What Me Worry?

People say, what is the sense of our small effort. They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time. No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There’s too much work to do. – Dorothy Day

I always loved Alfred E. Neuman and MAD magazine. Many of you are too young to remember the iconoclastic periodical founded in 1952. As a teenager in the sixties it truly spoke to me. Nothing was sacred. The writers and editors poked fun at and splashed absurdity on everything from politics, to religion, to philosophy, to social norms, to human presumption, to the military-industrial complex. My parents hated it. It was “disrespectful” they said. Try as I might I never could get them to explain to me why the “establishment” which was failing should tacitly deserve amnesty. I couldn’t help but imagine that perhaps there was an alternative?

At the time I thought there was. It didn’t really turn out that way. When my “generation” of leaders arrived, it wound up being primarily more of the same. Consciousness raising finally got us out of Vietnam (how ironic that they never were the menace they were painted to be); but we evidently had learned nothing when considering intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan (which has also gotten us nowhere). We can’t seem to be able to think or get outside the box. Of course, there are those occasional glimpses of light and insight; people who can raise our hopes, inspire our vision, and console our spirits. But more often than not the light dims and the vision disappears. The status quo is just too persistent. Finish Reading: What Me Worry?

See You in New Orleans – Or Even South Africa

It isn’t love that makes the world go round but compassion – starting over in gentleness when love hasn’t been enough or other factors have failed: a gentle refusal to blame oneself or others and just begin again. – Nancy Shaffer (UU Clergy)

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?
Three thousand Unitarian Universalists.
Three thousand Unitarian Universalists who?
Three thousand Unitarian Universalists who aren’t just reading ahead in the hymnal to see if they agree with the words, but are actually singing the words.

Hard to believe, I’m sure. But it does happen annually at General Assembly (GA). GA is the annual meeting of the denomination held the end of June every year. It is a time to connect, do business, worship, celebrate, converse with fellow Unitarians and Universalists from all over the country. It is reassuring and encouraging to experientially realize that there are a great number of us doing great things in communities in every corner of this great nation. For more information go to the webpage at UUA.org and look for GA. Registration opens March 1.

Or you can ask me. I have attended several over the years, as have several members and friends of UUCD. This year it is in New Orleans (one of my favorite cities) Wednesday, June 21, to Sunday, June 25. I have already made my hotel and plane reservations; and have noted that already space is becoming limited. So I invite you to join me. It is a grand and glorious experience.

AND, I invite you to consider another magnificent travel experience. Mary and I are headed back to South Africa next year in February, 2018 (my 18th trip). The actual time and itinerary are yet to be determined. We do know it will include a game reserve, many world renowned wineries, Cape Town, the Unitarian congregation established there in 1853, the Cape of Good Hope, Table Mountain, Gods Golden Acre (GGA), and any other destinations you might suggest. We have been associated with GGA for fifteen years, and the option of spending some extended time working on a service project there is also a possibility. We will work out the specifics once we have assembled an interest group.

So let me know if you have questions about either of these travel opportunities, and if you are interested in going. Together we can have an amazing experience.

‘Tis the Season for Resolutions

Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties. – Helen Keller

I’ve been browsing the New Year Resolution (NYR) internet web pages out of curiosity. There is all kind of health, wealth and spiritual advice out there. There are 10 resolutions for a healthier you, 29 resolutions for a wealthier you, 100 resolutions on ways to improve your life, 15 resolutions on how to keep your resolutions, etc. There are online classes, gurus and consultants who will help you stick to it; and blogs galore with personal insights for success. ‘Tis the season for resolution.

But I don’t buy it. Finish Reading: ‘Tis the Season for Resolutions

For Everything There Is A Season

No one says much good of Winter,
except as something hard that
exaggerates the Spring reprieve.
– Max Coots

I just put my roses to bed for the winter. Most of the leaves had fallen from the stalks. There were some few stragglers, of course; mostly turning grey from frost bite nipping at the edges. It was time. It had been a long and glorious summer. The season here in Delaware is far longer than I have experienced in New England. New shoots begin to swell early in April, and buds continue to struggle forth late into November. With careful pruning I can get up to four generations of roses during those incredible eight months. Now that these bushes (and I) have had the time to establish roots, they have rewarded me with a superabundance of color, and hue, and texture and scent. But it was time.

