stand in judgment of those others who also experience this burden, I am reminded of how hard it is to let go of it, to drop it, to move away from it. Prayer has helped me let go a bit, to let the pain diminish, but it doesn't take much to reignite the flame of resentment and mistrust. It'll flare up again at a word, at a look, at a memory.

When I left my marriage, unwilling to live in that situation any more, I did a lot of hard thinking and exploring with a therapist. Over the years after the divorce, I learned more about how I had contributed to the unhappiness in our partnership and eventually, after doing 12 step work, went to my ex-husband and asked for his forgiveness for the ways I had hurt him. He gladly gave it, but he did not do the same for me. He did not ask forgiveness of me. He may have meant to do so, but it didn't happen in any discernible way. This has made it hard to let go, as though I am still awaiting that moment, a moment I can't force to happen, a moment I have no control over.

A friend who has rejected me and refused to accept my apology, over slights both unintended and unknown, has stayed stuck in my resentful mind and I brood more often than I would like over that hurt.

In my first ministry, years ago, the conflict which caused me to tender my resignation from that congregation had a mixed outcome: several people who had criticized me harshly, had insulted and damaged my reputation publicly, felt regret for their actions and came to me and apologized after I apologized publicly for my own errors. Others did not and I still feel that resentful anger arise when I think of them, even these many years later.

The pattern I've seen, as I've looked at these events of my life, is that apology, asking for forgiveness from someone we've wronged, is a healing balm for those who are wronged and also for those who have done wrong. We heal ourselves when we ask for forgiveness from someone we've hurt. And we offer healing to others as well, when we acknowledge our errors and make amends, for without that apology, that amends, we make it difficult for the other person to let go of the anger and mistrust that are the outcome of our wrongful act.

So what do we do when we have not received an apology, not been asked for forgiveness? I hope we learn that we can't control others' actions, that we may not take revenge even though we might want to do so very badly, that lack of closure of such a wound is not often fatal unless we let the wound get infected and make us sick. I hope we learn to pray that we might be able to forgive that person who has wronged us. I hope that we might find closure in another way, if no apology is in sight.

I hope for these things for myself and for the several people I have talked with in the past week who are suffering from this burden of anger and mistrust of others.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Thoughts while driving 460 miles to Portland and back again in a 24 hour period.

I've got to figure out a way to record my thoughts while I'm driving. I have the habit of talking about the things bouncing around in my brain, while I'm driving. That is, more than "you dimwit, thanks a lot for cutting me off!" and "good one, slick!" and other comments thinly disguised as cogent judgments on other people's driving.

Yesterday morning driving down, my thoughts were about classism and the comments beginning to pop up on my post about Doug Muder's UU World article; I tried to write them down when I stopped for coffee in Tacoma, but when I went to describe them later to my friend Sue, at whose home I was staying overnight, they were less than coherent. But they'd made so much sense when I was driving!

Coming back up this morning after breakfast with my brother and his wife in Kalama, my thoughts were about relationships and how often we simply cannot see another person's point of view and consequently assign erroneous meaning to their words. That one is, at least, fresh in my mind, so I feel more coherent.

Years ago, I decided I would write a book entitled "Lady on the Loose", about my adventures in my 1983 Dodge van named Gracie, after a sad goodbye to a lovely man who had broken my heart. I had a brand new Mac laptop (this was in 1992, so you know how inadequate my equipment was) which had a battery life of about twenty minutes unless plugged into an outlet. I wanted to write a travel guide for women who wanted to travel and camp alone; it was going to be full of what I had discovered in the course of my learning to be independent and unafraid out on the roads alone.

And I did write a lot that summer, though I had to buy an extension cord that would make it possible to write longer than twenty minutes at a stretch. I'd tool along the highway and pull off in a wide spot, write frantically about my thoughts, and then pull out onto the road again. I managed to get many pages of narrative and hints written down in this hodge podge way.

I'm thinking I'll get a little recorder that's voice activated, so that I can record my own conversations and then transcribe them later. If anyone has ideas about what to invest in, I'd appreciate advice.

PS. I never finished the book, but I do have the manuscript somewhere tucked away. I needed to write it to keep myself from freaking out as I traversed the West between Colorado and Oregon many, many times, all alone. I get it out periodically and see if my advice still makes sense. I no longer go camping in Gracie (my son has her in Reno right now) but I sure did have a lot of fun. Colorado friends used to advise me to take a gun and a big dog, but I never felt endangered, even when I had a breakdown or flat tire. Somehow it always turned out okay.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Classism and Unitarian Universalism

I sat down and read the article Not My Father's Religion in the UU World tonight by Doug Muder, after just skimming it earlier in the week. I made a bunch of notes, but a longer post is going to have to wait until I get home on Tuesday from Nestor's memorial service.

Some of my margin notes are things like "I don't believe this", "this is insulting to working class people", "theology is not the point of going to church for many people", "but working class retirees do other things, just not job-related things after retirement", "some groups of people are walking UP the road to success; others are looking down at it from above", and "what the hell is a boutique religion?"

