Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Troubled by the Radical Wright

I know that I will vote for whoever the Democratic candidate is, in November. I am not sure who it's going to be and though I favor Obama, I also think that Hillary Clinton is a viable candidate.

BUT, and it's a big one: I am deeply troubled by the turn I see in Obama's journey, that he has had to denounce his former mentor and pastor the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. I understand why he has had to do that. I think the Rev. Wright is Wrong.

I haven't read every word of every news article nor watched every moment of every broadcast featuring the Wright Wreverend. However, I have seen enough of his recent behavior (speeches, interviews) to form a tentative conclusion: Rev. Wright is not comfortable seeing a black man, an African American man, in the Presidency.

I have a hard time understanding why he has made some of the comments and judgments he's made in the last couple of days unless he is unconsciously sabotaging Obama's run for the White House out of his own fear.

What fears might Rev. Wright have? He might fear that too much success for a black man might set a standard for other African Americans that will require a change of attitude on their part. One person's moving from the stereotype of victimhood to the highest office in the land requires that all persons in Obama's racial group begin to think of themselves as potentially capable and not potential victims.

He might fear for Obama's safety. I mentioned in an earlier post my own fear for Barack Obama---and for Hillary Clinton as well. Our heroes and heroines tend to get shot down, metaphorically and physically. The person who sticks his/her neck out tends to get his/her head bopped.

He might fear a loss of face on his own part, if he has to back down from anything in order to secure the nomination for Obama. He might be one of us preachers who gets defensive and angry when criticized, even legitimately done.

He might fear for the future of the black church. He might fear for his own safety and that of his family and congregation.

There are many fears that may be driving the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. These are just the ones that come to me tonight.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Meeting the other Kit Ketchum/am

When I first attended a General Assembly, way back in 1995, I proudly wore my nametag emblazoned with my name (this was before I was in seminary) as Kit Ketcham, Jefferson Unitarian Church, Golden, Colorado. It was dripping with all the ribbons that one gets at GA---the green delegate ribbon, the various UUSC honor congregation ribbons, stickers showing support for Green Sanctuary, Welcoming Congregation, and what not.

I was casting glances about the registration lobby, looking for familiar faces and scanning nametags, just like everyone else was. I knew a few folks from the UUA because of having been a semi-finalist for the District Executive job in the Mountain Desert District and there was one particular fellow I had my eye on, to see if we might be, well, you know.

Anyhow, I was scanning, others were scanning, and out of the blue, a couple of folks who were also casing the room looked at my nametag and said, "Kit Ketcham! You're not the Kit Ketcham I know!" And in conversation, it turned out that there is another Kit Ketcham in UU Land. She spells her last name with a -um instead of an -am, but that doesn't matter much because Ketcham is one of those names with several spellings (-am, -em, -um, -im, and even -om, I suppose), and we assume we're all related.

So this piqued my interest. Another Kit Ketch-something, amazing! I had learned that she was a wellknown lay leader in the Twin Cities and I wanted to meet her. This has been a hope of mine for some years now.

Well, guess what! She found Ms. Kitty's the other day and we have been comparing family notes. I had some Ketcham stuff that Joel the Neff had dug up and I sent it to her, while she sent me some stuff.

It looks like we truly are related! Her family roots in England appear to be the same as my family roots in England. Our American ancestors lived in different parts of the country but there are similar names on our family trees.

Isn't this cool?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

An Engineer's Guide to Cats

I found this over in the comments on Miss Kitty's Educated and Poor. You will find it very useful.


Rockhoppers Open Mic performance

Trilogy performed again last night at Rockhoppers. We sang four songs: Heart and Soul, Skylark, a medley of Lazy Bones and Bidin' My Time, and God Bless the Child.

Here's the URL: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/373481

If I get time later, I may embed the video, but right now I'm in a rush to go teach a class.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Only a little news

I encourage you to read Lizard Eater's blog about how Little Warrior is doing. She says it much better than I can.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Praying and praying and praying

Please keep Lizard Eater and her small daughter Little Warrior in your prayers. LW undergoes surgery today for checking out and removing a "small spot" on one of her organs, which may or may not be a sign of a relapse of the Wilms' she fought off in her first year of life. Little Warrior is only two years old. Please pray.