Time to sleep. Time to recover. Time to pause and to rest. Time to take a break from the constant effort and energy of bursting forth and blooming and blossoming and creating. Time to bank the fires of life, to consolidate and to conserve. Time to lie in dormant silence and to briefly relinquish the primal urge to grow. Winter is that time. At least around here. It is that quiescent time when my roses, and assorted other local life forms, seek respite from both the glory and the demands of the summer season and slip into the inertia of slumber and repose. And I respect that. I even appreciate the necessity. After all, ‘For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.’ I read that somewhere (or heard it sung).

Finish Reading: For Everything There Is A Season

Revealing Our True Selves

“A checkbook is a theological document; it will tell
you who and what you worship.” – Billy Graham

I never thought I would be quoting Billy Graham, but I agree with him on this idea. Our checkbooks (or computer banking software) can reveal much about our true selves and our true values. Where we spend our money speaks volumes about our priorities and principles. The two are far more connected than we might like to admit. We often think we can or should separate sacred religion (or spirituality) from the profane and mundane realm of our everyday finances. But our religion is, or can be, the standard that informs how we spend our life energy, and the money which we gather in living our life. Finish Reading: Revealing Our True Selves

The Dirtiest Four Letter Word in the English Language

I think Islam has been hijacked by the idea that all Muslims are terrorists; that Islam is about hate, about war, about jihad – I think that hijacks the spirituality and beauty that exists within Islam. I believe in allowing Islam to be seen in context and in its entirety and being judged on what it really is, not what you think it is. – Aasif Mandvi

I recently (Nov 8) presented a reflection on Islam, “Thanks Be to Allah: Thanksgiving in the Muslim Tradition.” In it I tried to share my understanding of Islam as essentially a spiritual path based on care and commitment; care and commitment to both the community and to Allah. Islam does not teach or preach violence or terrorism. Like all religions, however, it can be corrupted by those who wish to justify their own chosen path. Muslims are no more inherently terrorists than Christians, or Jews, or atheists, or whatever. Terrorists are terrorists, often hiding behind any pretext they can find for excusing their own agendas; be it religious, philosophical, or moral. Finish Reading: The Dirtiest Four Letter Word in the English Language

Afraid of Controversial Issues?

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

I’ve been “teaching” at the Osher Life Span Learning Institute at the Modern Maturity Center a course entitled: “Who’s afraid of controversial issues?” Robb Lathey invented the course. It has been so popular he asked me to facilitate an additional section. It is great fun. Sixteen of us gather (like a covenant group) to explore together; sharing our thoughts, experiences, opinions. The idea is to practice free communication around such issues as immigration, guns, prochoice/prolife, torture, the right to die. It is an interesting process to both participate in and observe.

One of the things I ask is that before we even start our conversation each week we all take a moment to reflect on the influences we can identify in our own lives which shape our response and perspective. That has been a valuable exercise. Too often, it seems to me, we leap right in and are willing to share our thoughts and opinions without pausing to consider how we arrived at them. What personal experiences, role models, encounters, education, indoctrination, assumptions, etc. have gone into my perspective on any of these issues? Finish Reading: Afraid of Controversial Issues?

Baseball As A Spiritual Practice

The obligations of religious tolerance and pluralism require all who care not a bit about baseball to accept that Opening Day is more than the beginning of a sports season. It is a great religious festival.
It can’t be an accident that baseball starts around the time of both Easter and Passover and, thus, elicits a sense of renewal. For the faithful, it means that the long dark nights of winter are over and the slate is clean. All teams, the exalted and the lowly alike, are tied at zero wins and zero losses. This, in turn, means that the fervent cry “Wait’ll next year” becomes prologue, replaced by hope.    – E.J. Dionne, Jr.

True, true, and true. Spring is in the air, and as I write this Opening Day is only a week away. I have my partial season tickets in hand, have already ordered some additional tickets, have started to read the scouting reports, continue complaining about some of the trades that were made, and have dug out my Orioles t-shirts. It is a new season and a new journey. How shall it unfold?

As many of you know I am an Orioles fan; but even more so, a baseball fan. The O’s captured my attention even as a kid living in Red Sox Nation. There was something compelling about the finesse of Earl Weaver coaching and five Baltimore pitchers each winning 20 games; it trumped the lumbering and ball-smacking Red Sox who played a different kind of game, to the everlasting agony of Sox fans. Win or lose, it became clear to me that what mattered was indeed how you played the game. I don’t mean losing with style, but playing with style. I don’t meaning losing with grace, but playing with grace.

There is something special about baseball. Finish Reading: Baseball As A Spiritual Practice