What does the cliche (for it has become a cliche) mean that Unitarian Universalists are classist, that we have a classism problem? Muder's article doesn't really explain that to me.

I look around my congregation and at the congregations where I have been a member in the past and I see lots of people who are like me, whose education was hard-won, who have never traveled far and perhaps are not very interested in world travel, who don't have fancy houses, just ordinary ones, who read murder mysteries and do crafts, who play old folk songs on old acoustic instruments, who don't dress in designer clothes or have designer pets or big honking cars.

The people I know who choose other religions than UUism are smart people, educated people, fine people. They are not interested in UUism because to them, we're not really a religion. We're nice smart people, but we aren't a religion by their standards. We know we're a religion, but their definition of religion is different from ours. This is not a problem!

Okay, I'd better not go farther till I get a chance to think this through more carefully.

"Here if You Need Me" is a book by Rev. Kate Braestrup

that I've just finished reading and I want to recommend it to anyone looking for an inspirational, funny, poignant, sad, joyful, easy, deep few hours of reading.

Kate is a chaplain for the Maine Warden Service and this is the story of how she survived her husband's tragic death in a car wreck by fulfilling his dream of becoming a UU minister and thereby finding her own place to serve.

HIYNM is absolutely terrific. You'll love it.

Six down, three to go...

Weddings, that is. This has been a busy summer for weddings and yesterday's ceremony was probably the most challenging I've experienced in awhile. The couple and I had several snafus to avert and/or cope with: the distance from each other geographically was one factor---choreographing our meetings to coincide with where we could all manage to be at once; a complicated ceremony made more complicated by the need to change things at the last minute---locale, elements of the ceremony, inside or outside; weather---will we manage to get through the outdoor ceremony before the rain hits?; misplaced objects---a wallet, a wedding script; guests---notifying people of the change of locale due to weather, ferries late or overstuffed; the bride was even late to the wedding, causing some guests to wonder (facetiously, I think) whether she had bailed.

A few words to the wise wedding couple: make your wedding ceremony as simple as possible, for your own sake and that of the officiant; if the ceremony is to be outdoors, have a rain plan from the very first moment to avoid last-minute re-location; be on time for meetings, rehearsal and ceremony---it's rude to be late and disrespectful of your officiant and your guests; cover extra expenses for your officiant, like mileage, ferry tickets, and extra postage, without having to be nudged.

It's another soggy Sunday morning, though it looks like the sun is attempting to break through. No word yet on whether this will be another House Church day but I'm looking forward to attending services this morning, wherever it may be, and just enjoying others' loving contribution to our worship life together.

Tomorrow morning I'll head to Portland to co-officiate in a memorial service for a dear former congregant, Nestor Perala, may his name be remembered by us all.

Nestor was one of those sweet, quirky old gentlemen whose life was full of interesting stories and challenges. I am honored to participate in celebrating his memorable life.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Earth Sanctuary

My friend Sue and I found the most beautiful place today---the Earth Sanctuary here on Whidbey Island. It is a carefully nurtured but wild space of many acres, with ponds, a peat bog, an osprey nest, and soft paths. Tall basalt columns have been placed in arrangements that invite reverential speculation, small shrines appear in unexpected places, prayer flags line many of the gentle paths, and a walk through the Sanctuary invokes a deep sense of connection with the earth.

An osprey's sharp cries alerted us to his/her nest where young birds awaited a parent's visit. It was almost as if the youngsters and the parent were calling comfortingly back and forth as we stood beneath them on the path and watched the activity overhead----the parent flying back and forth and crying; the youngsters bleating from their aerie. We finally realized that our presence was making them nervous, so we moved on, and the nursery quieted down.

Sue leaves Friday via Amtrak; I'll drop her off at the Seattle station and then hop the ferry for Vashon where I will officiate at a Saturday wedding. We are hoping for good weather, though the reports are iffy. This poor bride has had to contend with a number of hitches in her planning; I hope it all turns out fine, which it probably will, rain or shine.

I'll come back home right after the wedding so I can attend church here (looks like it won't rain here Sunday), and then I'll depart for Portland on Monday, where I'll co-officiate at a memorial service for a beloved member of my former congregation in Portland. Back on Tuesday, unless my brother's health mandates that I stay a little longer so I can see him.

Smooth sailing after that, with little to plan for except the Ingathering and Building Celebration on Sept. 9. Whew!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

You've Got a Friend

That old Carole King song resonates with me this week as I spend time hosting my dear friend Sue from Portland. Coincidentally, at Sunday's "House Church" experience when we were rained out of our open air service and sought shelter in a nearby congregant's home, the topic for the dyad conversation was "who in your life do you feel completely yourself with? nothing to hide, nothing to pretend about, able to accept and give feedback without pain?"

