Show Your Soul

Show Your Soul  is an online journal of writings and artworks from the members and friends of all ages of White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church.

Joy: the Practice of Choosing Life

Posted by on May 31, 2016 in Show Your Soul | 0 comments

Our Summer 2016 online art and literary journal features writing and art by WBUUC children and teens.

Religious Education Children

Our friendships are full of colors, our world is a more beautiful place because of new friends!

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Finding a Friend
by Astrid Andre

October 23, 2015

Dear Astrid:

            I remember sitting in that store, waiting for someone to take me home. Lots of people passed me by but no one ever took me off the shelf-— until one day. The lady looked me over and said, “This one’s cute,” and bought me. I remember being put in her car and left there for days. I was so sad. I thought I would never leave.

            One day she got in her car as usual (as though to go to work) but instead she took me to this big brownstone building with a cross on top. She opened the backseat door and took me into the building. There were lots of people but we headed into this huge room with red velvet benches. We sat on the last one. We waited for everyone to file in before a man in a white suit came up to the pulpit to preach through a microphone about a guy named God.

            After what seemed like forever the guy in the white suit escorted everyone out row by row. When our row was let out we were first. We filed out to another large crowd. The lady pushed through some people saying, “Excuse me, sorry, coming through.”

            At one point, she stopped looking around through the crowd. Then her eyes landed on a little blonde girl and her mom. You were so cute, holding a green blanket and holding your mom’s hand. But you weren’t looking at us. You were looking at some older girls playing tag outside, through the window. But as we got nearer you turned your attention to us. Then you tugged at your mom’s hand and pulled closer just as we stopped in front of you.

            Then the lady said, “Hi, I have a surprise for you.” You let go of your mom’s hand and asked “Is it the pink Teddy Bear?” She looked at your mom and nodded. Then your mom smiled and said, “Yes it is.” Then the lady gave me to her and she gave you to me and said, “Here.” When you held me I was so happy. You smiled and said, “Huggy Bear” and it just stuck.

            The lady smiled and left. “Oh,” your mom said, “We better get home.” When we got to your room you smiled again and said, “We’re gonna be best friends forever.” And it was true. We did so much together. You took me wherever you went. You dragged me around the house, and you got stains on me. I didn’t care. I was just so happy to finally have a home. You played in your room with me and you slept with me. Those days are over now. You don’t play with me and you don’t take me anywhere. I’m stuffed in your closet with all the blankets and pillows you don’t want anymore. But I love you, just the same.

Still love you,
Huggy Bear

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Ways kids can help the world:

  • Recycling
  • Donate
  • Be kind
  • Share
  • Inspire

 

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Dear You:

Yes, YOU. You are amazing. Have a beautiful day! Please pick one then feel free to pass it on:

  • You are loved
  • You are worth it
  • You are talented
  • Your smile is beautiful
  • You are appreciated
  • You can make it happen
  • You are inspiring

 

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Social Action Sundays

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Homework/Soulwork – Wednesday Evenings

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Junior High Youth

 

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Hand Waves: The Art of Me

Every day, we change the world by our way of being:

Our choices
The friends we make
The way we respond
Values that matter to us

What waves do you make in the world?

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Creator Poems

cynicism                                  play devil’s      ask

advocate

 

your message                                                 question

 

what is going on

Be aware

you have the

capacity
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STRONG

giving

 

BEAUTY

 

great

 

                                                                                    Life

 

Style

 

LOVE

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Coming of Age

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Peace Jam

Being the Change!

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To be free is to be alive,
Breath.
flowing in and out,
A circle,
With a beginning…
so far away that it reaches
an end I will never know,
freedom.
A path to which I am looking for,
hoping to find
A path that will guide me
somewhere new?
somewhere old?
Maybe freedom is the circle,
the breath,
Bring  me back to the place,
from which I came.

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Wisdom: the practice of unknowing

Posted by on Apr 28, 2016 in Show Your Soul | 0 comments

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Known for keen hearing and vision, the owl is associated with wisdom and foresight. Nocturnal and soundless in flight, she could be said to quietly find what is hidden to us,
what is ” just there” as we sleep.
–Ellen Lowery

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In Case Family Can Be Found
Always scanning the faces
of people in queues
in case family can be found
at the Dairy Queen
on dollar Blizzard day
or at Target
in the returns lane

Always saying Lovely green beans!
Cute dog!
Ah, Margaret Fuller!
to people
behind tables at the farmers market
on the trail
in church
in case family can be found
behind tables at the farmers market
on the trail
in church

Always stopping to read the bulletin board
in the foyer of the library
in hopes family can be found
between the minutes of the last
city council meeting
and the poster
on the safe disposal of sharps
–Katharine Holden

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This is the gift you receive when you have the wisdom to patiently wait out the long cold winter in Minnesota – a lovely early Spring flower called Hepatica.
–Gail Diez

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The Catholic Church Leading Us Away
from “Just War Theory” and WBUUC Was There

One of the definitions of “to know” is to “be absolutely certain or sure about something”.  What we think we know is that to be secure in conditions of armed conflict, one must have a weapon.  Whatever our doctrine or belief system says about love thy neighbor, nonviolence, respect for others, or forgiveness, we still hold to the belief that a weapon keeps us safe.  We are not of course the aggressor, but practice arming ourselves “just” to be safe.

The doctrine of “just war” held by the Catholic Church and practiced by governments claiming other religious faiths has just been liberated.

That dramatic shift took place as Nonviolent Peaceforce with the handprints of members of WBUUC participated in a commission appointed by Pope Francis in Rome. In recognition of the Jubilee Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis, people from many countries gathered at the Nonviolence and Just Peace Conference.

It concluded:

“We believe that there is no “just war”. Too often the “just war theory” has been used to endorse rather than prevent or limit war. Suggesting that a “just war” is possible also undermines the moral imperative to develop tools and capacities for nonviolent transformation of conflict. The time has come for our church to be a living witness and to invest far greater human and financial resources in promoting a spirituality and practice of active nonviolence and in forming and training our Catholic communities in effective nonviolent practices,” the statement said.

“In that spirit we commit ourselves to furthering Catholic understanding and practice of active nonviolence on the road to just peace… As would-be disciples of Jesus, challenged and inspired by stories of hope and courage in these days, we call on the Church we love to: “…promote nonviolent practices and strategies (e.g., nonviolent resistance, restorative justice, trauma healing, unarmed civilian protection, conflict transformation, and peacebuilding strategies).”

