Friday, December 24, 2010
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
I feel that our Chalica week went great. I had a couple of goals for it: 1. Have a greater appreciation and understanding of Unitarian Universalism 2. Encourage the kids (and us) to really start to think about our own spirituality and how that fits into UU. It was also important to me that it not be a gift getting holiday but one of giving of ourselves to others.
To me, these were goals were met. We centered our discussions around dinner time and I was impressed with where our conversations led. I could tell the kids were really processing what we were saying and how that effects our lives. If anything, next year I will work on having more open ended questions for us to think about as a family. I like the Spirit (Godly) Play model of wondering questions and probably will work off of those. I also want to be a little more creative in the 'helping others' aspect of it.
The kids really liked the ritual aspects. We lit one candle every night and I then did a reading. One night I had lit the candle, but was a little slow in getting to the reading. Youngest quickly reminded me to read "out of the book". I loved that they were seeing the importance of each step.
I say the following with all due respect to the hard work our religious education departments do. I have taught Sunday School for many, many years and am the RE Chair at our church. But, I feel UU continues to struggle on how to find a comprehensive and effective way to teach what it means to be a UU. This has more to do with the non-dogmatic approach to religion then any sort of lacking in RE departments. Thus, I feel it is VERY important for parents to talk about UU in the home. RE can only do so much. Children are looking to their parents for guidance and clarification. I felt Chalica really inspired great discussions in this area. It also demonstrated to our kids that Husband and I don't have it all figured out and that is ok. It is ok for them to feel out different paths until they find the one the speaks to them.
What would I like to change about Chalica? I am not 100% sold on the name, but I also don't have any better suggestions. I am also not so sure on the timing. With all the things going on in the holiday season, it is easy to brush it off as just "one more thing." I don't think it should be considered that and maybe a January time would be better. A great way to start the year off with a solid reflection on who we are and where we are going.
Finally, I would love for more UUs to be celebrating this. How awesome would it be to have all families have these wonderful discussion and renewing their commitment to UU? Can you imagine all the UUs out in the community at one time helping others? I hope that is the future and I will continue to work for it.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
I read the following from Chief Seattle:
This we know. The earth does not belong to us; we belong to the earth.
This we know. All things are connected like the blood that unites one family.
All things are connected...
We did not weave the web of life; we are merely one strand in it.
Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.
It seems like UUs really like to cling to this principle. I feel like it is quoted so often in UU settings. But, it is true and I like just as much as all the other UUs out there. I have always felt this connection even as a child. The problem is, that it can also become so overwhelming. The thought that everything you do can have such huge impacts can be kind of scary. We discussed it as a family as showing respect for the environment and all the animals we share it with. The choices we make now can influence generations. That is why we reduce, reuse and recycle. It is also why we try to shop locally and conserve our energy use. As a way to honor our fellow creatures, we made dog biscuits to donate to our local Human Society. I used this recipe and got the chalice cookie cutter from here. Daisydog tested them and they passed muster!
Even though youngest is taste-testing them, they are actually for the dogs!
Tomorrow I will write a little more about the week as a whole and how I feel Chalica went.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
I read the following by Edward Everett Hale:
I am only one
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.
We talked about how lucky our family was that we live in relative peace. Yes, we are at war with various countries, but when I wake up, I don't worry about a bomb hidden under a car. We talked about how hard it is to achieve peace, but how important it is to keep trying - no matter how small the effort. You can make a difference, even if you feel like everything you do goes nowhere. It was an interesting discussion brought home by some "un"peaceful moments this morning. We talked about ways we could work towards peace. One way we are helping is supporting the UUSC. Husband and I both volunteer for the organization. I have met several of the staff members and have personally seen some of the amazing work they do. Each family member then donated some of their own money to our GAYT box.
As another activity, we colored and "stained-glassed" our peace pictures from the Chalica kids booklet. Now our house has a visual reminder to always look for the peaceful way (even if it isn't the easiest way).
Friday, December 10, 2010
I read the following from Kathleen McTigue:
May the light around us guide our footsteps,
and hold us fast to the best and most righteous that we seek.
May the darkeness around us nurture our dreams,
and give us rest so that we may give ourselves to the work of the world.
Let us seek to remember the wholeness of our lives,
the weaving of light and shadow in this great and astonishing dance in which we move.