The person who came to my mind was Sue. She is somewhat older than I; she was my mentor when I first achieved Preliminary Fellowship and needed to jump through the Ministerial Fellowship Committee's hoops to reach Final Fellowship. She has been my supporter, adviser, mentor and, eventually, friend. She hauled me to doctor's appointments when I was getting ready for my heart surgery several years ago, she was a reference when I was in search, she has been openhearted and openhanded in her friendship with me. And she appreciates everything I do for her, in return.

When we spend time together, we are happy, whether we are just sitting and reading books or having a meal or talking. We are often roommates at professional functions and our district meetings; I help her with stuff and she helps me. Her mobility is compromised, so I lift or tug or pick up stuff for her. Together we sort through professional issues, swap stories about people we know in common (kindly, not meanly), and discuss the meaty conversational topics of our lives.

Yesterday the UU World came, with its article by Doug Muder about classism. We had only skimmed the article but we began a conversation about his points and the difficult matter of identifying our own classism. Believe me, I know I have difficulties there, having come from a family that was blue-collar educated but white-collar aspiring. (My dad had only high school and two years of Bible College for his ministerial education; my mom taught on a provisional certificate for years before she got a BA. All of us kids went to college; my sister has a PhD, I have two Masters, and my brother has a BS.) Yet I fall into the highly educated worldview camp and tend to associate primarily with folks who are similar to me.

Interestingly, my PhD sister is not comfortable in my UU church, though she is unfailingly courteous and non-argumentative. Her personal beliefs diverge significantly from mine, and it is not a matter of education. I speculate a lot about this, but I am not worried about it. I believe that different faiths attract different people. I also believe that most of us have few friends who are working-class/blue-collar folks; we mostly know "those people" because they act in a service capacity with us.

And when Doug asks if we are stating our beliefs in language that resonates with all people, not just academically educated people, I have to ask myself about my own language usage and preferences. Hard questions, Doug, hard questions. Thanks for asking. But I don't have any answers just yet.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Another test!

Your Score: Free Radical

You scored 75% Talk the Talk and 70% Walk the Walk!

You talk the talk, but you also walk the walk. You put your time, money, and efforts where your mouth is.

It can be hard to be this open-minded both in theory and in practice... kudos!

Link: The Are you REALLY open-minded? Test written by mypomolife on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

Sunday, August 19, 2007

House Church

It did not quit raining before 10 a.m. and a group of us met and huddled under the huge cedar tree on our land and figured out Plan B, which ended up being a shortened service at a nearby congregant's home. We sang our songs, read a poem and a reading, did the "accessories" to the services, and I gave them a few paragraphs from the sermon. Then we broke up into dyads and talked about times we'd felt really valued for who we are.

I preceded my words with a story my dad told one day long ago when the attendance at church was sparse because of weather.

One Sunday morning there was a terrific snowstorm and the only folks to make it to church that morning were the preacher and an old farmer. The preacher got warmed up, they sang a couple of hymns, the preacher spoke for about forty minutes, they prayed, and then there was the benediction. As the old farmer was shaking hands with the preacher at the door, he said to him, "well, parson, that was a fine sermon, well spoken, full of gospel truth, and lots of good points, but you know, if I went out to feed my flock and only one sheep showed up, well sir, I sure wouldn't feed him the whole bale of hay!"

So they didn't get the whole bale of hay. I will save it for later in the year, as I feel it's an important enough topic to offer it to a larger group. We had 21 people there, but that's a skimpy crowd for us.

I do like House Church, though, with people scattered around the cozy room, little children playing on the floor, and warmth and tenderness abounding. Wish you'd been there too!

While waiting to see if it will quit raining before we have our 10 a.m. OUTDOOR service

I found this quiz on Joel the Neff's blog:

Your Score: A Bit Of Both

You are 60% Calvin and 40% Hobbes

Calvin & Hobbes, like a scruffy yin and yang, are in perfect balance within you. Like Calvin, you're weird, a bit insecure, and can be a trouble-maker. But like Hobbes, you're down to earth and sensitive. It's a risk to say it here, after just a ten question test, but I'll bet you're smarter than most. Both Calvin and Hobbes are crafty, clever characters, and any one made from equal parts of each is a force to be reckoned with.

Link: The Calvin Or Hobbes Test written by gwendolynbooks on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

Universalists rejoice!

All of us Universalists will rejoice in this morning's comics section when we read Opus.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

End of a long day

Two weddings in one day! The first was actually a recap of the original wedding, which occurred two weeks ago, in a brief window of time between the groom's finalized divorce and the bride's next chemo. Today the couple repeated their vows before a group of friends and neighbors outdoors on a sunny spot near their home. Her chemo is behind her for now; she looked lovely in her dress and blonde wig and he was resplendent in a Prince Charlie cutaway coat, kilt, and all the trappings. It was one of those weddings where I felt honored to be included.