But it took wisdom: the practice of unknowing…the practice of trust and hope…to support the practice of responding to violence with nonviolence.  And WBUUC was there.    –Ann Frisch

 

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There seems to be some kind of innate wisdom in spiders to be able to make something that is at the same time incredibly practical and exceedingly exquisite.
–Mark Kotz

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Always Take Love
when someone reaches out a hand
take it and do not feel unworthy
always take love when it is offered
it may be a life-saving event

when you are down reach out to a friend
you never know which one will reach back
always reach out for love when in need
you may change where you are going

someone smiles at you with kindness
let the kindness fill your heart with joy
always let love in when it shows up
you never know when you will need that joy

when you think that life has nothing more to offer
smile at a child who may need a smile to cheer them up
always seek out those you can bring you love and joy at no cost
for they will return much more to you than you gave to them

when you reach out your hand to offer love and kindness
remember the times when someone reached out to you
always give love when you are able to
you never know when you will change someone’s life even your own
–Michael Kullik

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WISDOM FROM THE FIRST 50 YEARS
“If the sun and moon should doubt, they’d immediately go out”1
This too shall pass
Paper plates & napkins, plastic utensils
Be yourself
“Be the change you wish to see in the world”2
It gets better
Don’t run on ice
Ask for help
Breathe in, breathe out, repeat
Love always trumps hate
Check ALL outlets before working with electrical wiring
Don’t spit into the wind
One day (or minute or second) at a time
Mama spit is the best solvent
Babies can’t fall off of the floor
Recognize, acknowledge, release
Angels (and superheroes) walk among us
“Do one thing every day which scares you”3
Believe
We are all broken and beloved
Ice cream is good for sprained ankles
“Every rose has its thorn”4
–Sieglinde Waller

1Robert Blake, “Auguries of Innocence”
2Gandhi
3Eleanor Roosevelt
4Poison

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Soul: The Practice of Diving Deep

Posted by on Mar 30, 2016 in Show Your Soul | 0 comments

Photo by Ken Stewart


Photo by Ken Stewart

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Sighting
In the loneliest chamber of my heart lay one or two seeds of truth that remain unspoken. A poet I read somewhere compares the foxes she was lucky enough to glimpse disappearing into the graduating darkness of the forest to those harsh and brilliant truths revealed in one’s life but often not shared with anyone else. They are glimpsed, revealed, reveled in, and, sometimes, someone is sought-after with whom to share.

Revelation can be remarkable for how it isolates. Words do not come or are inadequate. How to hold something that can’t be translated? That is a kind of aloneness within which I can live. Something that is mine alone. And it lives in a dark forest in my memory and in my heart.
–Anonymous

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Traveling
I’m a difficult passenger.
I’ll go off to explore,
leaving possessions on the seat—
a signal I am not gone,
and they take a lot of space
intruding on others, I suppose,
making noises, and emitting
smells, auras, spiciness.
I always reclaim my spot
after my sortie. After all
I’ve paid for my seat.
My space is mine to fill,
to spill over from.
Interrupting others, I point out the sights,
the swaying rhythm
that beckons, us to us.
Once I got off and thought
I would not go farther
cradled in warmth and light, but
I left it to resume the ride,
the challenge of my space,
my burdens, my aging, the connection with the others
on this journey.
This traveling is entertaining,
the trip is worth the cost.
–Mim Weber, 2004

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A Grandmother’s Prayer
Grandchild of my dreams where have you gone?
A place where I cannot reach you?
How will I know you?

I will know you by the soft stream of tears I feel
On my cheek, I will know you by the gentle
Spring showers that feed the earth, by the
Sweet scent of the rose in my garden and the
Beam of hope in my daughter’s eye.

We will survive this passage knowing that this
Tiny soul having missed this lustrous life
Is bedded down in eternity safely sleeping
With the stars and cradled in the arms of the moon.

Yes, I will know you in my heart, your small
Shadow printed on my memory, your soul
Buried deep within us growing blossoms of
Love and hope for yet another day of birth.
–Gail Diez, 2005

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By Becky Myrick


Becky Myrick

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Teacher/Mother
The young are grown and
Concern for people
Distant and near
Taken up by others
Inspired to learn
By the presence of
A significant soul.
The world
Ever so slightly
On a different course.
She laid down her book and pen
To rest for another day.
But her work was completed
And this spirit
Born into earth and wind
Shaped by compassion for the powerless
Wise in a world of monumental acceleration
Slipped quietly
Into another dimension
Known by a faith grown from a seed
Into a mountain
Of completed tasks.
–Phil Hinderaker, 2004

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By Becky Myrick


Becky Myrick

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Transformation: The Practice of Imagination

Posted by on Feb 29, 2016 in Show Your Soul | 0 comments

Universal Mechanics
What
wound up the world
to its present motion–
sea to cell,
worm to seal,
seed to tree?
We,
blessed and cursed
with our devotion,
seek to find
what mechanism spawned us–
air, earth, water, fire,
the singing choir
of sons and daughters,
mirth and tears.
What inspires our need
for laughter,
slaughter?
We never tire
but ask these questions
every hour
with every breath
from birth
to death.

–Ann Bushnell, 2002

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This coiled basket is made from discarded materials. I collect picture books and paper, also objects from nature to repurpose into artist books, journals and baskets.


This coiled basket is made from discarded materials. I collect picture books and paper, also objects from nature to repurpose into artist books, journals and baskets.
– Cynthia Gipple

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Imagination
by Ellen Lowery

Imagination may be a quality of human being.  We are able to see what is not present for better or worse.  Imagination may provide a haven from harsh realities, a conception of what could be. For better, it offers a vision of alternatives, such as seen in The Wizard of Oz or Alice in Wonderland. For worse, imagination may provide dark visions of shame and fear: our ideas about how we are judged, condemned by others, or allow us to form constructions of the enemy, as in Lord of the Flies and The Scarlet Letter.

A man who imagines the Bible to be the word of God may feel privilege to subdue his wife and she may feel this is acceptable and tolerate abuse of herself and children. In contrast, an abused child might imagine that God loves her and will guide her to better circumstances, or she may imagine she will find help from others, or books may offer her an alternate world.

Imagination allows us to transform discomfort into something else, possibly generative, but also possibly evil.

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But change is life and life is change.

Transformation. It was surprising to find that Merriam-Webster definitions are so scientific.

They speak of formulas, mathematics, conversions, grammar, genetics, and finally false hair!

My own definition for transformation is more about creating, imagining.

This church was transforming for me. I came to the church as a child, but coming back in 1980 as a divorced mother with two boys, it gave us all a focus, a place to belong. Adults came to know my sons, interacting with them in so many ways. It has always been an extended family for my kids.

I was introduced to the power of story, the intrigue of dreams, the strength of friendship, the joy of imaging plays, poems, and programs of all sorts! And we are still the place that inspires the imagination.

My focus currently is the Gallery Committee. It’s the name we are known by, but is could easily be called the transformation committee.

We start with calendars, scheduling, advertising, negotiating; all the mundane, but then every six weeks or so we transform the Atrium with new works of art fill the space with color, dimension, imagination, that feeds our souls. The Gallery Committee enjoys the process of helping shape, group, and make the most of the artist’s work presented in our galleries.

The galleries were born of the imagination of architects, members on the planning committees, and a congregation that said yes! I for one did not see the potential of the Atrium, and the display space in the corridor. What I see today is that our building a prized display space, one of three in the White Bear/Mahtomedi area. Many people have told me that the art was part of the draw of WBUUC.

We are a community that is blessed with “soul”. Starting with our talented ministers. Our extraordinary choir, that blows the roof off every Sunday! Teachers in RE, justice makers in the community, cooks in the kitchen, and art in the Atrium. All are in the business of transformation.

WBUUC: Your time as a caterpillar has expired. Your wings are ready.

–Text & Photo by Karen Dahl

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Images of transformation from my last trip:  The water and the erosion (slot canyons), the flooding and drying (the salt flats), and the wind (the sand dunes).

Antelope, Rattlesnake, Owl, and Mountain sheep slot canyons at Page, Arizona; Zabriskie Point,  Badwater Flats, and Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes in Death Valley, CA.

–Ken Stewart

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Wonder
“To live is enough.”
So says Shunryu Suzuki.
Present into past.

“Imagine there’s no heaven. It’s easy if you try. No hell below us. Above us only sky.”  (John Lennon, Imagine, 1971) “To live is enough,” observed Suzuki, the often understated Buddhist teacher.