I particularly enjoyed this subject as it relates to so many aspects of our lives. We talked about what it really means to be a democratic society and how that compares to those countries that are not. We also talked about how UU congregations are somewhat unique in that they are based on the democratic process of the congregations. Thus, UU churches can very widely from place to place. I stressed how important it is to get involved in our congregation because it is what we make it to be. (I am going to have a whole other post on this topic after Chalica). At first I thought we would use Chalica's idea of writing letters to our government or congregation, but we ran out of time. Friday is our pj and movie night - we are very devoted to it! Instead, we went around the table and talked about what we would advocate for. L said he would ask the RE Committee to make Sunday School the whole hour instead of first starting in the church. J is going to ask the Governor to decrease the amount of days kids have to go to school. M will write the city and ask them to put a farm closer to our house. Husband is going to ask the Congress to pass new tax laws while I am going to continue the fight for true universal health care.
I found this to be a great principle for today considering it is the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. What an amazing world it would be if every country adopted these basic human rights!
Thursday, December 9, 2010
I read the following from Kathy Huff:
In this quest, may we greet one another with open hearts and minds;
may we inspire each other to consider new questions and seek deeper meaning;
may we cultivate wisdom and compassion.
Let all who enter this sanctuary see a welcome face,
hear a kind word, and
find comfort in this community.
And may all that is done and said here today be in service to love and justice.
This topic lead to really interesting discussion about what is "truth". I guess it is important for me to impress upon the kids that one person's truth is not the same as others. For instance, some people believe in the miracle of Jesus' birth and Resurrection. Others don't. It is important for us to really examine what our truth is, but fully acknowledge and respect other people's truth. A part of me feels that we may be stressing the kids beliefs. I can tell that now that they are older, they are really beginning to think about what is told to them in school and what they really do believe. I have no idea where their spiritual path will take them, but as long as they are open to possibilities, I am happy with that.
Tonight we went to the pre-school/kindergarten pageant. We honored the Lutheran tradition of the miracle of Jesus' birth. Plus, who can pass up 4 & 5 year olds singing their little hearts out!
To educate ourselves more on our traditions, Husband read the book "Unitarian Universalism is a Really Long Name" by Jennifer Dant to the kids at bedtime.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
I read the following by Michael A. Schuler:
Cherish your doubts, for doubt is the servant of truth.
Question your convictions, for beliefs too tightly held strangle the mind and its natural wisdom.
Suspect all certitudes, for the world whirls on - nothing abides.
Yet in our inner rooms full of doubt, inquiry and suspicion, let a corner be reserved for trust.
For without trust there is no space for communities to gather or for friendship to be forged.
Indeed, this is the small corner where we connect - and reconnect-with each other.
This principle lead to a pretty in depth discussion of different religions and how people come to Unitarian Universalism. We had a really good talk on what it means to be Christian, Lutheran, and Unitarian Universalist. The kids attend a Lutheran school, but we go to the UU church. I could tell they were trying to put it all together. We talked about how people come to UU from all different faith traditions and how UU can compliment those or replace them. The one thing that holds us together though is our principles and that is why we are spending the week really "living" them. What also keeps us together is our commitment to each other and our support for eachother's continual search for truth.
I had originally really wanted to attend a UU event, but after scouring the calendars of all four UU congregations in the area, there was nothing going on for the whole family. Instead, we went to the Lutheran church's Advent service. It was lovely. Since it is also the Advent season, I am glad that we went. It was another affirmation to the kids that they can still feel connected Lutheranism while also being UU.
Since I still wanted to do something to support the spiritual development within UU, we are donating a new hymnal to our church. They currently are using the grey hymnal, but don't have enough of the teal ones to keep out in the pews. I love the songs in the teal hymnal, so that is what we are giving to them. We will present it as soon as it arrives!
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
I read the following from Lauralyn Bellamy:
If, here, you have found freedom,
take it with you into the world.
If you have found comfort,
go and share it with others.
If you have dreamed dreams,
help one another,
they they may come true!
If you have known love,
give some back
to a bruised and hurting world.
Go in peace.
We had a wonderful discussion on what compassion and justice mean. We talked about past and current examples of injustice and what we was or can be done to stop them. We also gave examples of how we felt when things weren't fair in our own lives and how we would try to remember those feelings when we saw it happen to other people.
We talked about how the holiday season can be very hard for many people, especially children from broken homes. We talked about how lucky we are to have so much and they maybe we could show compassion to children who may not have a chance for a wonderful holiday. The kids then each went through their toys and pulled out ones to donate to our local Children's Home Society. I will admit that there was some reluctance from one of the kids :-), but now they are really working together to clean-up and give away some of their toys!