The second wedding was four hours later; the wind was blowing and it looked like it was going to rain any minute, but we all managed to put up with goosebumps and wind gusts and a few raindrops and in twenty minutes we were back inside enjoying the refreshments. I had begged off the reception and had headed out to my car when I suddenly realized we hadn't signed any of the marriage papers! So I had to hustle back in, round up the couple and their witnesses (nobody but me had yet remembered that signing the marriage certificate was a must), and we got the papers duly certified. I was a little bit embarrassed. I think two weddings in one day were the problem.

When I got home, I put a stamp on the certificate envelope and hied me off to the post office and the local Chinese place, where I could eat quietly without having to do any more small talk. Next weekend I have only one wedding but on Monday I have a memorial service to prepare for. September brings two more weddings and October 7 is my last one. I think.

Whew! Weddings up the Wazoo indeed. But I do enjoy them, though chatting intelligently with complete strangers at rehearsal dinners and receptions is a little demanding, even for an extrovert.

Weddings Up the Wazoo

Maybe I should start a wedding business and name it this. This summer I have performed many more weddings than I normally do in a summer. I like doing weddings and I appreciate the extra cash they bring in, since I've diminished my income seriously by letting go of my Vashon commitments. My fee is normally $300, which includes two planning and conversation meetings, a rehearsal, and the actual ceremony and other events of the day. I don't do much premarital counseling, since that's not my forte, but I do ask enough questions that I get a sense of how the couple sorts out its difficulties, approaches their relationship, and their understandings of marriage.

But I may say no to future weddings that are off-island. When I have to travel over 30 miles, take ferries hither and yon, and even stay overnight, it becomes too much of a hassle. (Not that I would have passed up the opportunity to marry the son and fiancee of old friends who live on the Oregon Coast and paid for all my expenses to travel to the wedding site!) Some weddings require so much preparation that I ought to charge more than $300, of course, particularly when certain requirements of the couple have to be met----a lengthy homily, lots of elements that depart seriously from my accustomed way of doing things, etc.

But the rewards generally outweigh the frustrations, and I thoroughly enjoy meeting each couple, getting to know them and their families. Today I am peforming two weddings----one a repeat of the ceremony performed privately two weeks ago for the bride in chemo and her bekilted groom and the second a gala affair with a couple at Greenbank Farm, just north of here. One is at noon, the other at 5 p.m.

On top of these obligations, I'm preaching tomorrow, but that sermon is in the bag now and will appear here later. My friend is arriving on Monday for a few days and I am going to enjoy some moments of true leisure with her, despite the fact that I have a board retreat one day when she will have to be on her own, plus a couple of other meetings. But it's the longest stretch of more or less free time we could scrape together this month! Of course, I have to clean the bathroom and dust/vacuum before she gets here, but that's no problem. I'm pretty tidy, so the house stays pretty clean.

Anyhow, don't you think Weddings Up the Wazoo is a nice name for a wedding biz? I still have four more to do before the season is over!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Appreciation and Gratitude

I've been working on Sunday's sermon for weeks. It has been going a little slowly up until this morning. I had a story to start with, a reading that was applicable, some good songs, but I hadn't yet found the way to tie it all together. I am usually philosophical about that sort of thing, having learned that sermon elements often come together without my help, that many times what I've written as first draft material suddenly is seen to be connected to another idea successfully, and so the sermon almost writes itself.

I'd thought this week's sermon, "An Attitude of Gratitude", would be easy to pull together. I'd been jotting down thoughts ever since the worship committee had decided to work hard at instituting a culture of appreciation in the congregation, offering thanks more often than critique. Those of you who are active in your own churches know that this can be hard to do, that each member of the group has individual ideas about how things ought to go and that there is often an undercurrent of dissatisfaction with others' efforts.

Scolding is not an effective homiletic technique and is, in fact, an example of just what we are trying to eradicate. I figure that most people know what they've done wrong; they need more often to hear what they've done right. But we forget that, in our communities, and we are quick to criticize and to complain about everything that doesn't meet our high standards. We forget how discouraging criticism is in our own lives. We forget that criticism of us is painful and only causes us to be angry and depressed.

I'm not sure we'll ever get rid of the need for honest critique; just substituting positive feedback is unlikely to fix bad situations. Sometimes the situation demands a tough solution and that includes honest critique. But even honest critique causes pain and may engender resentment and injury to the spirit. It must be done kindly, as well.

It makes sense to double our output of appreciation and gratitude to those around us, to help insulate each other against the inevitable day when critique is necessary. And that's what I hope to say, somehow, in my sermon. I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

My Mother's Birthday is today

Even though she has been dead since 1994, my mother's spirit lives on in her children and grandchildren. Today is her 97th birthday and I salute her gift of life, her indomitable spirit even when grief and pain were strong, and her gentle ways.

My mother was the product of a Norwegian mother and Swedish father and spoke Norwegian in her Spokane home until she went to school. She met my father, a budding orchardist who felt called to the ministry, on the Oregon Slope and married him and went off to Moody Bible Institute in Chicago during the Depression.