Suzuki and Lennon were unlikely soul mates – born a generation apart, separated by nearly 6000 miles of water, land, and culture and raised in starkly divergent religious traditions. Despite these differences, however, both echoed timeless questions fundamental to the human condition. Imagine there is no heaven (or hell) and the present simply dissolves into the past as each second passes in our life. If above us is only sky, as Lennon wonders, and this life is indeed it, is living enough?

For those who can embrace the notion that “to live is enough,” suggests a rejection of wrack-full lamenting, an acceptance of life’s limitations and a fervent satisfaction and gratefulness for the yesterday and the now.  It beckons and calls one to the present more ardently than ever before, opening our eyes, ears and hearts to beauty and the wondrous web of life in all of its manifestations:  a smile and gentle touch from a spouse;  a grandchild running towards you with arms outstretched calling “Papa”; a masterful book that draws your tears; glory of sunrise and sunset; fishing with a friend on still water in Ontario listening to the croaking of frogs and chorus of bird songs; wedding of a son or daughter; drifting into a nap on sun-drenched deck listening to wind rustled leaves; experiencing the unconditional love and adoring eyes of a pet dog; being moved by Bach’s “The Brandenburg Concertos” at the Minnesota Orchestra; a spirited rendition of “Buddy Holly” at the Minnesota History Theater; dinner and wine with a person you love; first dates and proms; children and grandchildren finding their calling; learning a new word and finding the perfect time to use it; the gift of “God Bless you” after giving a street beggar a snack bar wrapped with a five-dollar bill;  amusement of a pun; old and new friends; solving a problem or overcoming a challenge; the joy of giving; achieving peace and satisfaction.

“To live is enough” also means that we accept and embrace the fullness and other side of life’s experiences:  heartbreak of death and loss of loved ones; unmet goals and unfulfilled dreams; painful mistakes; parental failures; loss of job; promises not kept; sickening worry about a child; damaged or broken relationships; frustration; stress; being taken for granted; unexpected crisis; declining health; burden of caretaking; worry about money; lack of balance between career and family; shattered dreams; anxiety and depression; addiction; disappointing a friend; desertion; deceit; absence of appreciation; accident and injury; restlessness and dissatisfaction.

Wrapping our arms around the expansiveness of life – embracing the full range of experiences and emotions as we watch the present dissolve into the past – is our shared gift of life.  And like water flowing through a mill, life’s painful experiences turn our heart’s wheel towards a deeper and more joyous appreciation of what is now and good. Or as Billy Joel reminds,“…that when the truth is told / you can get what you want or you can just get old / you’re gonna kick off before you even get halfway through / why don’t you realize… Vienna waits for you?”

–Don Lifto

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In The Moment
The river winds through
its rocky channel
tumbling over boulders
dancing in the moment
unconcerned the coming
falls will shatter it
into a million jewels.

–Bill McCarthy

 

The Water Strider
What occupies us by day is so small.
What really matters is a mystery.
Like the water strider who darts
and skates on water’s skin,
its world a mere molecule deep,
we are separated from the unknowable
depths that fall off cool and quiet,
ageless and enormous, just beneath us.
When the end comes, I believe it is water,
not dust to which we shall return and
only then to learn what has truly
mattered from the beginning.

–Bill McCarthy

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Grow Your Soul: Transformation
With a butterfly metamorphosis is the seemingly miraculous change from caterpillar to adult form, a beautiful butterfly. With many humans transformation is never spectacular or quick. If we change at all it is slowly over many years, sometimes years of therapy, seeking to live in a better way. I’ve been trying to become more tolerant and to speak up for the causes I believe in my whole life. It probably doesn’t even show on the outside, but it makes all the difference if I have that awareness, that desire to change and do the daily baby steps towards becoming that person I want to be.

–Judy Fawcett

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Imagination is what Raoul Wallenberg possessed when this under-achiever-playboy was sent to Hungary as a diplomat with the Swedish crown to protect and rescue the Jews rounded up by the Nazis.  He immediately went to work finding buildings to house Jews and provided them with Swedish passports.  He did this on a massive scale, sometimes having to promise that the donors would be saved from being tried as collaborators with the holocaust.  (Good Evening, Mr. Wallenberg, and Wallenberg: A Hero’s Story). Aryan women stormed the prison where their Jewish husbands, sons, and fathers had been sent to await deportation and worse. Depicted in the film identified by the street name Rosenstrasse, they made such a fuss that Hitler let them go, fearing a massive public resistance. Hotel Rwanda and Hidden in Silence depicted similar imagination when Paul Ruseabagina and Stefania Podgorska respectively engaged their imagination to protect victims of war.

Imagination is what Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the Muslim “Frontier Gandhi” possessed when he created the hundred thousand person unarmed force standing against the British tyrrany:

“I am going to give you such a weapon that the police and the army will not be able to stand against it. It is the weapon of the Prophet, but you are not aware of it. That weapon is patience and righteousness. No power on earth can stand against it.”

David Hartsough, a Quaker, had been lecturing on Gandhi’s concept of inter-position, protective accompaniment, when he met Mel Duncan, a Presbyterian, at The Hague in 1999. Their imaginations and skills led them to found Nonviolent Peaceforce where unarmed civilians have been protecting civilians in the bloody wars of Sri Lanka, Mindanao, Philippines, South Sudan, Guatemala, Myanmar, and most recently in Syria. In the bloody genocide in South Sudan, in 15 months and 1000 accompaniments of civilians sheltered in the UN compound, none was harmed. In a breathtaking situation there, two of NP’s protection monitors refused to step aside when assailants said they wanted to kill the people in a hut. Three times the assailants demanded the protectors step aside, three times the assailants went away, saving the lives of 14 women and children.

Like Wallenberg and others, they were people doing their job when suddenly the situation called for their imagination. NP’s Mel Duncan admonishes us “to spark our moral imagination”. It is transformational.

–Ann Frisch

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Growing Up With Change

Change is inherently inevitable and I am constantly curious to see what the future brings. I sometimes think about who I will be in five, or even ten years. This person in my mind is different than who I am now. This person is different due to decisions and changes that I will have had to make. I have always associated change as simple and good, but change can be very difficult.

When I was about six, I decided to stop dancing ballet. A year later that time was filled by choir and my life was soon enveloped in music. Looking back, I think “What if I stayed in ballet?  What would my life be like?” My life was transformed by an easy decision I made when I was six year old. I am planning on becoming an Opera singer, but who knows, I could fall in love with something else. Maybe it is just growing up, but I have had to make some difficult decisions in the past year.

The difficult changes that have been made have shaped me more than all of the easy decisions combined. I have learned to embrace change, because not only does it shape who you are, but it lets you recognize what is really important. This year my parents got separated and I moved, with my mom, twenty-five minutes away from my dad. The separation didn’t affect me the way I originally thought that it would.

I wasn’t upset that my parents were getting divorced, but I was upset that I couldn’t go home and talk to my dad. I now had to pick up the phone, or drive just to talk to him. I now have to be focused on getting quality time with each parent. Because of the separation, I have spent more quality time with each parent. It is one thing talking with someone for a bit each day, but it is totally different when you are spending quality time each week together. I have learned so much about my parents throughout the past three months, more than I have in my lifetime. I knew them before as parents, but now I know them as people. Their personalities reach far beyond just mom and dad, but they are still my mom and dad. They still push me to be the best I can be. They comfort me when I’m stressed out, which is most all of the time. But most importantly, they will help me grow together.