Whether or not you believe that prayer induces miracles, what prayer certainly can do is bring hope and peace to those in desperate places, when they realize that they are not all alone in their pain, that others care deeply and are forming a network of love to catch them if they fall too far.

LE and LW and their family need us and this is one thing we can do.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Blogging from the Ministers' Spring Retreat

I've been at the Palisades Retreat Center in Federal Way (WA) since Sunday night. This retreat was significant to me because it was my turn to offer the Tuesday night program, which always features the Spiritual Odyssey of one of the ministers.

I've been in this district since August 1, 1999, and there is a careful list kept of who arrived when, so that Odyssey assignment can be doled out according to longevity in the district. I've known for several months that I would be offering my Odyssey to my colleagues on April 22, 2008, and I have been preparing for a long time.

I spent a long time jotting down the events of my life that have led me to ministry and the place I'm in right now, going back and filling in pertinent details, recalling the important times that shifted my trajectory, and thinking deeply about the sense of call that has landed me here.

Tonight, for about an hour, I got to tell my colleagues the story of my life, particularly the moments that were significant in my journey, and then answering their questions about things that needed more explanation.

It was exhausting and wonderful and exhilarating at the same time. I feel closer to all of them, very much appreciated and respected, and I am terrifically glad it's done. It's a once in a lifetime experience for most of us, if we stay in the same district for most of our career.

Part of the pleasure of doing it came from my desire to leave a record of my life for my son. I have cherished the few written stories that my mother left for us kids and wanted to give the FS something more complete. I also put together a picture book of significant moments and people in my life and placed some favorite mementoes on a table so that folks could look through them later.

It has been a wonderful, thrilling night! And so goodnight...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Lost Generation

I couldn't figure out how to embed this, but I want you to see it. It's a winner in an AARP sponsored contest for young people.


Friday, April 18, 2008

"Let's You and Him Fight"...

was the name of one of the games in a 60's era book "Games People Play" by Dr. Eric Berne. This particular game tended to be a romantic game, where a woman set up two men to fight over her.

But the mind-numbing series of debates between Obama and Clinton seem to have that flavor as well: ask questions that will cause the two candidates to fight among themselves.

How helpful is that? Are we choosing a presidential candidate on the basis of his/her ability to fight with someone, to come up with zingers that will demolish the other, to exhibit more cool-headed responses than the other, to reveal more dirt on the other, to one-up the other in a never-ending escalation of barbs and putdowns, to defend one's honor by attacking the other's honor?

Please, give me a break! I have quit watching the debates or reading about them. At least in a romantic game, there's a story to be told. It might not be a story with a happy ending; it might be a very stereotypical, anti-feminist, heterosexist story. But it has more story power, in terms of relationship, than this endless sniping at the behest of those who should have better things to do than voyeuristically setting up two basically decent human beings to fight.

What advice might I give to the candidates? Refuse to play the game. Challenge it. Call it what it is. Don't let them manipulate you.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Oh great!

No wonder I've been getting a lot of search hits looking for Miss Kitty. They just busted a brothel south of Seattle and the madam advertises as Miss Kitty on Craigslist. Terrific. It's not me!

Island Life

Whidbey is a different kind of place than I have ever lived before. I've lived in small towns but never in a place where wildlife was so prolific and outnumbered me right in my own yard. I live a little way out of town on several acres of grassy, blackberry-ed, alder-ed, conifer-ed land and every day I see bald eagles and hawks overhead, in addition to numerous small birds. I see deer on my grass and bunnies on the edge of the blackberry brambles and under the forsythia thicket.

This morning as I was driving to the gym which is just a little too far to walk on a darkish morning, I realized I hadn't seen my resident deer for a few days and remembered last summer when a deer carcass remained by the side of the road for days because it was a holiday weekend and the roadkill crews weren't on duty. I sent up a little prayer that my three-doe herdlet would survive another year.

And then I saw an ominous lump on the shoulder up ahead. The limp body of a young doe lay sprawled on the side of the road, clearly the victim of someone who couldn't stop in time to avoid her as she tried to cross the road. I don't know if she's one of my girls or not, but I have a bad feeling about it.

In other news, I've been letting Max go out on the deck with the other cats now and he is obsessed by the wider world this opens up to him. With his white coat, he's much more visible than the other cats and I always watch for predator birds overhead, but he's a happy boy right now----if he's outside. Otherwise he's scratching at the door, mewing piteously and looking quite frantic. After all, there are huge, slow flies out there and he is "desperately needed to eradicate them for the safety of the whole household, Mom, don't you get it?"