She created a home for our family that was loving, affectionate, full of laughter and joy, and I miss her yet.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Feeling Sad...

this morning as I think about the illness and impending deaths of people close to me, as well as the recent deaths of others.

My only brother, whose near-miraculous heart reshaping surgery three years ago at Johns Hopkins gave him a health reprieve for a time, is now learning that his borrowed time is getting shorter, that there are few fixes short of a heart transplant, and that this solution may not come in time for him. My friend and fellow activist on the island, whose remission from breast cancer ended last winter, enters a local hospice this week. And others in frail health or grief struggle on, coping with pain and anxiety and multiple treatments: the bride in chemo, the widower of a few weeks, the survivors of an old friend whose body finally gave out.

These illnesses and deaths touch very close to home. My role and skills as a pastor help me keep some of it at arms length for awhile, because there are others to consider, tasks to perform, ceremonies to prepare, people to comfort. But the grief sneaks in anyhow, and I think of the little boy with his bright eyes and indomitable spirit, the mother intent upon giving her lesbian daughter and niece the safety of PFLAG, the bride with her bald head planning her wedding, the widower making his way back to church after a long absence, the Portland sisters bereft of mother, father, and brother in such a short time.

The enormity of life is very real right now. The great grief that humans experience because they love so deeply is very near.

But there is always joy as well. Today at 9:16 a.m. MDT marks the moment of birth of my beloved son, in whom I am well-pleased. He is 35 years old at this very moment. I call him every year at that moment and he's usually groggy so this year I decided I'd call at 9:16 PDT, out of kindness. Happy Birthday, child of my heart. You give me enough joy in life to offset the grief and I am grateful.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Article about inherited social orientation

I've found the article that Rev. Tom Goldsmith used in his statement that we inherit genetically our social orientation, which leads to our political and religious affiliations. You can link to it here .

In reading this article, I see that it doesn't really address the study in the way I thought it did, but it's interesting anyhow. Maybe when I get Tom's lecture notes, I'll find something more to share.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Nature vs. Nurture Crops Up Again

Our speaker at Eliot this past week, the Rev. Tom Goldsmith of First Unitarian in Salt Lake City, posited, in his final lecture on Friday, that our human social orientation is a genetic condition, that it is inherited, not developed in a family setting. This is apparently borne out by a research study of 8000 people, twins, both fraternal and identical, who were separated at birth. (Some of this I'm trying to reconstruct from notes that began AFTER I started to believe what I was hearing, so I may not have the details quite right.)

As I absorbed what he was saying, my defenses immediately began to rise: what about the research that seems to say that each generation reacts/responds to the generation of its parents? what about teenage rebellion? what about how different I am from my brother and sister? what about...? and then I went back to listening to his words and to try them on for size.

Here are some of my notes: moral grammar is wired into our human mind and body; it generates instant moral judgments and is innate behavior. Religion is not the source of a moral code but it does re-enforce instinctive moral behavior. The innate system that generates moral judgments is immune to religious doctrine. The Golden Rule is pretty universal across human religion. Human beings are wired to make meaning out of life; religion is one way to do that. Human beings have a basic trust that life has meaning and that meaning is found in giving hope to others and thereby oneself. Evil is self-interest without regard for the whole; Good is creating harmony in the world.

I've always leaned more on the "rebellion against parental authority" argument of liberal vs. conservative, when it comes to religion and politics, but Tom's lecture broadened my viewpoint. As I look at my family, where I am clearly the most liberal of the crop of Ketcham kids, raised by a Republican Baptist preacher and mother, I do see myself way out there on the lefthand side of the spectrum and my other family members distributed across the middle to righthand side. Part of my leftishness comes from my having left the PNW at age 23, moving to Colorado where I experienced a whole different kind of life, away from the conservatism of my birthplace.

BUT, and this is a big one, virtually every member of the Ketcham family has a strong, deep streak of obligation to public service. My brother and sister and I are all dedicated to the public good. My brother has demonstrated his dedication through various mission projects to Alaska and South America where he built houses and churches and he is an elected Public Utility Commissioner in his county, working on energy consumption issues; my sister has long been committed to children's welfare problems and is a CASA volunteer, adoption advocate, and educator of hard-to-educate youth and young adults. I have my own dedication to civil rights and other social justice work.

None of the three of us disagrees with each other about the need for work in these areas. We may have differences of opinion about the solutions, but we agree that there are great shortcomings in the fields of conservation, child safety, and civil rights. And we like to hear about each other's work. Our children have inherited much of this sensitivity to the public good: from fostering children to public information to educating about history, our kids seem to want to carry the torch.

Some of this is clearly a product of environment: the three of us watched our parents busy themselves with community organizations like the library association and PTA and temperance work, issues that benefited the community outside the church. Our kids have watched us take up the cudgels in our own areas of interest and have found places where they can be active.