Monday, December 6, 2010
We used those words from Chalica to light our chalice. I really like her phrasing, so you will see them under each of the candles this week. After lighting the chalice, I read the following words from Jean M. Rowe:
We have a calling in this world:
we are called to honor diversity,
to respect differences with dignity,
and to challenge those who forbid it.
We are people of a wide path.
Let us be wide in affection
and go our way in peace.
My original plan had been to follow Chalica's idea of writing thank-you cards celebrating our differences. Unfortunately, life didn't allow us that much time. Since we were at the dinner table, I had each family member think of a person who really bothers them. We then went around and shared what it was. They were not allowed to use the name of the person, just what actions that person said or did that they didn't like or agree with. After we each shared them, we discussed why they might be like that. Perhaps, they thought they were being helpful or their parents taught them differently or they were under a lot of stress. I then had everyone say something positive about the person they didn't get along with. My examples were: "this person bothers me because she gossips a lot and I don't like that." My positive was, "this person also has a huge heart and would do anything for someone in need." It was great to see the kids really think about their person and find something truly positive in them. We also turned the table on ourselves and thought, maybe, just maybe, someone thought WE were different, too.
My hope was that the kids (and adults) would realize that even though someone is different and we may not understand them, they are just as important as we are. They have just as much right to their opinions as we do. It was a very good discussion and I could tell everyone at the table had a moment of understanding for their "different" person. I hope that this translates into better acceptance of those who may not see the world as we do.
Friday, December 3, 2010
I really wanted to have a special Chalice to celebrate Chalica. I would love to have the one on the Chalica site, but unfortunately it was a little too expensive for this year and it wouldn't have arrived in time. So, I made my own version. The picture is horrible, but looks a little nicer when you click on it. The holders are from Michael's and the candles from a Hallmark store. I think it turned out quite nice and was pretty cheap to make. The kids love it and can't wait to light the red candle on Monday.
I also wanted to make sure you Facebook users know that there is an excellent Chalica page full of resources. So check it out!
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Monday, November 22, 2010
Friday, November 19, 2010
Something personal to me, too, though, was that I did spend time as the "independent, outsider, figure it out myself" person - especially in high school and college. I came away with it learning that it is lonely and hard. One of the reasons that I was excited to find UU was its acceptance of my beliefs. It was a place to feel at home with other people. People of all ages - including people I felt to be mentors. I was tired of figuring it out all by myself. I love coming into community with people who had lived this life for a long time and had raised families in this religion. After being a UU for ten years, I also enjoy feeling like I mentor to newer families. The problem is, I am now back to feeling like I am alone in wanting more. I feel that Muder is right. I want that mantle. I want all that it entails. I am just not sure UU is ready to bring it forward.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Sunday, November 7, 2010
It was fun. I have actually driven through Peoria many times on the way to my dad's house, but haven't really gotten an opportunity to walk around the campus and check out all the improvements they have made. Above is a photo of Bradley Hall. I pretty much spent all four years there. My undergrad degrees are in International Studies and German. Except for the hard sciences, all the liberal arts and sciences classes were taught there. They recently remolded the Hall. I couldn't get over how nicer it looked. It seemed all fancy and new. It definitely did not have the feel when I was there. M presented in the Olin science building. They had built a new portion with amazing labs, but she gave her talk in the old wing. It was crazy because it looked EXACTLY the same from when we were there. They obviously had poured all the money into the new wing and did nothing to the older areas. I had taken several biology course while I was at Bradley* and felt an immediate flash back to those classes. In some ways, the campus was exactly the same and in others it had really improved. It was nice to see that.
M & I were talking about how we each came to Bradley. It isn't a super well-known school and Peoria isn't the epicenter of excitement. We were freshman in 1991-1992. Back then, Bradley was on the cutting edge of technology. I remember that one of the huge draws (besides giving me a big scholarship) was that every dorm room had its own computer and printer. That was HUGE in 1991. They even had this thing called "email". It was amazing. Thus, I didn't have to have my own computer (which very few people had or could afford) or go to the computer lab. Plus, email sounded really cool. M said this was also the big draw for her. For me, too, it was the right size, not in Iowa, but still only four hours from home. Would I chose it again? I don't know. But, I certainly don't have any regrets about it. I met my husband there, so that was a big plus. The only regrets I have are that I didn't fully take advantage of everything that college life allowed. It is such a small bubble of time, that I wish I would have completely maximized it.