We have now gone more than two weeks without "an incident" and I am hoping the worst is over. Everyone seems healthy and happy, including me, except for the remnants of a cold that make me sound stuffy.

On Sunday, I will travel down to Palisades retreat center to join my colleagues in a three day R & R retreat. I am the "Odyssian" this time, the person whose turn it is to offer an evening session describing my spiritual journey. I've been working on it for months and am just about ready to go, except for putting together the mementoes I want to display.

I'm ready for a little R & R and time with friends in a beautiful spot. It's been a long winter.

UPDATE: Max managed to get off the deck today but I found him before he could get too far. So the deck has had to be further fortified to foil him. We'll see what happens next.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

What a relief!

Thank you for your thoughts in behalf of these friends and neighbors.

April 16, 2008

1:30pm PST


Washington State Senator Maria Cantwell’s office has just received word that the four Americans and one Nigerian citizen who have been held in custody since Saturday by Nigerian authorities have been released to American Embassy personnel in Abuja.

The U.S. Ambassador in Abuja, Nigeria told Cantwell’s office that the Seattle-based filmmakers were picked up by a van from the detention center and taken to a hotel where they will spend the next two nights before “final processing” by Nigerian authorities.

The film crew had been issued a visa to return to Nigeria to complete a documentary about the impact of oil production on the Niger Delta. They were taken into custody on April 12th at a military checkpoint before being transferred to Nigerian State Security. Authorities claimed the film crew was violating laws by traveling in a restricted area. Attorneys for the Americans insisted that no laws were broken.

The families of director Sandi Cioffi, producer Tammi Simms, and photographers Sean Porter and Cliff Worsham are awaiting telephone calls from them to confirm their safe release.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Sweet Crude Film Crew Detained

Joel Bisina, the Nigerian husband of a Whidbey Island friend, Mary Ella Keblusek, has been detained by the authorities, with the Sweet Crude film crew, for reasons that are not clear. Mary Ella is a woman on the island who has been active in a number of causes, including the Whidbey Institute's many progressive workshops and film series. She's also the friend of several of my parishioners, as well as myself, and her compassion for others is endless.

I am reproducing her recent email about the situation below and I ask you to hold her and Joel and the film crew in your thoughts and prayers, that the situation might be resolved safely and justly. I will add additional information as it becomes available.

"Dear friends – For those of you who are hearing this for the first time, over the weekend my husband Joel Bisina and four crew members from the documentary Sweet Crude were detained in the Niger Delta.

Below are our two press releases, one from late Sunday night and an update from Monday. If you have a moment, the best thing you could do to help is to disseminate these broadly. We believe the media exposure is really helping.

If you live in Washington State, we’d like you to know that Senator Cantwell’s office has been ‘leading the charge’ and Senator Murray’s office has also been very helpful. So if you feel like sending them a little email of support, thanks and keep it up, that would also be great.

You might also want to check out some of the other media on this story:

- http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/358989_film15.html

- http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2004348198_websims15m.html

Please hold all of us in your thoughts.

Mary Ella"


Press release dated April 14, 2008:


Leslye Wood, Press Secretary, Sweet Crude Movie
Phone: 206.282.0880 / 206.915.4339
Email: media@sweetcrudemovie.com

Louise Rafkin, Studio Naga
Phone: 510.928.3612
Email: louise@louiserafkin.com


SEATTLE, April 14, 2008 – Nigerian government officials finally allowed a U.S. Embassy representative to visit the four American filmmakers being held in custody in Abuja by Nigerian State Security. This is the government’s first concession since detaining the Seattle-based film crew on Saturday morning.

Nigerian officials claim the group is being “detained for investigation” in accordance with Nigerian law. However, the Americans have been denied access to legal representation. Nigerian law evidently stipulates that detainees either be released or charged within 48 hours. No charges have been filed at this time.

Aaron Hellman, a spokesperson for the Overseas Services, a division of the State Department, says that the Americans are reportedly tired but in good health. Hellman said he had no information about the conditions in which they are being held. He said an Embassy representative would return to check on them tomorrow (Tuesday) but would not disclose any details about the Embassy's plan to help gain their release.