So perhaps there is a deeper wellspring from which an attitude of political/religious openness/caution emerges. I see myself both open and cautious about political and religious issues: I am religiously open to new ideas but I am politically cautious about the issues of human government. I normally vote Democrat because those candidates and the issues and values they support tend to be more left than right in a moral sense. I require integrity in a candidate and do not excuse a leftish candidate for immoral or unethical behavior.

There's a lot to think about here. I'll be cogitating on it for some time to come.

NOTE: please keep my brother in your thoughts and prayers; his health is failing once again and this time it may be for good.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Home Again, Alone

After a week of almost-constant company, it feels good to be alone again. I woke up about 5:30 a.m., tiptoed into my clothes, snuck out the Inn door, and was off to Port Townsend to catch the ferry by 6. There'd been a tide cancellation of the earliest ferry, so I had a little extra time to eat breakfast in Chimacum at a small cafe where the biscuits and gravy and sausage were superb (my favorite on-the-road breakfast).

The 8:15 a.m. ferry was right on time and we sailed for Keystone on the dot, arriving half an hour later and by 9:15 I was home, mollifying the cats, checking the mail, scanning the newspapers, watering the plants, and starting the laundry. By noon I had gone for groceries, done most of the laundry, and was ready for lunch and a nap.

The cats have been quite solicitous since I got home. They were overjoyed to be outside on the deck again and it turns out they've developed a taste for beet greens. The lush wheat grass tray I have inside seems to have lost its appeal and they have been snacking on the baby beet greens periodically since I let them out onto the deck. Of course, that means mopping up the cat barf periodically as well, with tiny beet leaves amid the guck.

Somebody remarked last night at my Eliot dinner table that he thought all ministers must be extroverts, that it just must be a necessity. I allowed as how I have always registered high on the Extrovert scale, according to Myers-Briggs, but since I became a minister, I have needed so much more alone time that I am pretty sure I am at least half-Introvert nowadays.

Anyhow, I'm now home from Eliot, looking forward to going to church tomorrow with my Whidbey folks, sleeping in my own bed, and the prospect of a few days with one friend who will arrive on Monday. She's one of those folks who doesn't need entertaining, is content to read a book or just hang out and talk. She's recuperating from successful hip surgery earlier in the summer, so she's not moving very fast either. I predict we'll have a nice slow time together!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Is it kind, is it true, is it necessary?

I'm at that point in the week of Eliot where I'm looking forward to going home. It's Thursday, I've been having a bit of a sinus headache every morning, and I'm missing my own bed. There's nothing wrong with Eliot or Seabeck; it's me and my homebody tendencies.

I was moved, yesterday, to discover that PeaceBang had blogged about my post entitled 'We Bleed, Oh How We Bleed", from July 26. (I give you chapter and verse here because I don't have my handy-dandy cheat sheet that reminds me how to make it a link.) Because of her linking to my post, I had a remarkable number of visitors to the site, which tells me that many people are interested and compassionate about clergy who are hurt by thoughtless congregational behavior.

The subject came up here at Eliot yesterday, when in my small group discussion, someone criticized something a speaker had said and seemed on the verge of turning against the person because of that one small remark which seemed to cast the speaker in a negative light. The familiar pang came in my heart and I spoke up, asking the criticizer to go directly to the speaker with his concerns, rather than let the issue fester and negate everything good the speaker had to say, rather than talk negatively about the speaker behind his back.

This is exactly the kind of thing, I said, that results in a great deal of unnecessary pain and anguish for public figures---the tumbling from the pedestal of a favored person because of his/her moment of weakness and then, instead of being helped up and dusted off, being kicked and pummeled on the ground. I am glad that the criticizer said he would go directly to the speaker and tell him, rather than let him hear it second hand or letting it fester.

Later in the day, another person talked to me about a situation where the longtime minister of his church wasn't satisfying some of the person's friends: So and So is a little distant, doesn't do enough outreach, isn't personable enough, according to the criticizers. Again I felt the pang in my heart, because this minister is a dear guy, competent, intelligent, loving, caring. But he isn't everything and somehow that's not enough. Where is it written that a minister must be everything to everyone and if s/he's not, s/he can be hounded out of the church?

My watchword has become not only the "is it kind, true, necessary" mantra, but "is it illegal? Is it unethical? Is it immoral?" as legitimate concerns for people to have. That feels a little over the top, yes, but frankly it seems unreasonable to me for people to criticize someone seriously for anything but serious concerns like these.

It concerns me a lot that congregants have so little understanding of how the gossip mill works, how negative parking-lot talk can ruin the relationship of a minister with his/her flock, that they don't see that a casual negative remark can turn into an excuse for getting rid of the minister. Do they not understand how it would feel if it happened to them?

Criticism of a public figure is legitimate, but it must be done properly. It must be done kindly, it must be about something that is true, it must be necessary. If it can be done personally, it must be done personally. It is not okay to gossip about the person's failings behind that person's back. There must be an understanding of the consequences of the criticism, if it is carried out: that relationships can either be irreparably damaged or altered for the better; that the person criticized may lose his/her career unnecessarily or may improve his/her skills markedly; that the person criticized may have real, negative health consequences because of the stress or may be relieved of huge worries by a direct approach.