Who knows where I will be in five, or even ten years. Maybe I will be singing on a stage, or maybe not. Change is a part of life, and I think that is great. I choose to approach change with open hands and an open heart. I choose to face change with an open mind. I choose change because, let’s face it, life is boring without it.

–Ava Harmon

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Sin: The Practice of Turning

Posted by on Jan 31, 2016 in Show Your Soul | 0 comments

I think the essence of sin is that it causes separation. We usually know when we have done this with something we said or did. Then we can ask for forgiveness and try to repair the rift. But the separating act that cannot be repaired is the one we refuse to see—anything about ourselves that we keep hidden from our own view by pride, shame, fear, or any other motive. This inner separation keeps us from being whole. We can be healed only by opening to seeing our deepest recesses where both our worst impulses and our hidden goodness and talents reside.

—Mary Jo Meadow

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Photo by Mary Rogers

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Turning

She did not sense the change; how or when it happened.

Much like the rotation of the earth, she was completely unaware.

It was her first trip to New York.

With an afternoon free from meetings,

She sped with friends to the Metropolitan Museum of Art,

Where she passed through the sculpture garden and the American Wing.

A woman on a mission, her heart raced as she sought out the Renaissance collection,

Sure that theirs would be world-class.

Entering the first salon, she slowed her pace,

Drinking in works of art painted five centuries before.

This had been her favorite period.

She had spent her teenage years in Italy, visiting museums filled with the lovely, fleshy paintings

Of Raffaello, da Vinci, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Caravaggio and more.

She studied culture, stories, language and style of the Rinascimento at an American University.

Here, at the Met, she gazed at the walls

Expecting to be touched by the deep grace of the Masters,

Listening for their stories to speak to her heart.

She stood alone, opening herself to them only.

Waiting, waiting, waiting.  But nothing happened.

Actually something did happen, but it was not what she wanted.

It seemed that invisible veils were pulled away from her face, from her eyes.

And as she passed from gallery to gallery, she was only aware of

Too many Madonnas holding old man babies, too many wealthy patrons in portraiture,

Too many Goliath heads on bloody platters, their grisly locks held aloft by victorious Davids.

The paintings mocked her noble vision of the work that she had so loved.

Suddenly, the rug was pulled out from under her.

As if all she’d known and believed was a sham.

Her heart began to pound as she realized she was suddenly a woman without a country.

Without this attachment, she was less herself.

Deep down inside she felt less defined.

Hurrying through the remaining galleries, she sought her friends.

Meanwhile, she was filled with a profound sadness, a growing emptiness, more to the point.

She spotted familiar faces far ahead in the Impressionist wing.

And, while she propelled herself toward them, not caring about this period,

A strong presence, like friendly arms, reached out to her from all sides.

Renoir, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Seurat, Gaugin, Monet each beckoned “venez à moi, ma chère”

Their dreamy colors, rich landscapes, imaginative brushstrokes and mood-filled moments

Lured her into their lush and picturesque scenes.

She stopped and took a breath, amazed at this unexpected calling.

Touched by their captivating beauty,

Her heart slowed down to a deep and comforting rhythm.

She had found a new love, a new home for her artistic spirit.

Somehow, she had not sensed the change; when it happened or why.

The earth had turned and so, apparently, had she.

Reeling from the shift, she was grateful to have been caught by the quick and unseen hand of

The powerful Creative Force.

—Dana Boyle, 2016

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Turning is a dance

We lose touch with ourselves

in the pursuit of excitement, stimulation.

Zoom, zoom, zoom goes our mind

Breathing is a shallow practice for the moment

We look for love but often forget we ever found it.

Turn, turn, turn

To the center of our being

A point of nothingness

Untouched by illusions or failings

The little point, the little window that is the pure

Allelulia for and from the Maker of stars, pebbles & light.

Turn, turn, turn

To the center of our being.

—Becky Myrick

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This is a photo of a magnificent mural created by Barb Britain’s (WBUUC) daughter Lori Greene. Lori has a proud heritage of African American, Native American and White American. I had the privilege of viewing this beautiful mural last summer.

–Let us turn around the sins of oppression wrought against African Americans, Native Americans and other ethnicities

–Let us turn around the sin of imposing our culture on other cultures

–Let us acknowledge our history’s shame even though painful

–Let us recognize the damage done by ignorance and intolerance

–Let us walk out of the shadows of silence and speak up without fear

–Let us have the courage to recognize our prejudice and failures and learn from them

–Let us turn around these sins by opening our hearts and holding out our hands in support of justice, freedom, and equality for all.

—Gail Diez

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The group I was with in Haiti moved a woman from the dwelling pictured to a cinder block place closer to “town.”
Photo and Comment by Ross Safford

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I taught two older men who wanted to try and bake as a way of having some income.
Photo and Comment by Ross Safford

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Here are some children playing in water, as we delivered water to Cite Soleil. Cite Soleil is reported to be the poorest area in the Western hemisphere.
Photo and Comment by Ross Safford

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THE MODERN 100-YEAR WAR

by Jerry Andre

The drug situation has us in a sweat. It has been going on for a long time. The effects of the drug trade, too, are as harmful as the drugs themselves. Efforts at enforcement and interdiction are continuous, but the drugs intercepted are charged off as normal shrinkage of inventory. Imminence of any remedy is not evident. Doing more of what we are doing already does not promise the change we seek.  If “more” doesn’t work, another choice is “different”, but different how?

Experience tells us that prohibition is a legal fantasy. We choose for ourselves between naughty and nice. Criminalizing drugs has itself proven harmful to society. There is no lid on the price of things bought illegally. (You would complain, maybe, to the Better Business Bureau?). Corrupt officials are like an infestation of termites in enforcement, with their fingers in pies created by the war on drugs. There are innumerable agencies that have addressed the problem over many years. The result?  Lawmakers, judges and journalists fleeing (if they make it), lots of dead people, billions of dollars spent, and drugs all over the place.Just letting it work itself out is not a viable answer, but vacating the laws we have would not significantly change things.

A program of in-bond regulations for these items would let us manage a situation that is uncontrollable while it remains “invisible”. The pies attracting collusive authorities would be fewer. People who fled could go home. Prison population would shrink, and law enforcement could concentrate on traditional things like murder, robbery and reckless driving. There would be some excess prison staff and real estate.

An unsettling thought: Release from prison of drug offenders will have them looking for employment. An option would be release to military or government service, with training for those who need it and gradual rotation into the work force. Funding for this could come from ending the cost of their imprisonment.

Even with the profit motive diminished, commerce in these substances will continue, with remaining participants trading their black hats for white (okay, grey). The established infrastructure would become an asset, and product quality should improve. The revenue stream from duties and sin taxes adding to the public coffers would also be an improvement.

There will be some drugs that require supervised, limited, distribution to those who have compelling need for them at licensed “happy houses”, isolated and tightly secure. Some should be government run and basic, ensuring a reliable cheap source. Others, private and ritzier. Real-time monitoring will be essential, and randomly rotated supervision will be necessary to avoid compromising relationships.

Unlicensed operations, on discovery, should be subject to immediate, expensive, inspections and stiff fees, increased upon repetition, for license applications after the fact, giving us a handle on what is now an unmanageable situation.

Total elimination is fantasy, of course, but the battle with no end and its casualties innocent or not would no longer be daily news.

Truth: The Practice of Discerning and Discovering

Posted by on Dec 30, 2015 in Show Your Soul | 0 comments

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What are the answers to life’s deep questions?