Senators Maria Cantwell, Russ Feingold, John Kerry and John Tester are currently working the channels to press the U.S. State Department to get involved.

The four Americans, along with a Nigerian citizen, were taken into custody by the Nigerian military April 12th, while traveling by boat in the Niger Delta. The filmmakers had been issued a visa by the Nigerian government granting them permission to return to Nigeria complete their documentary, Sweet Crude. The film crew has been actively documenting the impact of oil production on the Niger Delta since 2005 and was known to authorities.

Director Sandy Cioffi, along with producer Tammi Sims and photojournalists Cliff Worsham and Sean Porter entered the country legally on April 5th. They were accompanied by Joel Bisina, a Nigerian being held in custody with them. Bisina is the founder of a Warri-based NGO, Niger Delta Professionals for Development.

No communication has been received since Saturday April 12th, 8:30 am PDT. Family, friends and colleagues are making a plea for safe and immediate release.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Belief Divides; Doubt Unites

Two years ago, the fellow who purchased my auction item of the right to choose a sermon topic suggested the idea that "belief divides and doubt unites". The English actor Peter Ustinov was one of many who coined phrases with that theme and my congregant and his wife had seen a play in Seattle where the adage was featured in a poster.

Tragically, before he and I could have a conversation about the sermon, he died suddenly and the sermon has been on hold ever since. His wife has grieved his tragic death long and hard and has not been ready to set a date for me to offer the sermon until now. We have set the date for June 15 and I will talk with her about it in advance, to get a sense of where she thinks he might have wanted me to go with it.

I have seen many references to this concept lately: the Dalai Lama, visiting Seattle right now, referred to how religious belief is so often a source of conflict and division. We see belief, both secular and religious, causing division in our presidential campaign. We as Americans are deeply divided by belief.

This is going to be a hard sermon to write, because I am still grieving the man's death as well. I want to honor him and do so in a way that recognizes his many strengths and the contributions he made to our congregation. Yet I still feel the loss strongly and find my emotion about it creeping in whenever I start to think about how to present his topic.

Your thoughts about this topic might help me start to get past the grief and on into serving his memory appropriately. Please have at it! It would be a great kindness. I'll be grateful for your help.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Detente, for now

It's been a week since the last cat pee incident. Everyone is happily eating the vet's kibble, so that's a go and it's not too expensive. And I gave raw food a brief try but I can see that it will take more effort to get them to eat it regularly. I have affixed a plastic lining to the coverlet that gets the pee the most often and have ordered a waterproof blanket to add to my arsenal of weapons.

And here are pictures that seem to testify to the growing maturity of all three of the cats. I was watching Sweeney Todd on a DVD last night and this little scene was certainly in contrast to the spurtings and crashings of the movie.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Here's a fun one...

Winnie the Pooh was a favorite book when I was small and we read it to our son. Somebody once called me Tigger, so this is not surprising.

Your Score: Tigger

You scored 17 Ego, 13 Anxiety, and 15 Agency!

And as they went, Tigger told Roo (who wanted to know)
all about the things that Tiggers could do.

"Can they fly?" asked Roo.

"Yes," said Tigger, "they're very good flyers, Tiggers
are. Strornry good flyers."

"Oo!" said Roo. "Can they fly as well as Owl?"

"Yes," said Tigger. "Only they don't want to."

"Why don't they want to?" well, they just don't like it

Roo couldn't understand this, because he thought it
would be lovely to be able to fly, but Tigger said it was
difficult to explain to anybody who wasn't a Tigger himself.

You scored as Tigger!

ABOUT TIGGER: Tigger is the newest addition to the Hundred Acre Wood, and he lives with Kanga and Roo, because Roo's strengthening medicine turned out to be the thing that Tiggers like best. Tigger is bouncy and confident -some of his friends think he is a little TOO bouncy and confident, but attempts to unbounce him tend to be fruitless.

WHAT THIS SAYS ABOUT YOU: You are a positive and confident person. You feel capable of dealing with anything and everything, and funnily enough, you usually ARE. You don't worry about much, and you love to go out and find new adventures.

Your friends and family might sometimes be a little exasperated by your boundless enthusiasm. You don't like to admit your mistakes, and when you find yourself in over you head, you tend to bluff your way out of things. You would be surprised, however, at how happy the people around you would be if you would actually admit to a mistake. It would make you seem more human, somehow.

