Sunday, March 3, 2013

prayer for beauty

Breath of Life, 
We give thanks this morning
for the warm embrace 
of this religious community
that holds such meaning for us. 

Help us develop
eyes that can see
the sunlight bounce off 
the ripples in the sky*
and still be amazed by that beauty. 

Help our ears be tuned into 
the first sounds of the birds chirping
as the sky slowly lightens each morning, 
and let us be delighted by that beauty. 

Open our hearts to the joys, and sorrows, 
of those around us, 
both people we hold dear, 
and people we barely know, 
so that we may see them - really and truly see them - 
and the beauty that lies within their being. 
Open our minds
to our own selves, 
so that we may understand
this person, 
this body, 
this self
and appreciate with joy
the beauty that emanates from within us.

Breath of Life, 
help us see the beauty around us. 
Help us contribute to that beauty 
by our own acts of generosity, surrender, and embrace. 
We raise our hearts in praise. 
Blessed be. 

*from hymn #1 "Madre Esencia, Padre Esencia" in Las Voces del Camino

Friday, October 19, 2012

Layered Memories

Old Main, on University of Arkansas campus; image at

A few days ago I was in Fayetteville, AR
visiting my son who started his freshman year there this August. 

It was of course glorious and wonderful to be with him, 
laughing, joking, stealing glances at him to make sure he looks happy and healthy. 

And being in Fayetteville is so bittersweet. 
So many memories of that town. 

Adrian was born at the local hospital. 
I found Unitarian Universalism at the local UU Fellowship
My call to ministry awakened there. 
My love of urban planning and local politics caught fire
in conversations with friends at Arsaga's
and later in meetings at City Hall. 

We moved to LA in 1999, and for a few years I'd visit friends there. 
And then I didn't visit for almost ten years. 

When I finally went back, 
seeing those same streets and buildings made my heart hurt. 
It was like seeing an old lover, 
remembering his face, 
but knowing he wasn't the same person anymore. 

Fayetteville is more beautiful than when I left. 
Walking down Dickson Street
around the historic square during the Farmer's Market
or through campus, 
I'm flooded with memories. 

It makes me think of Pentimento, by Lillian Hellman. 

She describes pentimento as
the old paint on a canvas 
that becomes transparent 
as it ages, 
allowing the original lines to come through. 
The painter "repented," changed her mind. 
It's a way of seeing and then seeing again
what is there. 

That's what my trips to Fayetteville feel like. 
I see what is clearly in front of me, 
but ghosts of my past also walk 
on the sidewalks. 

I see yard signs of city council campaigns past. 
I see white party tents and chairs set up for a garden party
for Friends of Fayetteville. 
I see old friends, 
no longer there, no longer in contact, 
but still dear to my heart. 
I see a Baby Adrian. 

I see a younger self. 
Full of hope, 
Longing to make something of herself, 
so her tiny son will know 
that one person can help change the world. 

As I wander around that lovely town, 
I know that Adrian will also awaken 
to the deeper longings of his life there. 

Maybe he will brush by 
the faint lines of his earlier life, 
gently waving him on
toward Love and meaning. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Feeding a Spiritual Hunger

Today I have a guest blog post over on 

I was delighted to be asked, 
and happy I got myself organized
to actually write it and send it in. 

The lovely photograph of the chalice, seen in the blog post, 
was taken by my colleague Rev. Stefanie Etzbach-Dale, 
serving the UUs of Santa Clarita Valley. 

It was set up at our recent ministers' retreat, 
and the photo ended up being the 
first artwork hung on my church office walls. 

I'll post it here, too. 

photograph by Rev. Stefanie Etzbach-Dale

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Room for One More Yes

image from

Last weekend, I thought to myself, 
"I have room for one more big YES this year." 

And I handed it out yesterday, gladly, 

Deciding I had capacity for just one more YES
isn't about shutting down possibilities
or being closed off to new ideas. 

It's all about creating ample space 
for cultivating and growing
all the projects and ideas 
I've already said YES
to this year. 

It's also about setting aside time
and honoring the people I love, 
who make it possible for me to 
enjoy a healthy balance 
of ministry and personal life 
(OK - maybe healthy is too optimistic, 
but that is always the goal). 

And it came out of an awareness 
that in addition to professional ministry, 
there are quite a few other personal goals 
I'd like to accomplish at some point in life: 

- Continue Spanish lessons (Quiero hablar espaƱol!)
- Take piano lessons
- Learn to play guitar
- Take voice lessons
- More extensive travel
- Enter the LA County Extension Master Gardeners program

- Write a historical fiction novel, 
inspired by love letters written 
to my Grandma Lula from my Grandpa Dub, 
when they were teens. 
My mom and I found 
these letters hidden in a cigar box, 
tucked in the back of a closet, 
after my Grandma Lula died. 

It feels really good to be clear, 
for the time being, 
about my ministry priorities this year
and focusing on those, 
rather than adding more and more 
to an already full plate. 

Of course, this will be tested
when the next phone call
or email comes in for a 
meaningful, fun project. 

Will I be able to say No 
as joyfully as I say YES? 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Inviting People to Church

Image from

Last night, in the process of inviting
friends and acquaintances to a new
singing/chanting meditation group at my church, 
I got a little surprise.  

It is much easier for me to invite 
those folks to a meditation group - at church - 
than to a Sunday morning worship service. 