Maybe the truth lies in
–hugging a tree
–holding a friend
–walking a path
–loving winter rain
–and sharing your
love.

Gail Diez

Photo by Gail Diez

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Discovery and Discernment

I have thought of my life as a journey for as long as I can remember.  In childhood, my mother read aloud to us from The Hobbit and The Chronicles of Narnia.  These books played a large part in teaching me about searching, getting lost, making mistakes, being forgiven and moving forward.  By the time I was in college, I was majoring in everything in order to seek the truth about life and my calling.  Sometimes I wonder where my life would have taken me if someone had told me how to think and what to do.  Maybe I would have retired earlier from a steady job and with more security.  Maybe I would be wed.

To search is a privilege of sorts, arising from not living in a struggle for material survival.  There may be a danger in becoming enamored of the search itself and losing sight of opportunities for choice or commitment, for action.  Personal calling happens in a larger real world of demands and needs that must be answered.

—Ellen Lowery

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Photo by Zayn Bilkadi

The Darkness that makes us see:

Darkness above and below is the ultimate comfort of the illuminated, humane soul.

Could the moon be seen in its shiniest glory without the Darkness surrounding it?

Take away the Darkness and the shine would fade away too, overwhelmed by the fury of our sun.

If Darkness did not exist our searching souls would be lost, deprived not only of the soothing beauty of the moon near us, but of the illuminating twinkle of the far off stars in our universe, reminding us each night of the vastness of the cosmos and …our smallness.

—Zayn Bilkadi

Mystery: The Practice of Keeping Open

Posted by on Nov 30, 2015 in Show Your Soul | 0 comments

I’m learning to open myself up to finding natural beauty in unexpected places, and in the worst of weather. Walking into the woods… What will I find? Why is it there?  And the beauty that appears one day, may be gone the next, which adds to the sense of mystery.

—Mark Kotz

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The Visit

I feel Your softness
Lingering between my breaths-
Warm and dark,
Holding fear and mystery.

Fear of letting go.
Mystery – enticing  me
To Your comforting blanket.

You sit waiting-
A dark, distant Star,
A Sacred Spirit

Ablaze with silver hope
That lights a path,
Guiding this life,
Pulsing with possibility.

—Miriam Roth
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LOVE AND SURPRISE: SOLO EXPLORATIONS ON TWO WHEELS

On June 19, 1971, I began a solo bicycle trip from Portland, Oregon, to my family home in Lansing, Michigan. The trip was a celebration of my graduation from college. On June 19, 2015, I began an approximate replay of that trip, from Bellingham, Washington, to North Oaks, Minnesota, this time in celebration of graduation from the full-time work force. I arrived home on July 19. On this trip, as in 1971, I camped most nights, spent some in motels and quite a few in the homes of old friends or of people who offered hospitality to a stranger. My blog along the way became a record of people, places and events and of physical, mental and emotional meanderings along the 2000-mile route.

The guiding principle of the trip was love and surprise. A simple-minded but important approach to life: do what you love and be open to surprises along the way. It was reinforced by another principle: have a plan to depart from, which allows you the flexibility to follow unexpected opportunities. These two guiding rules opened doors to people, places and lessons that enriched the experience.

It was a remarkable month on the road, and when I arrived home, certain questions from friends and family came my way repeatedly. Among the more mundane questions – What was your average mileage? What was the physical challenge like? – were several that required careful study. Why did you want to do this? Why did you do it alone? What did you learn?

Why do it and why do it alone?

Shortly before my departure, when I told our eighteen-year-old neighbor about my upcoming trip, his response was, “Wow, that sounds really awful!”  I had to laugh, but I know full well that many people think the same thing without expressing it in such a forthright manner. There are several answers to the why question.

To experience the country in a different way. On a bike you become part of the landscape. You see every tree, flower, deer, eagle and cow, more clearly than in a vehicle traveling at highway speed. Approaching Washington Pass, I saw and heard the rushing Skagit River as I ascended toward the summit. I studied the peaks and cliffs of the Northern Cascades and admired their shapes and shadows as I passed slowly by. I was captivated by cloudscapes evolving in the skies over Montana and South Dakota, even when the resulting thunderheads caught up with me and forced me off the road. I smelled fields of flowers, the special aroma of cattle and horses and the fresh scent of an upwind lake on the South Dakota prairie. I heard the sounds of tall grasses whooshing in the wind, children’s laughter, birds, trains and distant thunder. On a bike, vistas linger for closer study, and no sounds or smells are attenuated by steel and glass.

To celebrate a new phase of life. The first time I crossed a large portion of the country by bike, I was celebrating college graduation. This time I was celebrating retirement. This year’s trip confirms that this next phase of life promises new adventures, unencumbered by strict schedules. It’s a time to experience awe, appreciate beauty and seek exhilaration.

Why did you travel alone?

Solo travel by bike is a lonely endeavor. So why would one choose it? For one thing, you never have to argue about which way or how far to go. Second, biking alone opens the door to meeting new people. When two riders enter a campground together, people are reluctant to interrupt their conversation. When you travel alone, two things happen. People are more inclined to approach you and ask about your trip, and after a long day in the saddle alone, you seek out and welcome human interaction. With these forces at work, solo travel becomes less lonely than you might think.

A side benefit of solo biking is that it offers ample time for introspection. It fosters an awareness of details of the world that often escape our attention, both outside and inside our heads. Values, relationships, plans and priorities, past, present and future, are subjected to close examination.

What did you learn?

Gratitude. On my 1971 trip I was amazed at people’s capacity for hospitality and generosity, and I felt sincerely grateful toward the people who offered it. A surprise to me at the time, that trip ended up being more about people than about seeing beautiful country or achieving physical feats. Now, all these years later, it has happened again. Old friends and new friends invited me in for rest and camaraderie. A deputy sheriff in Newport, Washington, invited me into his home on the spectacular Pend Oreille River. People in campgrounds shared their food and their stories. A fellow cyclist I met in a bar in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, offered a room for the night, and a WarmShowers.org host couple in Helena, Montana, told me by phone where the key to their house was hidden and welcomed me in, even when they were not home themselves. Conversations in cafes, campgrounds and convenience stores were engaging and entertaining. The list goes on and on. It’s still about the people, and I am grateful to them all.

There are many generous, hospitable people out there, but that fact is hard to realize unless you put yourself out there in a position to receive their generosity. In our society, we lean towards self-sufficiency over dependency. But, although accepting assistance is somewhat outside our typical behavior pattern, it is nonetheless very human and very valuable. It’s a way to truly connect, and I encourage it. I’ll never forget the people who offered help on this trip.

Finally, I think about what effect this little adventure might have on others. Along the way many people asked where I was going, where I had been and why I was doing such a crazy trip. I answered by recounting stories of people, places and experiences. Some thought I was crazy, others were intrigued and yet others said they would love to do a trip like this. Right there is a goal. If this story were to encourage even one person to pursue his or her own adventure, whether by bike or on foot or whatever mode one might choose, for that I would be truly grateful. Do what you love and be open to surprises along the way.

—Jerry Yanz

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Explore world cultures, know the people, color and variety. As Twain reminds us, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.”

—Miriam Roth

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Guanajuato, Mexico

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Call of the Loons
I stand on the dock
Heart-thumping rhythm
Blue-awed mystery
Swirling, raucously back.

—Jocelyn Stein

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Thousands of sandhill cranes gather at sunset on the Platte River. Listening to their ancient chorus is a breathtaking moment!