Link: The Deep and Meaningful Winnie-The-Pooh Character Test written by wolfcaroling on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test
View My Profile(wolfcaroling)

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Source #6: Wisdom of Earth Centered Religions, the sermon

By Rev. Kit Ketcham, April 6, 2008

When I was a kid in elementary school, like many of you, no doubt, and like Margot Adler, we spent some extended period of time one year learning about the many gods and goddesses of early peoples: Norse, Roman, Greek, and Egyptian gods and goddesses were the basic groups we covered.

I remember being impressed that four days of the week were actually named after Norse gods and goddesses: Tuesday, for Tyr, god of war and sky; Wednesday, for Woden, god of wisdom and head honcho of the Norse pantheon; Thursday, for Thor, god of thunder; and Friday, for Freya, goddess of love and beauty (and fertility, though I didn’t know it at the time).

As a young Scandinavian, I was pretty pleased with my ancestral deities, though my devout Christian parents were quick to make sure I understood that Norse, Roman, Greek, and Egyptian gods and goddesses were myths, not real. Only the Christian God and Jesus were real and I should not ever forget that!

Of course, being a heretic-in-the -making, though unaware of it at the time, I kept silent about my questions: how do we know that there’s only God and Jesus? What about the similarity between the Roman god Zeus impregnating the mortal mothers of such heroic figures as Hercules and Perseus? Isn’t the Christian God just as violent as Jupiter or Zeus? And as unpredictable as Loki, the Norse trickster god? If the Christian God mated with the mortal Mary, isn’t the son Jesus just a godling, not a true god? And so on.

The answers to these questions never came to me with blinding clarity but it did gradually dawn on me over several years that gods and goddesses were a cultural phenomenon, that religions were often hereditary, not chosen, that understandings of the Divine were as varied as human beings are varied, and that female figures were pretty much left out of the Christian pantheon.

Since we Baptists were nervous about Catholicism, we didn’t count Mary or any of the other female saints, who were clearly not godlike anyhow since they were only venerated, not really worshipped, according to our Catholic neighbors.

Eventually, I left Baptistness behind and signed up as a Unitarian Universalist and began to explore what it meant to be part of a faith tradition that was so pluralistic that it included Christians, Jews, atheists and agnostics, Buddhists, pagans, and humanists, among others.

In the process of learning about my new religious path, I began to be aware of the dearth of female spiritual and religious teaching in my past. I knew the stories of such heroines as Esther and Ruth and the Virgin Mary, from my Bible studies, but I did not know anything about women’s spiritual experiences. I knew what my own spiritual experiences had been---sort of--- but I had never looked at how they might be similar to other women’s experiences, because of our common biology and societal roles.

Gradually, through reading such classics as “The Chalice and the Blade” by Riane Eisler and the works of such feminist theologians as the Rev. Shirley Ranck, who wrote “Cakes for the Queen of Heaven”, I began to see how important the role of female experience could be to a complete understanding of my spiritual life.

I could see that traditional roles for females in the church were changing and that my life might even change because of them.

This was in the 70’s and 80’s, when feminism was in an earlier stage, an angry stage, a stage when women were refusing to abide by the old ways of being female, when they were demanding an equal place at the table, fighting for rights that they had long been denied.

At the same time, as Margot Adler has written, nature writers such as Loren Eiseley and Rachel Carson, were warning society that the natural world was being defiled, that human beings had misused their power on the earth, had misread the Genesis story which seems to advocate human domination over the earth.

The Transcendentalist poets and authors of the 19th century, including Henry David Thoreau, had long proclaimed that Divinity was in all of nature and Unitarians had begun to acknowledge the importance of naturalism in religion.

Searching for the roots of women’s spirituality, hungry for evidence that women’s strength and wisdom had once been much more important to society, eager for connection with other women to explore the spiritual meanings of female life, women began to look backwards in time, back to pre-Christian days when Mother Earth was revered and the life-giving role of woman’s sexuality was more valuable than a sexy physical appearance.

Ancient Celtic traditions seemed to offer something that women had long intuited but had not concretized---rituals which celebrated woman strength, motherhood, and agedness--not servitude to males but honor and respect for wisdom which came from the female experience of menstruation, pregnancy, birth, raising young and caring for others.

