Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Prayer for School Children

I just had to share this amzing prayer from Rev. Meg Riley, minister Church of the Larger Fellowship.  Too often our schools seek to make children "normal" rather than letting them be themselves.  We are homeschooling our daughter this year in part because we do not want her to experience bullying because her family is different.  We are excited about the journey and yet very sad that we don't believe our child would be safe at middle school.  My prayer is that one day all our children, in fact all people, will be valued for their uniqueness.

A prayer for school children who are different

For those who are different, or who feel different—
Who learn differently, think differently, feel differently,
Who look different, whose faith is different, whose family is different,
Whose way to connect is different, whose way to dress is different,
Whose faith is different, whose place to live is different,
Whose sexuality is different, whose gender is different,
Whose culture is different, whose language is different,
Whose favorite foods are different, who loves different smells,
Whose body looks different, or works differently
Whose values and beliefs are different--

Do you see that different is just a word?
May you be freed from its poison.

Different: Just an idea laced with fear,
Don’t let it scare you.
A word expressing lack of imagination by those who use it to judge,
Don’t let it limit your own.
They can’t see that difference is the very essence of life,
The opposite of different isn’t normal; it is death.
Don’t let their sharp thorns kill your true self.

As the school doors open again,
May you walk in safety,
With all of your unique loveliness intact,
Knowing you are loved by people who haven’t even met you yet.
People you see and don’t see,
Your closest friends and family, and people who will never meet you,
All hold you in our hearts.
We need every bit of you as we walk our own different paths.

As the summer days end,
May you find the long days’ bright light
Shining in your mind as you learn.
As you go out on this crazy river, this life
Where you will navigate choppy waters, take new turns,
May you know in your bones you are never alone.
As you search for a place of ease and comfort,
May you know in your cells that it lives within you.

And that people who love you are everywhere smiling.


Monday, August 30, 2010

True Faith Requires Doubt

I am continuing to read James Hollis Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life and in speaking of the spiritual life he talks about the importance of doubt.  With doubt each of us can begin to truly explore our own spiritual path, yet that doubt creates anxiety and our egos will seek to avoid anxiety at almost any cost.  If we can embrace ourselves, be at home with ourselves, Hollis tell us, then we know that we are never really alone.  He writes, "When we are alone, we are still with someone; we are with ourselves.  those who mange to find respect for themselves, who learn to dialogue with themselves, who find that their dreams and other such phenomena are communicating with them from some deeper place within them are not really alone." (Hollis, 221)

I have been reflecting on this in light of Unitarian Universalism.  One might say that a hallmark of Unitarian Universalism is doubt.  We question everything, priding ourselves on our lack of doctrine and creed.  We are faith community of seekers; our first source is the direct experience of transcending mystery and wonder.  Yet there is a rigidity, an absolutism in Unitarian Universalism that seems inconsistent with an embrace of doubt.  While rejecting the authority of any kind of scripture, tradition or religious authority, we can be rigid in our attitudes toward worship.  We often posses an attitude of superiority and be rather closed-minded when it comes to more embodied expressions of spirituality - preferring to stay in the region of the rational or the mind. 

Others have admonished us for our emphasis on reason to the exclusion of all else - James Luther Adams reminded us that we are not simply rational creatures.  Paul Rasor reminded us of this again in his Berry Street lecture in 2009 that our exclusive use of reason can be stumbling block or barrier to our aspirations to be a truly multicultural, multiracial faith community. 

Do we truly embrace doubt?  I am not sure we do. Hollis writes, "To bear the anxiety of doubt is to be led to openness; openness leads to revelation; revelation leads to discovery; discovery leads to enlargement." (Hollis, 220) We may reject traditional religion but I don't think we always truly embrace doubt. For to embrace doubt is to embrace an attitude of openness and curiosity - to discover the new.  We would be open to trying new things .. to truly seeking truth wherever it may be found.  At our best we do this.  We aspire to do this. 

It is why I continue to be a Unitarian Universalist.  I value being a part of a faith community that aspires to be open to on-going revelation; to seeking truth wherever found.  My hope is that we will learn to more deeply embrace doubt. 

Monday, August 23, 2010

Quotes that have me thinking

I have been doing a fair amount of reading so today I will share some quotes that have me thinking.

So I just fell in love with this wonderful quote in Parker J. Palmer's book, The Courage to Teach.  This is the second Florida Scott-Maxwell quote in one of his books that I have just fallen in love with.  I am thinking I may have to see what she has written.

Here is the quote and it is about learning to hold paradox:

"Some uncomprehended law holds us at a point of contradiction where we have no choice, where do not like that which we love, here good and bad are inseparable partners impossible to tell apart, and where we--heart-broken and ecstatic--can only resolve the conflict by blindly taking it into our hearts.  This used to be called being in the hands of God.  Has anyone any better words to describe it?" (Palmer, The Courage to Teach, 90)

Here is the other quote from her that I love:

"You need only claim the events of your life to make yourself yours. When you truly posses all you have been and done..you are fierce with reality." (Palmer, Let Your Life Speak)

I am now on a quest to become "fierce with reality."

and finally a quote shared with me by a friend about vocation:

"Vocation does not come from willfulness. It comes from listening. I must listen to my life and try to understand what it is truly about---quite apart from what I would like it to be about---or my life will never represent anything real in the world, no matter how earnest my intentions.... Vocation does not mean a goal that I pursue. It means a calling that I hear." Herbert Alphonso, SJ

 This quote appeared the same day I was meeting with the counselor for my career and psychological assessment as part of the ministerial fellowship process.  The timing couldn't have been more perfect!

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Summer Hiatus

So despite my best intentions I ended up taking half of July and most of August off from my blog!

Well here is to renewed intentions to blog regularly.  I have been reading - Parker Palmer's The Courage to Teach; James Hollis' Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life: How to Finally Really Grow Up;  Gil Rendle's Multigenerational Community: Meeting the Leadership Challenge

I have been thinking a lot this summer about the fact that the ways we create and maintain faith community are increasingly unsustainable and that they really don't work for our families.  In my congregation I notice how irregularly families attend, how they can no longer be the primary and only source for staffing our faith development programs, we are not doing all that we can do to help our parents be the primary religious educators of their children.  As a professional religious educator I both want to change and transform our faith communities and realize that I also participate in propping up an unsustainable system.

How do we both create new things and keep things going at the same time?  It is not like we can just stop what we are doing and re-build it from the ground-up (well I suppose you can but in liberal religious community that is usually a sure way to make sure that the change will not be long-lasting and you will need a new job!).  Life in faith community means building support, getting feedback, making change and acknowledging the fear of change.  It doesn't have to be slow but it does have to be intentional!

As I step into the chaos that the start of the church year begins, I am beginning by asking my families how they are.  What could we do better?  From there I hope to move us toward changes that will better meet the needs of our families - adults, children and youth.  I am also remembering to breathe, to ask for help and trust the Spirit!

May it be so!