—Miriam Roth

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There’s a Bird in My Chair

On the other side of the glass, the grey rains.
There’s a bird in my chair.
If I left right now, they would find
a yellow metal car shell,
black vinyl cushions,
my thin papery exoskeleton,
an echo of scratching bird feet,
and two black feathers.

—Jonee Kulman Brigham

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The layers of fog and trees evoke a sense of mystery for me about what lies in the next layer.  We live in fog, it seems, and occasionally get glimpses of how things are.

—Ken Stewart

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Wolf
I said Wrap your arms around my neck
to a wolf
and he did
and I staggered backwards
and he lurched forwards
and then he was free from the quicksand
that protects the east entrance
to the elephants’ graveyard
and a monkey screeched on a high birch branch
and a lion roared
and a Jack Russell Terrier
in a jingle dress
danced in the falling snow

Wolf, I said
it was a dumbass thing
to fall into quicksand
anyone with your knowledge of the Paris subway system
should know that
Girl, he said
I had a hunger deep inside
and the marrow from the thigh bone
of a she elephant
is so filling
as long as she didn’t die
of a broken heart
so I took a calculated risk
Besides, you shouldn’t talk
everyone knows you go out in your jim-jams
to score Oreos at 24-hour convenience store prices

Wolf, I said
you see right through me
Girl, he said
you are a Pyrex measuring cup to me

—Katharine Holden

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Zenith
Immortality
Hotel heaven up on high?
Praise the bird in hand

—Don Lifto

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These ancient ruins in Cambodia evoke many mysteries for me about the eternal quest for enlightenment.

—Ken Stewart

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What happens when we die?

In Aging as a Spiritual Practice, author Lewis Richmond quotes Buddhist teacher Suzuki Roshi, reflecting on the reportedly calm death of the Buddha.  Reflecting on the meaning of death, his words are elegant in their simplicity, counterintuitive and not without evidence to the contrary:  Suzuki reassures, “Don’t worry – nothing happens.”  Nothing happens?  Richmond explains that in the light of Buddhist practice, your last day is essentially just another day.  Of course, logically we understand that something does happen when you die, but what happens and how does this speak to the notion of immortality?

Suzuki continues with his reflections on the meaning of death saying, “Body and mind will both have their end.  The body dies, individuality dies, but there is an aspect—let’s not even call it a something—that has always been there, that will always be there.”  But what is it and does it really exist?  Many Christians would call this “something” the spirit or soul.  If it does exist where does it go when we die – to “Hotel heaven up on high” as the Haiku contemplates?  Or, are my parents and grandparent’s immortality literally alive “Like blood through my veins.” Will my immortality be manifested in the same way, my essence living on through the veins of my children, grandchildren and endless generations to come?

My faith journey has taken me from Episcopalian to Roman Catholic, back to Episcopalian, then off to Martin Luther for a number of years, a brief (and very quiet) six months with the Quakers, before what I believe is a final landing as a Unitarian Universalist.  At the heart of Unitarian Universalism is the need for each seeker to wrestle with these big spiritual questions within the context of seven principles, but in the absence of creed and dogma.  The seven principles and six sources provide a foundation for seeking, alone but together within the faith community.  These spiritual travels continue to move my heart and inform my head in wonderful ways.  My evolving beliefs are what life and death are increasingly drawn to embrace the now.  Poet Robinson Jeffers, whose poem is below, suggests that if there is a spiritual zenith, for some of us it might be here and now.

“It is eternity now.  I am in the midst of it. /It is about me.  In the sunshine. /I am in it, as the butterfly in the light-laden air.  Nothing has to come. It is now. /Now is eternity.  Now is the immortal life.”

—Don Lifto

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Camera, please alter the literal moon.
Find an essence of what I thought I saw-
A glimpse of her mystery.

—Jonee Kulman Brigham

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Montezuma’s Well
At the well,
along the creek,
before the cliff homes,
walking the path,
reading the wall,
I am moving
with ancestral spirits.
They sing
and till the red earth
so She will gift them with
beans and corn and cotton.
Ancestors walk the land
and are in the land,
and know the rabbit,
the creosote,
the mesquite,
the hawk and deer.

They know the moon
and the season’s cycles,
know the portals
where souls and shaman journey.
They sip the sweet well water
and labor stacking stone
to build castles that
cling to the cliff
or perch hawk-like on edges.
They tell their stories
and fill the desert air
with sacred presence
as I walk their path
along the creek
at the cliff
reading their sacred story.

—Miriam Roth

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The ambiguity of trees in fog is somehow appealing  - the visible and the partially visible. How much ambiguity  can we live with?

—Ken Stewart

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The Mystery of Our Inner Landscape

When Michelangelo was asked how he created a piece of sculpture, he answered that the statue already existed within the marble…Michelangelo’s job , as he saw it, was to get rid of the excess marble that surrounded God’s creation. So it is with you. The perfect you isn’t something you need to create, because God already created it…Your job is to allow the Spirit to remove the fearful thinking that surrounds your perfect self. —Marianne Williamson.

Who is that “perfect self”? Our personality, which is created by parents, culture and context, often separates us from our own true nature. It keeps us blocked from parts of ourselves we don’t want to see, because they don’t fit our self-image or perceived personality. But we can open to the inner qualities that are unique to us. It always starts with accepting and loving ourselves even when we start to see our shadow side. Through self-awareness, going into the quiet within and learning to calm the mind, the mystery of who we are starts to unfold. It is a gift to be able to listen within, to be without distraction, and sink into the beauty of being alive. When we stop living from “the shoulds” but start living instead from our deeper selves, we find ourselves on the path that leads us to true joy and freedom. So find your passion, your deepest loves, and make time to follow them. And then connect them with a practice of stillness and reflection so that the mystery of who you are can emerge from the “excess marble” in your life. You are beautiful!

—Becky Myrick

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Photo by Mark Kotz

Mortality: The Practice of Being Alive

Posted by on Oct 29, 2015 in Show Your Soul | 0 comments

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MORTALITY

On the day trees were felled to build our new sanctuary I walked the church grounds saying a quiet benediction over stumps of the oaks that had graced these acres for seventy years.  I swept away sawdust, measured, counted growth rings and took a few photographs with no idea to what end I was doing so.

Three trees I found particularly noteworthy. “Old Warrior” was the gnarled veteran that guarded the old church entrance and for years, did battle with soil compaction, lawnmowers and several errant automobiles.  Ever resilient, it was replaced by a burr oak transplant soon after construction was completed. The second tree, “Office” stood beneath our new workroom where I like to believe it now roots all work done there in the fertile soil of our faith. The third I named “Pulpit.”  It grew very near where our podium now stands and I especially longed to hear the story it had written over its mortal life.

Logs from these trees and their companions were milled into lumber that panels our new entrance and that was skillfully crafted into sanctuary furnishings. We don’t know which board came from which tree but I hear what I believe is “Pulpit’s” story each time we worship.  One board, a distinctively figured piece of red oak faces the congregation beneath the podium microphone. On the left, it carries a jumble of zig-zagged grain that often echoes my own emotions as I enter.  As the service unfolds my soul works to the right through the nineteen years the tree laid down the wood of this board. As time passed the grain changed; it softened and smoothed into a shallow, gently uplifting arc that unmistakably mirrors the curve of the nearby chalice. Though “Pulpit” was once alive, it no longer produces good wood or sweet acorns or fluffy mulch but its story is still being heard; at least I hear it. I wonder if “Pulpit” grew this particular board knowing it would carry its story beyond its own years. Did it know that a minister, a guest, a child or anyone we invite to stand in our pulpit would appear to have their heart held in that last gentle arc, the arc of this congregation? I hope so. I’d gladly settle for knowing my own mortal life’s work told such a story.