*I also considered getting a degree in Biology, specializing in Botany. IS & German eventally won out!
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Yesterday, the kids had their yearly doctor's check-up. Youngest son had been battling a rough cough for a couple of weeks and I mentioned it to the doctor. She listened to his lungs and asked if I had heard him wheezing. I hadn't noticed any wheezing, but evidently, to her ears, it was quite bad. She said that if it had been her or me, we would be in bed. She immediately gave him a breathing treatment and diagnosed him with walking pneumonia! Now he is on antibiotics and an inhaler. Poor little guy - I feel horrible that he has been dealing with this for so long. Hopefully he will be feeling a lot better in a day or two.
Monday, October 18, 2010
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010
The kids had last Friday off of school and, since it was such a beautiful day, we headed to the Botanical Gardens. It was so great to get away for the day and enjoy ourselves as a family. Just what we all needed. Made even better because Husband was able to join us for lunch. The above picture is of them pretending to be Lewis, Clark and Sacajawea.
Monday, September 27, 2010
On top of this, September and October are busy months for the band and Daughter's German dance group. It has been fun playing at the various Oktoberfest's, but I have realized, again, how I really don't like crowds - especially ones with lots of drunk people. I think I am getting old and crotchety :-). Thankfully, when Daughter performs, it is usually in the afternoons and the crowds are mostly families.
I hope your Septembers are going well and mouse free!
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Monday, September 13, 2010
When I am not making a fool of myself and annoying everyone around me, I did manage to go apple picking and can applesauce. Daughter made her first apple pie - all by herself and I made this fabulous dessert.
On a UU note, we had a great ingathering and picnic. It was so nice to see everyone after the summer "break".
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Friday, September 3, 2010
Thursday, September 2, 2010
I also had my first Girl Scout meeting tonight. It was great to see the girls after the summer. We are down to just five girls in my Cadette/Junior troop. We are small, but have lots of fun. I really like these girls and am looking forward to all the cool things we will do this year. I am secretly hoping that they will be together trough graduation. The girls don't necessarily hang out together at school, but they jell well in the troop. It is a nice mix of personalities.
Hopefully I will be back on the blogging bandwagon next week!
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
A lot of people attend our churches looking for a sense of community and a spiritual home. I like to think that many of our congregations strive to be welcoming and work hard to bring the newcomer into to the fold. Once the newcomer is feeling settled though, I think we can kind of come up hollow in the theological area. I have met many UUs who sort of reach that level of being comfortable but not exactly sure what it means to be a UU. Adult Religious Education programs can help with this, but wouldn't it be great to have more structures within the service that connects us to each other. We have the chalice and a couple of hymnals, but after that, it is pretty much up to each congregation on how it holds services. Why not have a few prayers or meditations that are regularly said in all the congregations? What a wonderful way to connect with each other. I love the idea that UUs around the world are all saying the same words. That is powerful.
Obviously, this would not be an easy task to accomplish. I would call on the UUA to explore this idea. We spend a lot of time advocating various important causes, let's spend some time strengthening our foundation. I feel this would go a long way in supporting our congregants and our denomination.
Monday, August 23, 2010
I am also pondering starting a another blog. I am not sure if I am ready to really tread in this area, but it will have to do with living in a changing suburb. By that, I mean one that is becoming more racially and culturally diverse and the benefits and challenges it brings. Any interest in that topic?
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Saturday, August 14, 2010
I also made up a batch of spaghetti sauce and a bunch of pesto (pictured is just some of it). Both of which I wish I had more of. I am thinking I may get one more double batch of pesto from the garden. Fingers crossed.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
To start the event, all the German culture groups marched it. There were groups from Canada(2), Los Angelas, Milwaukee, Chicago(2), Cleavland, Philadelphia, Cincinnati and St. Louis.
They came close to filling a whole soccer field. There were the customary welcomes and anthem singing. Then the party began! At all times there was either a German band playing or a German dance group performing. There were vendors and food. It sort of felt like a mini-Oktoberfest. There were dance troops of all ages. It was fun to see their interpretation of the folk dances. Since this was not a competition year, they really had fun with them - especially the teenage groups.Daughter performed in the younger youth group. I was super proud of them. They didn't get the best time slot, but they did a great job. It was worth the whole trip to just see her smile and have so much fun. She can be really shy and reserved, but opened up a lot on this trip. She had a blast.