Sunday morning altar, graced with the bounty from our church garden.
 Photo by January Nordman. 

Each week, I create a Facebook invite for Sunday worship. 
I click on the "invite friends" button. 
And as I look at my list of friends, 
my hand hovers over each box next to their names. 

"Should I invite them?"
"Will they think I'm being too forward?"
"Do they have a bad association with church, 
will this turn them off, and will they want to unfriend me?"

These are some of the questions 
running through my mind as I decide whether
their box gets a check mark (invite!)
or remains blank. 

As I was doing the Facebook inviting
for the singing/meditation group, 
none of those questions were in my mind. 
Instead, there was a spirit of giving and offering
something worthwhile, of sustenance, 
that people will want and need. 
I imagined the greeting being 
received with curiosity, thankfulness, excitement. 

Do I not feel that way about Sunday morning worship? 

Hmmm ... 

The thing is, I'm really proud 
of the worshiping community at my church. 
We have a talented music director, 
a group of attentive, thoughtful people in the pews,
a spirit-filled liturgy,
 and an all around joyful attitude on Sunday morning. 
Worship is followed by a vegetarian potluck, 
and people can tour our organic, sustainable garden. 
(And take home produce for later!)

Somehow, the singing meditation group 
(First Sundays at 7 pm)
feels like a less threatening "ask" than
Worship at 11 am on Sunday morning. 

And I noted - if I, the minister, struggle with 
inviting people to worship, 
then imagine how many laypeople must feel. 

For my church, friends inviting friends to church
will be key to our revitalization efforts. 
I'm thinking about how to make the 
invitational process do-able for 
current members and friends. 

And reminding myself that 
Sunday worship - 
with our stories and songs, 
prayers and meditation, 
preaching and words of wisdom - 
is a gift we offer the community. 
A time to rest weary souls and bones. 
A time to get reconnected to 
the self, the community, the holy. 
A time for joy and tears, 
for laughter and silence. 

Who all will I invite to church this Sunday? 
Who will you?  

Thursday, September 13, 2012

One of Those Awesome YES Days

I certainly didn't expect 
to feel euphoric at the end of today. 
But I do. 
(And no, it's not just the iced tea talking.)

First of all - check out those bright, shining faces above. 
For A Long Time, 
a donated electric organ has lived
in the entrance to one of the church's bathrooms. 

Today was the day for finding it a loving home. 
These young men came for it, 
and their faces lit up when we 
plugged in the organ
and it worked! 

So off they go to make music, 
and we can better utilize the space in one 
of our downstairs bathrooms. 

On Tuesday, Real Food Daily
hosted us for a special Elders/Seniors dinner. 
RFD is one of my fav restaurants, 
and they offer organic, vegan cuisine. 

Well, it was so nice to get to linger and chat and enjoy food with these delightful folks from the church. 
I saw a couple of them tonight, 
and they were still glowing from our dinner. 
So that just added to my YES feeling. 

And earlier that day 
(note the exact same dress!), 
several of us unveiled the new
UU Group at Occidental College. 
We gathered over 20 names and emails
of students who are interested in being 
part of our campus group. 

Several ran up to the table 
and exclaimed, 
"I grew up UU! I am so excited 
we will have a place to meet on campus!"

Ministry is so much about creating connections, 
helping people live into their own YES to life. 
Holding a container
out of which the sacred can emerge.

We ministers talk about the many demands
of professional, ordained ministry. 
And all the goodness, 
such as I experienced this week, 
balances it all. 

What a complex, beautiful, winding
road we are all on
to find our holy YES in life. 

And it'll be good to have this written 
reminder when a day or week rolls
around where the YES is hard to find. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Paddling Upstream

Last week, while in Mendocino, 
I got to spend a couple of hours on the Big River. 

I love rivers, and love kayaking. 
It's something I don't get to do nearly enough of. 

As I started out, I was delighted with my purple kayak rental. 
I thought, "It's such a UU minister color, how perfect!"

I began paddling upstream - 
and both the tide and the wind were with me. 
I barely had to dip my oar in the water 
and I was sailing away. 
I was the only one on the river. 
The only sounds I heard 
were birds calling to each other 
and my paddle moving through the water. 
I laid back and looked up at the trees, 
the sun peeking through leaves and branches. 

I felt like I flowed with nature. 

After dreamily floating along for about 45 minutes, 
I realized it was going to take some work to get back. 

Reluctantly I turned the kayak around. 
And was suddenly met with a brisk breeze 
in my face and water coming at me, 
rather than going with me. 

My zen-like state vanished. 
All I could think about was getting back to the dock. 
I realized I didn’t have enough drinking water with me. 
(Okay, honestly I hadn't taken ANY with me!)
I wondered if my arms were strong enough 
to propel the kayak to my starting point. 

I did make it back. Without harm. 
I can paddle for an hour, 
and suffer very sore arms the next morning. 
But doing so much work to get back 
destroyed my internal flow. 
My mind raced with questions about my ability
 to do the physical work. Instead of feeling 
at one with the river, each stroke reminded me 
I was moving against it. 

And isn't that the way of life. 
Ease and comfort can turn into unease and pain. 
We may yearn for change in our lives, 
only to become overwhelmed and scared when it does arrive. 

Spiritual practice can help us 
sort through that stuff, 
make sense of our days, 
help us keep paddling upstream 
even when our arms - and hearts - 
may cry out for us to stop.