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—Dick Haskett
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The Practice of Being Alive

During an October sun drenched morning
I awaken to life as it is,
The cry of a Loon, migrating Geese,
A now quiet lake, morning coffee;
Breakfast alone, you’re gone, meditation:
This afternoon a walk in the woods,
where puffballs show up for dinner
Slowly home to stuff to be attended to -
Later grandchildren’s voices and stories to read,
Dusk settles in and darkness too soon,
Thoughts of the day nourish my sleep
As I dream myself into a new day of wonder..

—Gail Diez

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Oh my goodness, I am sitting here looking out my bay window at the beautiful first snowfall of autumn 2014. It is sooo beautiful! I love it; I feel so­­ calm and soothed, watching as it falls gracefully. It is accumulating on the ground, the bushes, the stalwart red oak leaves. Oh, and the herb garden is covered; I can see the reddish color of the planters. Then there are the eight reddish cedar park benches in various stages of keeping and losing their piles of snow.

Higher Power, Great Spirit, You are so wonderful~~how can you make such Beauty. And the great thing is that You put in me the ability to appreciate such Wonder. You gave me the awe genes. I have tears in my eyes just now by living in the Now and wondering, being wonder-filled, awe-struck by Your calm, soothing Nature.

If You are Everywhere, You are here, in the snow, in the red oak leaves, in the trees across the courtyard with snow laden branches, gently swaying, doing their snow dance. They’re waving to me and You; the branches are saying “Yes, this feels great.” They say the snow kind of tickles as it lands on them and the building up of all those millions of snowflakes on their branches and leaves comforts them, reminds them that this Snow comes each year. They see the snow as satisfying, as part of their year, they are ever ready for it. It cleans their branches; the cool air that allows the snow to stay refreshes the branches. They will need the moisture, come spring, to help make the sap that travels up the tree veins to the branches, which grow their leaves once more. Yet again, Nature takes its course. How lovely is this Masterpiece, this living Masterpiece, the

Masterpiece that keeps me in the Now. Oh, Great Spirit~~Thank you.

—Diane Markel

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Suicides

In the year following my college graduation, several classmates died by suicide, also a high school classmate after returning from a trip to India.

While I was in graduate school in California, a favorite professor named Andy killed himself. Some said he was gay, but he certainly seemed to enjoy flirting with female students.  My Episcopal minister killed himself while having an affair with my roommate.

Another friend named Jane killed herself by jumping out of a tower on campus shortly after earning her Ph.D. and getting a job offer.

My first job was working at an experimental treatment center for young adult schizophrenics.  Two of everyone’s favorite patients killed themselves shortly after leaving the Center.  Though we lived with them, the staff didn’t realize how difficult it was for them to live with themselves.

Middle adulthood seemed to progress more easily among my peers, but the year I turned 50, after returning home to Minnesota, my old boyfriend of graduate school years died from a planned drug overdose.  He had told friends he had a terminal medical condition, but his autopsy revealed he was in fact in excellent health.  He had been emptying his father’s savings accounts, apparently telling himself he would replace the funds, which eventually ran out.

All of these lost souls were attractive, intelligent and loved by those they left.  Still I guess they did not feel they had a place where they could come in, be themselves, touch and be touched, heal and be healed, forgive and be forgiven. Were the invitations not loud enough?  Did depression deafen them?  And now the survivors: can we forgive and be forgiven?

—Ellen Lowery

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Without a map, without a care, we crunched along the fallen carpet of golds and reds like small children enraptured by rustling sounds we could make. We breathed in the freshness of fall and soaked up the warmth of sun on our faces as we gazed in wonder at the sunlit sumac against a blazing blue sky acting as prayer flags for all the worldly woes we’d left behind. —Judy Fawcett

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Thoughts upon pondering the “Homily on Silence for the Feast of St. Benedict.” This brought to mind the six years I spent as a sister at the Benedictine Priory, south of Bismarck, ND where every night we listened in the Great Silence following night prayer, called Compline, until Morning Praise followed by breakfast when we generally broke our fast and broke the silence. 

 

THE GREAT SILENCE 

A lifetime, or two,
Commenced and spent
since the years of the Great Silence!

Deeper inside I go now
Longer I list . . . to you.
Setting aside my ego
For you,
To hear you—listen,
hear it!

I have heard my own heart-
Pain
Someone heard me, list. . . to me.
Took my pain unto her
Held it, gently, like a baby bird.
Curative,
deep listening~~

Respect for me—the wounded,
Injured baby bird.

As I was held, I hold
Passing one to the other—
The Circle of Healing.

The Circle of life.
The healing of wounded.

No longer holding the pain
In silence—I let it
go into the silence of the
Space between us.
She holds my pain~~
Tears in her eyes!
I heal the pain.

From chaotic, shameful silence of
Not telling
To the warmth of silent, loving
Acceptance.

I see me — wounded
I forgive—heal.

I am now comfortable in silence—
Welcome the warmth of self
Acceptance. Self
love
Forgiveness & healing.
Breaking the silence, sharing the
Pain, I walk into the Light of Love.

—Diane Markel

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Photo by Gail Diez

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Like Green Rain

A country graveyard rests among the fields
with little said of lives now gone.

One of the gravestones sprouts new flowers,
columbine and wild daisies
picked from a nearby meadow,
now left in a mason jar,
replaced each day before they wilt.

She comes and bends
and whispers quick words
to the new laid sod,
words she didn’t say enough
when time was sweet
as fresh cut clover in the barn,
where they chased and laughed
between the chores that needed doing,
where love made their work a game
and they were playmates night and day.

Now I wonder if she questions God
about being left so soon
with empty bed and arms.

Or, if her eyes clenched tight as fists
against her pain,
instead will slowly open
like some new spring bud
and spill her tears
like green rain on the ground.

—Jo Ford

Purpose: The Practice of Letting Your Life Speak

Posted by on Sep 30, 2015 in Show Your Soul | 0 comments

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Heart Rocks
by Karen Dahl

The challenge, or invitation, for October is letting your life speak.  My life is about creativity quite simply. When I heard this quote on MPR, it was my life speaking: ‘When life is too big for words it comes out as art.’

—Karen Dahl
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I light a virtual chalice to recognize and deconstruct the dark but real emotion of Loneliness – something every one of us feels, whether we have close friends, a life partner, a warm family, a great community or all of these.  Even if we are healthy, outgoing, strong inside and out and knowingly loved by others, loneliness will pay a call.  For some of us, it comes in momentary visits.  For others it can consume a whole chapter in our lives or define us even more profoundly.  It can cast an overwhelming pall or simply catch us off guard, like when we realize with indescribable sadness that we’re lost without those special ones with whom we shared private jokes or common stories.