I wish I could show more pictures, but I don't like to put up photos of the web without the peoples consent. I did, though, see more dirndls (traditional folk dresses) then I have ever seen in my life. The variety was amazing. Everyone was wearing them. It was fun to see all the older ladies rocking them. One of the groups from Chicago actually had custom made Chicago Blackhawk (hockey) dirndls made to celebrate their Stanley Cup win. I was disappointed there wasn't more lederhosens ;-) It appeared that only the Schulplatter groups were brave enough to wear them.
Overall, a very fun time!
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
From there, we headed to Betsy Ross' house. That was very interesting. I realized that I didn't know that much about her. They had managed to preserve a lot of her apartment and store front. I really admire women like her who are able to pull through in times of such tragedy. She lost two husbands and two children while managing to support herself through her upholstery shop.
We finally ended up at Independence Hall. To me, this was the most important part of the tour. So much history happened here. I am glad they are preserving it so well.
We ended our historical tour with Valley Forge. I have to admit, this was also disappointing. The land was beautiful, but the actual place was just not that interesting. We also made the mistake of taking the Ranger tour. We only had to go a quarter mile to see some of the cabins - but he talked for 45(!) minutes. So tedious. The kids, though, did have fun playing around in the bunkhouses.
I am really glad we went up early to see all of this. It is a thirteen-fourteen hour drive and I am just not sure when we will get to the east coast again. Both Independence Hall (including surrounding sites) and Valley Forge had Junior Ranger programs. I would highly recommend having your kids do them. They learn so much more by doing the activities then by just wandering around. Yay National Park System!
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
* While there - got a phone call saying a pipe burst in our basement and it flooded.
* On the way home - learned that at friend from our former congregation lost her battle with cancer. She was only 42 and had children around my kids ages. This really hit me hard.
Tomorrow: Part II - The Happy
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Monday, July 26, 2010
Monday, July 19, 2010
Overall, it went beautifully. It may be best to just stay on that level.... But, the stories are more fun. The day before we all get there, her son wakes up with a horrible tooth ache. She takes him to the dentist and he decides it needs to be pulled. After a lot of hard work, the tooth finally comes out with the longest root attached the dentist has ever seen. This is a baby tooth and it won't fit into the holder! Her son, of course, is in a lot of pain. They get home and proceeds to throw up all over her couch. Not the bucket in front of him, but the couch, with company coming the next day.
We, then, all descended on her house Friday. She lives outside St. Paul, Minnesota. Pretty much all the family had to travel to her. Her finance's family is also from out of state. T and I were very nervous because this would be the first time our divorced parents and their new spouses would be in the same room together. It actually went well, if not a little awkward. Then I find out that T. saw dad's wife totally upset with him that my mom was there. What did she expect? That my mom wouldn't show up to her own daughter's wedding? Thankfully, my dad held his ground and as time went on, things warmed up.
The next day, the friend/decorator was to come and get all the decorations for the party. My mom had to meet her to drop off our surprise cake*. Of course the lady was two hours late and didn't know how to back up her own car(!). Thank God my mom and J. were there to help her get everything on to the boat because you had to back the car down this long ramp. I also need to note that Saturday was a gorgeous day except this pesky weather report stating a monster storm was headed our way.
In T.'s wedding invite, she stated that the actual service was going to be on a cliff. Supposedly it was a gentle walk up it. Since she said "gentle" most of us opted to go up. Well one person's gentle is another's rock climb. Amazingly, all of us made it. The view from the cliff was beautiful. It was all well, until they start the ceremony and I realize that my dad is not there! He is helping his 87 y/o dad walk up this "gentle" cliff. I am about to start waving my arms to stop, but thankfully as they are just about to say the I dos, my dad shows up. He and T. would have been heartbroken if he had missed it.
We slowly make our way down and the rain starts. It is gentle and we think that we have lucked out and missed the big storm. The boat is packed but we are all having a nice time. The view is just beautiful and the kids are loving it. We eat dinner and people start milling about. Thankfully T is upstairs because all of sudden a guest passes out, hits his head and falls to the ground. Minor chaos ensues and yells of 911. I wonder though, we were in the middle of a river, I am not sure how they would have gotten there. Evidently, the EMT kit is on the top deck, where T is. She sees it and the captain get nervous and thinks a child has gone overboard and starts to panic. After some tense minutes, the guy wakes up and manages to sit up. He has a nice lump on his head, but refuses to see a doctor.