Unkind, untrue, unnecessary criticism has taken many a public figure to his/her doom. It seems to be endemic in our society. Some of it we can't do anything about--"swift-boating" has become a cottage industry during election season. But some of it we can change.

When it's our minister, our friend, our teacher, or other person we care about, we can do something. We can say "talk to the person directly". We can say "that's not true". We can say "let's not gossip". We can say "let's be kind". We can say "let's be forgiving, reasonable, understanding". And we should be saying these things every single time we hear negative remarks about others.

And if, on the rare occasion when the behavior is unethical, illegal, immoral, it must still be dealt with kindly. Truth must be determined. Necessity demands it.

Monday, August 06, 2007

CC turned me on to this quiz.

I found this quiz on Chalice Chick's blog this morning, as I was trolling the blogroll for new posts. I'm at Seabeck Conference Center, it's early morning pre-breakfast check-the-email-and-blogs time, and I don't have time to write a regular post right now, so this is it!

It's interesting to find that this is my "inner European", because my ancestry is mostly Scandinavian. My maternal grandparents met on board a ship to the United States. She was Norwegian and he was Swedish and the quarrels of their countries came together in their marriage. Though my dad brought a "League of Nations" to my parents' marriage, I feel most connected with my Scandinavian roots.

Your Inner European is Swedish!

Relaxed and peaceful.
You like to kick back and enjoy life.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Getting ready for Eliot Institute 07

I've been packing and getting ready to leave tomorrow morning for August Eliot over on the Olympic Peninsula, at Seabeck Conference Center. Of course, that always makes the cats a little crazy, as they watch the suitcase come out, the piles of clothing mount up on the bed, and they get particularly squirrelly or clingy.

Right now Loosy is crouched on my lap as I write, purring a bit but mostly tense, as if to be ready to leap at any moment. Lily has been flying around the house all morning, tail frothed and eyes agog at every little sound.

It didn't help that the newspapers didn't arrive until very late this morning, so there was an element of the normal morning routine that just didn't happen. Normally, it's me and the papers and the coffee for an hour before anything else happens and the cats have time to go outside on the deck, sniff around, warn the birds not to do anything foolish, and come back in to collapse together in a warm calico-y heap on the ottoman.

In addition, this morning we woke up to light rain, which further messed up the routine, as they hate to go outside and get their tender ears wet. So we all paced instead. I eventually went off to the gym, where there were no available newsmagazines or papers either! And since then, I've been engrossed in the packing routine, with little time for cat-petting or tending. Oh, except for having to clean up a little pile of cat barf in the corner. I don't know who is getting back at me for what, but someone is.

In a little while, I'm going out to see one of our less mobile members of the congregation; I always enjoy my conversations with this person---about baseball or legal matters or the state of the congregation. It's an hour or so well-spent with someone I care for a lot. It will be a nice pastoral "last thing" to do before I head off tomorrow.

I want to hit the early Keystone ferry to Pt. Townsend, do some shopping in Pt. T for my new grandkids (a souvenir of Native designs, I'm thinking), meet a Vashon couple for a second wedding consultation at the Southworth Ferry, 70 miles south of Pt. T, and then head to Seabeck for registration.

I'm going to take the laptop so that I can keep up with email and blogging. But it will be a day or two before I am back here again. Hasta luego, amigos.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

This is NOT diet advice, but...

I've been thinking about food lately. I'm not on a diet nor do I intend to be, any time soon. I have dieted and lost weight and regained it so many times in my life that I've finally realized that diets don't work for me. I'm not sure they work for anyone, considering how many friends and relatives I've watched go through the same cycles I've gone through.

For me the problem is always that I feel deprived when I cut back on my food intake and, when the pounds offed seem sufficient, I return to my regular programming---eating carelessly and indulgently. And I'm sure you know what happens then!

Now, I'm no dummy. I know that excess poundage isn't good news and if it were easy to lose and keep off, I'd certainly do it. I'm not a candidate for drastic surgical interventions. I figure that I'd have to cut my food intake in half and double my exercise if I were to lose weight; and when I'd lost it, chances are the old habits would resume. I do want to maximize my health, however, at this time of my life, so I've been thinking about what I need to do.

One of the things I've noticed about myself is that I will frequently eat when I'm not really hungry; instead, I'm eating out of a sense of obligation to a ritual expectation. Ex: it's a hot summer afternoon, there's an ice cream stand, wouldn't a cone taste great? Only it's only momentarily great-tasting, I finish it out of a sense of thrift, and I'm uncomfortable the rest of the afternoon and not hungry at suppertime, but I eat supper anyhow.

I also eat out of a sense that I should indulge myself with food. I'm not sure where this comes from, but I may be reacting to the years of someone else (mother, diet consultant, weightwatchers group) telling me what I should and should not eat. I may not even want the food that is set out temptingly, but I eat it because I think I ought to want to eat it. Does that make sense? I don't want it, but I eat it because I ought to want it. Nutso?