Many women affiliated with Wiccan covens and other pagan religious groups, as did men who also wanted to honor female wisdom. But it wasn’t easy to be a pagan worshipper in those days and even now it can be difficult.

Though the word “pagan” simply means “country dweller” and “heathen” means “heath dweller”, the words had come to imply something very pejorative: witches, black magic, Satanism, evil. And though authentic Wiccan witches had good solid scholarship to back up their claims of virtue and though modern witches are not actually burned at the stake any more, to announce that one was a witch or Wiccan was tantamount to announcing one’s membership in an evil cult. At least in the public eye.

As Wicca and other nature-based religious groups grew, so did an interest in indigenous religions, primarily Native American spirituality. The ceremonies and rituals of the First Nations were widely used by white seekers who wanted to find alternatives to traditional religious worship.
This practice was often viewed with misgiving by Native Americans, who saw their ancient rituals misappropriated by those who had no personal connection to the traditions of the ethnic group they were copying. In fact, it felt to many like additional oppression by the dominant society, particularly when some practitioners, both white and Native, commercialized the rituals by charging admission or teaching workshops so that others could make money off of the religious practice.

Despite the problems with the upsurge in interest in earth-centered religions, it was clear that the passion for nature-based religious expression emerged from a basic human understanding---that there is power beyond human power, that it is unseen and transcendent, and that it is important to find ways to be in relationship with that power, mysterious and inexplicable as it may be.

Science is inadequate to explain completely the mysteries of birth, life and death. Human will is not content to passively accept these mysteries; human will wants to know why they exist, what can be done to meet the challenges of birth, life and death, how to safeguard life, to savor life, to express gratitude for life. Human will desires meaning, not just mechanics.

And so the energy began to build among women and among nature-based practitioners to acknowledge the power of these ideas, to connect them to our UU 7th principle, our commitment to respect for the interdependent web of existence, of which human beings are all a part.

And out of this interest, a group of Unitarian Universalists who practice earth-based religious rituals formed the Covenant of UU Pagans, or CUUPs, as it is known. CUUPs groups began to invite other UUs into their circle, hosting events for the natural cycles of the earth’s year: solstice, equinox, harvest, planting, birth and death.

In 1995, acceptance of the importance of earth-based traditions to our UU movement resulted in a General Assembly vote which added the 6th Source to our avowed Sources. You’ll notice that in most of our hymnals, which were printed before 1995, the 6th Source does not appear. We print it on our O/S every week, however, and I would invite you to read it with me now.

Let’s start with the introductory phrase: The living tradition which we share draws from many sources: and moving on down, Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions, which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

What does the language of this Source mean to us as Unitarian Universalists? We are not all members of the Covenant of UU Pagans, for example, but this Source nevertheless enriches our spiritual lives as well.

Many of us who have given up on the traditional concept of God as an old white guy in the sky have come to see God as the power beyond human power, the natural powers of the universe, the mysteries which we only partly understand, the puzzles that science works diligently to figure out, the forces of nature which we cannot control but can only respond to---wind, rain, sun, moon, tides, gravity, night and day.

And we recognize the need to be in harmony with those mysteries, to learn to work with them instead of trying to bend them to our will.

We recognize, as well, that the earth, the universe, is the original sacred text of humankind, that all knowledge that humans have gained comes from our observations and our relationships with the earth and universe.

As Unitarian Universalists, we are committed to stewardship of the earth. We understand that we are part of the resilient yet fragile web of life, that damage to that web is damage to ourselves and our neighbors.

What does it mean that we celebrate the sacred circle of life? What does it mean to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature? It doesn’t necessarily mean that we join a CUUPs chapter or live in a teepee. It does mean that when we celebrate a birthday, we think of the sacredness of each life and what that life means to us and to others. It does mean that when we come together to mourn the loss of a life, we think of the sacredness of that life and how that life has changed us, how we have been affected by that life.

It does mean that when we marry or when our friends and loved ones marry, that this relationship, this bond between two people, strengthens and increases the love in the world, thereby strengthening and increasing the love we experience in the world.

And love is surely one of those mysterious powers beyond human power, whose visibility is revealed more in actions than in science.

It means that we are respectful of the natural world, that we remember that clear-cutting a slope without repairing the damage of the loss of vegetation means that the earth downhill from the slope will be carried away by the next rains and that this will cause damage to us as well as to the earth.