Then the storm hits. It is HUGE. Everyone races to the lower deck and we close all the windows. Local parents are getting phone calls from their kids crying because they are in the basement due to tornado sightings. Parents are stressed because there is nothing they can do. To me, it felt like Gilligan's Island. We were totally stuck on this boat just rocking out the storm. Pretty soon everyone was feeling claustrophobic and a tad panicky. We eventually make it back to the dock, but aren't allowed to get off. The ramp to the boat is a huge downward incline and all the rain is rushing down it. If we open the doors, the boat would flood. We try to stay positive and eventually we are allowed out. It was a wet and dark drive back to the hotel, but I was so happy to get there! We learned that the hotel had to evacuate everyone to the basement while we were gone. I am glad I didn't know how bad it was until after it was all over.
T and T, amazingly, stayed in good spirits and were able to just go with it. Because, in the end, they got married and have lots of great stories to tell!
*My mom used to make us these cakes all the time. T. had decided not to have a cake, but a cookie bar. We felt she still needed a cake and made this up for her. She loved it.
Monday, July 12, 2010
Developing Your Own Spirituality: Why It Is Important
Good morning! I am T., a relatively new member to First Church A. I have been a Unitarian Universalist, though, for around ten years. In those ten years, I have been asked many, many times, so “what do you believe?” I imagine those of you brave enough to publicly declare your Unitarian Universalism have also been confronted with this question. Or, perhaps you have kept your UUism within the family. But, your child has come to you and asked “mom, do you believe in Jesus?”. “Will I go to heaven when I die?”
These types of questions can lead to a sense of panic in many UUs. We often deflect them with clumsy answers and hope the situation disappears. Or, we hope that the children’s Religious Education classes will eventually provide some sort of answers to life’s difficult questions. I find many of us tend to answer spiritual questions in the negative. For instance: Well, I don’t believe in Jesus as my Savior. Or, I don’t believe in a Heaven. Maybe we go even a little deeper and say “I don’t believe in organized, patriarchal religions.” And “My God does not discriminate on the basis of race, class and sexuality.”
Those are a whole lot of negatives, but does it really give us a clue into what we, at heart believe? What do you believe? Some of us cringe at the word spirituality. We are devout Humanist, Agnostics and Atheist and don’t see any room for spiritually in our lives. But, like it or not, we are spiritual beings. We have all wondered: why are we here? What does it all mean? Some of us push those questions away. How do we even begin to answer them? Others spend their whole lifetime devoted to seeking these answers. Because of our humanity, though, we will never really know. But how we choose to live our lives can fill the emptiness that almost all of us experience at some point.
Spirituality can be an ambiguous term. What does it exactly mean? For this sermon, I would like to use the definition that Fredric John Muir uses. “Spirituality is the word used to describe the interdependent workings of both spirit and soul. Spirituality is about this inner dimension.” It is what is deep inside us and how it manifests itself in our lives. I love this definition because it is so intensely personal. It does not require a belief in a higher being, but the thought that there is something holy/sacred in all of us. Many of us have come to church because we are looking for something more. That something more is spirituality. We are looking to fill our soul.
Why should we be bothered by explore our own spirituality? I come to church. Isn’t that filling the void? I like what the Minister says. I feel connected to the people. I get involved in all the wonderful Social Action projects the congregation participates in. Aren’t we all about “Deeds Not Creeds?” I am doing those deeds! I am living up to my idea of Unitarian Universalism! Why do I need to delve deeper? I feel good about helping others. I am contributing and living my values. I am leading by example. Hopefully those pesky questions will just disappear and people will just see that I am good person without all that baggage of creedal spiritual beliefs. I am free and happy!
I think we all realize that life throws us curveballs, though. It is hard to see the grace in a beautiful rainbow when your life is stressed out by work, health, and family and church is just one more thing on the to-do list. Where do you go when you have had enough? What do you fall back on when you need strength and hope? For more creedal religions, it is easy to turn towards scriptural doctrine. Just have faith! God has a plan! What do you do, though, if you aren’t sure you have faith? Where do you go when you just don’t know? How do you answer your child’s need to feel secure in something?