I eat because I am afraid to be hungry. Somehow there's a fear in me about hunger. It may stem from infant fears of starvation when my mother's milk wasn't adequate or the shakiness of low blood sugar which occasionally accompanies hunger pangs. But I rarely let myself experience hunger pangs for any length of time. Yet, when I do, the food I eat becomes ambrosial! Hmmmm, something to be learned here.

A couple of years ago, I engaged a clinically certified hypnotist to help me with weight management and during this course of consultation, I lost a few pounds but most importantly, I cleared the cupboards and refrigerator of most of the non-healthful foods I had on hand. This was mostly sugary stuff. I kept the nuts, the cheese, the apples, grapes, berries, the popcorn, the good bread, the peanut and sunflower seed butter, and the dried fruit. I've managed to keep the cupboards bare of the sugary stuff----mostly, anyhow.

The other day on the ferry, I made a list of the food "rules" I think I can follow:
1. Eat only when hungry.
2. Don't eat just because I think I ought to want to.
3. Don't talk myself into wanting something because I just want to indulge myself.
4. Make all food choices work for me nutritionally.
5. Don't be afraid of hunger.
6. Don't avoid hunger.
7. Have regular meals at regular times.
8. Eat a meal early if I'm too hungry. There's no law against eating supper at 4:30.
9. Don't eat a snack too close to a meal. I want to be hungry for the meal.
10. Think about what I'm eating in the evening---can I deal with the hunger? can I take the edge off without overdoing it?

I have no dream that this will help me lose weight. I don't care if it does or not. I'm not in the market for a boyfriend who requires a slim babe; if a candidate for boyfriend comes along, he'll have to take a potbellied person. I am intent on being mindful about eating, increasing my real enjoyment of foods I relish, and taking in nourishment, not emptiness.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Prayer changes me

The phrase "prayer changes things" has been around for a long time. For years I had no argument with the phrase. I didn't pray much, so I had no way of testing it; my prayers were strictly self-serving: "please, God, change this or that for me". Most of the time, God didn't grant those wishes but I figured He was busy or knew it wasn't good for me. The phrase "God knows best" was a corollary adage in my mind.

After some struggles with relationships that involved alcohol or other addictive stuff, I found AlAnon and began to work the program of the 12 steps. My first challenge was to find a Higher Power and relax into the knowledge that I could "let go and let God". This was not easy for someone who had always been in charge of her own destiny, who had always fixed things, who had been let down often enough to believe that she couldn't trust another person to come through for her.

But I dealt with it, internalized the steps as a way of life, and lived more or less happily and prayer-free for several years. The call to ministry came in the middle of those years and when I was able to answer it, I found myself at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, where they did a lot of praying. Those United Methodists, you know, they pray a lot. And I was expected to take part. We UU students were even asked to offer grace at community meals, occasionally. When I was fingered for the job, I took refuge in a sung blessing. When we didn't offer a prayer at our assigned chapel services, nobody seemed to think it was anything but Unitarian Universalist practice---which, of course, it is in many congregations.

There came the moment when, in my process toward Fellowshipping, I began to see a spiritual director, to help me soften some of my intensity (who me, intense? surely you jest!). She asked me to think about what specific spiritual discipline I would like to develop, and to my great surprise, I said, "I want to learn how to pray."

That was in 1998 and since that time, I have had a regular prayer practice. It's not fancy; I don't kneel or use anything but a small candle as a ritual flame. But for the past nine years, nearly every night before I go to bed, I light my candle and pray. And in those nine years, I realize that I have learned a great deal about prayer and what works for me.

First of all, when I am praying, God is personal to me. But God is not an omnipotent sugar daddy who will change the course of the universe for me. God is more like a cosmic teddy bear, to whom I pour out the details of my day, telling "him" of my gratitude for a good day, relating the not-so-good moments, regretting my mistakes, and asking for help to be a good minister, a good parent, a good sister, a good friend. I ask that God be with my family members and give them the help they need to cope with their lives; I ask that God be with me in my day to day activities. I ask that God bring healing to those who are in pain or struggling with health issues and that I may be of help in some way to those I meet. I ask for a good night's sleep and a sense of refreshment and health in the morning.

You may have noticed that I don't ask for stuff. I ask for help in my daily life. I ask for a chance to be helpful to those I meet. I ask for strength to deal with life's challenges, words to ease someone's unhappy heart. When I am feeling desperate, I ask for a sense of connection to carry me through to the other side of desperation. These prayers are always answered! And I always say thank you, thank you, thank you, God. Prayer has changed me, more than it has changed things.

Yesterday, at Whidbey General Hospital, I prayed with several folks, none of whom are Unitarian Universalist. They just needed prayer, someone to say to God what they didn't feel able to say themselves. They wanted someone with them as they spent time with God. And the words always come. And I am always grateful.