It means that we grow our own food, as we can, and are attuned to what we can grow in our climate, in our soil, in our seasons, in the space we have. It means that we are careful about what we add to the soil, to the water table, to our own food supplies.

It means that we recognize that we can hurt the earth and we refrain from doing so, as much as possible. It means that we recognize that other species depend on us for justice and mercy, as do other human tribes. We recognize that we are part of the interdependent web, not the masters of it, and we are humble in that role.

Some of you read my internet weblog, titled Ms. Kitty’s Saloon and Roadshow (thank you for your readership!) and may have read recent responses to a post in which I asked people to tell me how their own UUism is enhanced or affected by our 6th Source, earth-centered religious wisdom.

There were a variety of responses to my query, one of them very critical of modern paganism, citing the lack of historical evidence for ritual forms that could be used in this century, critizing those who seem to show off their paganism without having thought it through very thoroughly, who use pagan or native rites without a deep sense of respect and connection to the tradition. His words hit a nerve among some other responders, who felt that their legitimate religious path was being unfairly judged.

Knowing this critic very well, since he is my son, a longtime reader of my blog, I know that he is critical always of form for form’s sake, critical of those who seem shallow in their understanding and passion and impatient with anyone who seems to be acting out a part rather than being authentic.

I was pleased by other readers’ responses to his critique: courteous yet expressing discomfort with what felt unfair and laying out their own thoughtful foundation for their attraction to earth-based religious practices.

One such response came from a fellow I know mainly as Ogre. Ogre is a seminary student, a deep thinker and a born and raised UU. He found his UUism enhanced by the light of paganism.

He wrote:
“I've come back through the door and am not an actively practicing Pagan. But I'm very sympathetic. There were insights that made Christianity far more accessible, meaningful and palatable, for example. There were experiences that left my comfortable agnostic-inclinations... at least discomfited. More than anything, it provided me a radically different perspective on religion. …Modern Paganism, in most cases, is consistent with Classical Paganism in that it's minimally concerned with issues of orthodoxy--but rather with orthopraxy. Soaking in that for a couple decades gave me a perspective on UUism and its relationship to the mainstream of religion in North America that is incredibly valuable.

“It provides a vibrant, pulsing, living heartbeat to my UU pantheism.

“It also permitted me to participate in shaping liturgy and worship in ways that will forever be valuable to me. …. And I can at least see some ways to channel that into the sometimes stiff shape of a typical UU congregation and its services.”

Other responders, such as Lizard Eater, said similar things:

“ … it was as if I had been living locked up in a single house, and suddenly the front door was opened wide. Concepts that I had felt in my heart, had a name here, and were affirmed. Magick! A power given to all! A duality of female/male energy! Goddess! Seasons! A connection to the earth. A lack of judgment. A universal impetus to do good, not harm. Karma.

“Wicca was a part of my journey and parts of it remain with me still. And ultimately, it has given me a deeper appreciation for Unitarian Universalism. I was born and raised UU and so it was something that I could take for granted. But now, when someone walks in our doors and after their first UU worship experience, with glowing eyes, they say, “This is my religion, that I never knew existed” … I know what they mean. I’ve had that moment, too. Through Wicca.”

There’s a reading in our hymnal entitled The Eternal Verity by Waldemar Argow, which reads in part: “Ancient as the home is the temple; ancient as the workbench is the altar…Older than written language is spoken prayer…religion is the first and last—the universal language of the human heart..For an eternal verity abides beneath diversities, we are children of one great love, united in our one eternal family.”

In acknowledging the wisdom of earth-based traditions, even though knowledge of their actual ancient rituals may be sketchy and modern earth rituals seek to re-enact their power, we do a very human thing. We go back in time to discover how our ancestors, our foremothers and fathers respected and sought harmony with the powers of the universe.

In our 6th Source, we UUs acknowledge that our origins offer essential pathways to relationship with all there is. Though we seek answers to our questions through science, we also know that answers do not necessarily contain meaning, that there are some things which are too important to be understood fully and that living in the mystery is sometimes more valuable than unraveling it.

Do answers diminish the importance of meaning? Not at all. But religion and culture evolve and answers change. Meaning may also change as human beings come to learn more from our relationship with mystery.

Unitarian Universalism is a process. It is not a religion carved in stone, but a living tradition, open to new understandings, new meanings.