Spending time nurturing your spiritual side can lead us to be more centered, happier, able to handle stress better and lead a more meaningful life. We only get one chance at this life, why not make it the most fulfilling it can be? Jeanne Nieuwejaar, in her book The Gift of Faith, notes that “spiritual well-being, hope, faith, and inner peace all contribute to physical well-being. It has been well documented that people we are devout, who are clear in their faith, who are meaningfully connected to religious communities, and who are actively engaged in prayer or meditation recover more quickly and fully from serious illness and injuries.” The Rev. Barbara Wells observes that her spiritual practices helps her “stay centered on who I am, why I am here, and what I am to do. I believe I am a better person because of the spiritual path I have chosen.” Thus, not only does an active spiritual practice provide practical benefits, it also helps fill that deep need for greater meaning in our lives. Who wouldn’t want this?
I need to take a moment here and also make a special appeal to parents. You are your child’s primary religious educator. Sending them to Sunday School is just one small aspect of nurturing their spiritual development. We only have them for, at the max, forty hours a year. Where are they the rest of the time? With you, friends, family and a million other outside influences. Children are innately spiritual beings. Whether you help guide them or not, they will find answers to their questions. I remember a spiritual crisis I had when I was thirteen. All of a sudden it dawned on me that I was just an insignificant speck in the universe. It was a full blown existential crisis in the middle of South Dakota! I would have loved it if my parents had been open to theological discussions. I think it would have provided a lot of comfort that summer. Nieuwejaar states, “parents should take seriously their own religious grounding, their own religious education, their own spiritual nurture.” Only then can we provide our children with a deep, unified faith that will follow them to adulthood. It is yet another reason to purse spiritual development and practice.
Exploring spirituality and establishing a spiritual practice can seem daunting. Does it require special equipment? Do I have to walk in the woods and commune with nature? Do I have to pray every night? The beauty of spiritual practice is that there is no one size fits all. There are many ways to delve into your spirituality. The Rev. Scott Alexander considers spiritual practice to be any regular, intentional activity that serves to significantly deepen the quality and content of your relationship with the miracle of life.
Rev. Wells broadens this thought to include three components: personal devotion, finding a mentor, and worshipping in communion.
I find these definitions really encompass what I believe is important to spiritual development. To me, personal devotion has to be regular. Now regular could mean once a day, once a week or once a month. Something that is consistent. Many find prayer and meditation are invaluable. Others may find their morning run to be the most spiritual part of the day, while others journal in the evening. When was the last time you heard silence and could just be alone with your thoughts? In our over connected world, we are often hard pressed just to be alone. I challenge you all to find just ten minutes in your day to devote to some sort of spiritual activity. These can be the above mentioned ideas or uniquely your own, but something that brings you more deeply into yourself. If you are feeling that you need some more guidance, participate in an Adult Religious Education class. I have taken many of these (and I believe Rev. V. will be offering on in the fall) and have found them wonderful starting points in my personal mediation and prayers. Remember, there is no one prescribed way!
Rev. Wells also suggests finding a mentor. When I read that, I wondered what exactly is a spiritual mentor? Then I realized that I have had several religious mentors, but I considered them friends and hadn’t thought of them in those terms. To me, a spiritual mentor is someone I can freely bounce off spiritual ideas. They challenge me and question my thoughts. They listen to me and I listen to them. There is no right or wrong, but just an ongoing dialogue of discovery. Hopefully the mentoring is mutual and you both deepen and broaden your spiritual practice. Mentors can be found at church, in Chalice Circles or even friends of different faith traditions. I have even found some of mine through a theological book club that meets every couple of months! You may be surprised in how much you learn when you put yourself and your beliefs out there. The discussions can be quite dynamic and enlightening.
Finally, worshipping in community is one of the best ways to deepen and discover your spirituality. Coming together in the spirit of communion connects us to the greater whole. We are not alone in this world. Our lives have greater meaning and worshiping together helps us realize that larger focus. We are in this together. We celebrate together and mourn together. We grow and love together. Whether we are in a church, conference or retreat, coming together nurtures our souls and is as important as individual practice. While spirituality can be deeply personal, being with people who support your choices can be very life-affirming.
I have briefly listed three aspects of developing a spiritual practice, but I want to reiterate that there is no right path. There are as many paths as there are people. The path you choose now, may not be the one you need later in life. Almost every great spiritual leader has explored many different ways to their spirituality. The Buddha is an excellent example of going from one extreme practice to finding enlightenment in the middle way. It is okay to try several different methods. If journaling doesn’t work for you, try yoga. Just make sure to give it some time. Spiritual enlightenment doesn’t happen overnight (if it happens at all). Like most things, it takes practice and commitment.