And if, in our wondering about the mysteries of the earth and universe, we do not rush headlong into scientific inquiry but pause to reflect upon and find worth in the unexplained, the mystery, perhaps then we can understand and appreciate the magnetism of earth-centered spirituality and its importance to our own faith.

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

Hymn #163, For the Earth Forever Turning

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 roots go deep in history, beyond early Christianity and Judaism and other world religions, into pre-history, into a time when the earth, the moon, the sun, the stars were all we knew. May we acknowledge those roots with appreciation and respect and may we bring them into our daily spiritual lives by honoring and living in harmony with the cycles of nature. Amen, Shalom, Salaam, and, most especially these pagan, hallowed words, Blessed Be.

A Sunday Quiz

Hmm, I assume I'm a girl Spiderman.

Your results:
You are Spider-Man

Green Lantern
Iron Man
The Flash
Wonder Woman
You are intelligent, witty,
a bit geeky and have great
power and responsibility.

Click here to take the Superhero Personality Test

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Update on Neo-Paganism Post and Cat Stuff

The responses to my recent post asking for input on how neo-paganism and UU values coincide have revealed widely divergent views on the topic, from deep cynicism and pained responses to that cynicism to personal theological reflections on how earth-centered faith practices have enhanced others' UU experience.

I'm not sure how I will end up using the responses in my sermon, but I am certainly better-informed than I was a few days ago! And I'm very thankful to all who responded. The conversation is still open, and I'm hoping that the Favorite Son will add more of his thoughts to the melange.

As far as the cat situation goes, I have been researching making cat food, as Ms. Theologian has suggested, and I just came back from ACE hardware where I bought a 1 mil dropcloth which I plan to attach to the back of a coverlet, so that I can protect the bedcovers with something besides the vinyl-backed tablecloth which crackles noisily when moved.

In addition, the pheromone diffuser seems to be having a positive effect (as much as I can tell---all three are zonked out on the bed in there and have not had any fights on the bed that I know of). If there is another accident by anyone, well, I am not sure what my next step will be.

Thanks for all the kind thoughts and suggestions.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Cat Stuff

Time to pour out my heart about cat stuff again. This time it's Lily, who produced a puddle on the bed with a red tinge. No bladder infection but lots of crystals in her urine. She's not acting sick but she has been extra affectionate to me since I came back from the beach on Sunday. That in itself is a little odd, as she's not usually the type to jump up in my lap and cuddle. I have wondered, when she did it, if she was trying to ace out Max, who is almost always on my shoulder or chest purring madly when I'm sitting or lying down.

When the vet said I needed to change her diet to the expensive vet food, I almost cried. She wouldn't eat the canned stuff when we tried it earlier and it's three times the cost of the Friskies. But the vet said we could experiment with the kibble and try to get her to drink more water, as that's the key to the crystals most times.

In addition, the vet asked if Lily was under a lot of stress and I had to admit that Max has become not only very clingy to me but also very aggressive toward both Lily and Loosy. She suggested getting a little diffuser to put a calming pheromone into the bedroom where the puddles occur; this has the effect of providing a scent that is similar to the facial gland marking scent and seems to calm anxious cats.

So I dropped another hundred bucks for this whole episode and we still don't know if we've got it fixed. My friend Susan the cat whisperer is off-island today but I left her a message and will probably hear from her later. Maybe she can add her thoughts as well.

On the bright side, a colleague referred a couple to me for a wedding, which will fatten up my bank account this summer---hopefully I can spend it on something besides vet bills!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Writing a sermon about the wisdom of earth-centered traditions as a Source of UUism

The title of the post says it all. A number of UU bloggers are closely connected with our Sixth Source, which states "spiritual teachings of Earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature". Doubtless many blog readers are also affiliated with earth-centered traditions.

As I'm writing, using my own experiences as a kid learning about the pantheons of gods and goddesses in elementary school and the occasional sermon or UU world article about modern Neo-Paganism, I'm finding it to be such an important source of our faith that I am looking forward to offering my thoughts about it this Sunday.

I'd like to invite my Pagan readers and fellow bloggers to weigh in on how UUism and their own Pagan connections intersect. Can you give me some personal insights on your spiritual path that might help me offer an authentic look at this Source through your eyes? And will you give me permission to quote you, if I see something particularly helpful?

Thanks for whatever you are willing and able to offer.