Lastly, start small. Make little changes at first. A spiritual practice is not an all or nothing venture. One small thing my family does is light a chalice at dinner time and say a grace. The chalice connects us to our faiths tradition while the grace helps instill gratitude for the food we are about to eat. I especially like this tradition because it demands that we all be at the table, settled, and focused. It also, in a small way, helps the children connect with their own spirituality. It is a sacred moment for our family. Spirituality and spiritual practice are life long pursuits that begin when we are born.
In your order of service, I have included some Spiritual homework. I encourage you take a moment to reflect on some of the ideas I have listed and choose one to put into practice. My hope is for all of you to live the most meaningful life possible. We may never be able to answer all of life’s hard questions, but we do all have a soul that needs to be filled. Whether you choose to fill it is up to you, but the benefits of a happier more centered life are hard to ignore. Please give this gift to yourself and family. You deserve it!
Friday, July 9, 2010
And what a difference time makes! Today he is NINE!!!! He is never late for anything. In fact, he is the first up and the first ready. He gets things done quicker then anyone. His brain is constantly working solving problems. You can almost see the wheels turning. He is compassionate and caring (although this doesn't always extend to his little brother ;-). His love of animals is amazing. I wouldn't be surprised if he becomes a veterinarian. That is, if engineering doesn't get him first. He has an awesome sly sense of humor and quirky smile. We are so lucky that he is part of our lives. I love you, J! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Monday, June 28, 2010
*At first I thought he said "stickers" and I could not understand why anyone would want to eat fried stickers. Who would even think of that?
Friday, June 25, 2010
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Saturday, June 19, 2010
Friday, June 11, 2010
Today I took the kids to a baking class with Fr. Dominic Garramone. You may remember him from the PBS series "Breaking Bread with Father Dominic". We make his pizza crust almost every Friday. He was giving a week long course at the Aquinas Institute in St. Louis. I wish I could have taken the whole series, but am so glad that we made it to the kids class. We had a blast! I didn't realize how funny he is. I was nervous about taking the kids, mostly because I had no idea what to expect. I needn't have worried. He had the kids laughing and helping right away. He was very approachable and made sure every child was included. They made peanut butter bread and mini pizzas. It was all super yummy. If he comes back next year, the kids have already said they want to go back (even if we make the same thing!). It has inspired all of us to get back into the kitchen.
We then headed over to the Art Museum. One of the things I love about St. Louis is that the museums are FREE! You can just go for an hour and not feel like you have spent a ton of money and then left early. We have our favorite exhibits (knights, mummies, and modern art) that we always head to. The rest is just as we feel like. Since it still hadn't started raining, we walked around Art Hill and the reflection pool in front of it. A very good day. Now I am exhausted and ready for a quiet night.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
My dad and his wife, E., have only been married a few years. It could have been strange inheriting this large family, but it really isn't. I like her family very much and have enjoyed getting to know them. I feel lucky that they are part of our lives. One thing that you notice quickly, is that they are really religious. Not in a creepy, evangelical way, but in a reserved deeply meaningful way. They are Catholic. So much so, that my father had an annulment from my mom (whom he was married to for 25 years), so they could be married in the church. When we visit, there is never any question about attending services. We will be going.
Honestly, I like it. I like that my kids are being exposed to part of my past and are interested in learning more about it. We talked about the church and what all the different parts of the church symbolized. We looked at the stations of the cross and the statue of Mary. I explained what it means to say the Rosary and what the little bowls of Holy Water are for. I have to admit it, I was a little sad to realize that my kids are missing out on this shared experience. There is a cultural legacy in being Catholic (as with many other religions) that my kids are not going to have. I don't know why, but it really hit me this past weekend. Whenever we visit, my kids will not be "in the know".
Being members of a religion affords you to partake in certain right or traditions. My kids will never be able to take communion. I can, but they will always have to pass. They won't grow up knowing all the awesome nuns I encountered. I am not sure they really even understand what it means to be a nun. They won't have first communion or be confirmed and understand the religious milestones it is to their extended family. They won't really understand our family's religious history. Of course, you can say "well, they do know about all the world religions and can discover their own path when they are older." Sure... but have I denied them a grounding in something that connects them with our larger family? I worry that they will end up being adrift with so many options that they will never really feel home anywhere. I see how centering it is for E.'s family and I want something like that for my family, too. I guess I am processing a lot right now.