Last fall, I took my dog on our daily evening hike through the woods.  Despite the darkness, I had no fear because we know the path so well.  But at some point, I noticed a grayish shadowy figure – too large to be a rabbit – duck into the tall weeds in front of us.  As we neared the spot, my dog stiffened.  Using my phone’s flashlight, I saw a pair of red beady reflections shining back at us.  Though I couldn’t make out its shape, I knew it was a coyote.  “Cool,” I thought!  But as we gingerly passed, I looked back to see it was following us.  Despite my shouting “SHOO!,” it kept on coming, leaving a 30’ gap.  My heart started to race.  After all, no one was around, nor was anyone waiting for us at home.  Who would know if something happened?  I decided to head to a neighbor’s house.  She offered to drive us home but mentioned that a coyote had recently followed her and her small Pomeranian in the twilight.  Given that she didn’t think it was dangerous and that my dog is large, I decided to brave the situation.  We got back on the trail — now cloaked more by a sense of adventure — and made it home safely.  For the next week we took our morning jaunts on the trail, where it felt safe in the light of day; however, we shifted our evening walks to neighborhood streets.  Then one night — when the snow reflected more light — I picked up a hefty walking stick and took back to the trail.  I was alert, armed and ready — but in my mind, I’d already renamed that animal Casper the Friendly Ghost.

Loneliness, like the single coyote, isn’t so dangerous.  But, like a pack animal stalking its prey, it knows how to circle up with self-doubt and self-pity and hive us off from others, seducing us into its dark and hidden lair.  By calling it out in the light of day and recognizing that every single one of us will know the challenging and sometimes desperate feeling of being disconnected – when we as humans yearn to belong – I believe we can minimize the deep power that loneliness has to pull and hold us down.

—Dana Boyle

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When we let our life speak, sometimes it’s like a searchlight in the darkness, guiding us safely home.

—Ken Stewart

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On Purpose

Just keep walking.  Trust
each foot will find the next
flat stone already beneath it.

Your newfound path—
it has been waiting patiently
for a lifetime or more.

—Bill McCarthy

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Night Birds

Night birds have retired.
Small bones collect
under the owl’s tree as
we wait for the dawn.

I have sacrificed
the important parts
without a struggle and
for so little in return.

If only I had known
who I really was
before I became
who I am today

—Bill McCarthy

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Two poems for ___________

Morning ritual

I went downstairs before you got up.
I wanted to sit in the early morning light
with my coffee and orange juice.

I didn’t want to witness once again
how you get up with a slump and a groan
like some humped over Segal figure
depressed to face a new day.

I didn’t want to see this again
to hear you groan and sigh.

I wanted to have my orange juice
in the early morning sun.
I wanted to step into my day
with a “Yes” and a “Yes, I will”
not a “No, I can’t” or a “No, that won’t work.”

 

At the edges

I stayed at the edges of your anger,
the edges of your sour impossibilities,
the bitterness of your mood
the harsh bark of your rebuke,
the tired cynicism of your no’s.

I stayed at the edges, then turned my back
to them and walked toward
a yes, and a
Yes, I will, yes.

—Ken Stewart

 

 

 

 

Home: The Practice of Setting Roots

Posted by on Aug 27, 2015 in Show Your Soul | 0 comments

DreamtownWatercolor by Sheila Moriarty


Dreamtown
Watercolor by Sheila Moriarty

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The Timelessness of Home

When my mind is restless – frequently in the middle of the night – I return home. I stand on the front steps and walk myself through the house I called home from five through age eighteen. The classic three-bedroom rambler was built in the early 1960’s – gold carpet, linoleum flooring, pink ceramic bathroom tile, and eventually wallpaper. On these visits I deliberately walk through this space room by room: the main floor, the basement, the garage, even out into the yard. Sometimes I imagine opening doors, closets and even drawers. I surprise myself at what I can remember, what I see, what I know.

On the south wall of our living room, centered on the top of three shelves, sat a wind-up clock that my dad rescued from a flooded basement. He refinished the wood and a clock smith restored the mechanicals.  For as long as he lived, he wound it daily. It gonged on the half hour, and again on the hour. I listen for the tick-tock.

Time has passed, decades and decades, in fact.  But the familiarity of the sights and sounds surface quickly, particularly the reliable rhythm of that clock. I am home. And I rest.

—Margo Melting-Nelson

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Where Is the Center, Then?

Where is the center, then?
Is it the place where soul puts up its feet,
closes its eyes,
and knows no harm will come?
If so, when such a place is found,
soul sits down,
is home.

—Ann Bushnell

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This is a photo of the clock from my childhood home referenced in the written submission The Timelessness of Home.  The memory of this sound anchors me.

—Margo Melting-Nelson

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Veins

Like blood through my veins
Rivers run through fertile plains
Webs of life flowing

Do you believe in eternal life after death?

I do… but maybe not in the way you might expect for an Episcopalian turned Catholic turned Lutheran turned Quaker turned Unitarian Universalist.

And so it is true that every beat of my heart pumps blood through my veins, replete with genetic etchings painted by ancestors known and unknown.  I am one of a kind, featuring complex codes of DNA molecules, inherited from my father, Richard Henry Lifto, and his ancestors going back in time, generation after generation, to France the likes of Jacques Le Hericher from Louvetot, Normandie.

And so it is true that every beat of my heart pumps blood through my veins, replete with genetic etchings painted by ancestors known and unknown.  I am one of a kind, featuring complex codes of DNA molecules, inherited from my mother, Betty Jane Turner, and her ancestors going back in time, generation after generation, to England the likes of Idell Hastings.

We know that there is life before death, but I believe there is also life after death.  Those who came before me are forever alive in my DNA, like rivers through fertile plains.  And even though I will die one day, I will be still be alive, my DNA forever animate in the venous tunnels of Zachary, Morgan, Adam, Kaia, Shea, Cree, and countless more to come. Each spasm of their left ventricles will propel me on a wild, rollercoaster ride through their veins and the souls of family members still unborn.

I do believe in eternal life after death.  As the Haiku proclaims, “Webs of life flowing” – always and forever…

—Don Lifto

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Spirit Tree 2


Spirit Tree

 ROOTS OF BELONGING

My home is built upon a garden surrounded by lifegiving water. Over 50 years my life like a tree has grown deep roots connecting me to husband, children, grandchildren, birds, rocks, trees and fruits of the garden. These roots of belonging become stronger and deeper the longer I live. Looking back now how was I to know that these connections would soon become one with my body and my heart.

—Gail Diez

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Leafless Tree

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Making it Safely Home

 This last Sunday, as I sat throughout the day and waited for my son to arrive at our doorstep from Portland, Oregon, I thought to myself how much a symbol of Christmas and the holidays this waiting is.  I paced the floor, looked out the window, looked at the map, calculated the driving time from Bozeman where he spent the previous night, and waited.  I must have checked the weather maps a dozen times.  What about that big storm brewing out in the Pacific?  What about those icy conditions in the mountains?  There is just so much that a worried father can find to occupy his obsessive thoughts as he waits and prays. Will he drive with his lights on?  Will he pull over and rest if he gets tired? Will he let his buddy, Dan, drive if he gets tired?  And why hasn’t he called home today, or last night?

If I had my way, he would have a cellular phone in his car and would call home every 200 miles.  Its just so hard for me to trust the things I cannot control.  He may be 19 and full of testosterone and energy, but I am just an older version of the same model.  And my body quakes at the invisible air and realizes that it cannot drive the car or ensure the safety of one of the persons I love the most.  I’d like to, believe me.  (So would my wife.  After all, I’m not alone in this.)  Although we don’t talk too much about our worries, we both make our own private calculations about his estimated time of arrival, and plan our emotional clocks accordingly.   I am morbid enough, and worried enough, that I can easily imagine accidents.  But I find it somewhat more difficult to imagine him walking through the door at the time I expect him.  I try to make sure that the fleeting images of accidents do not linger very long in my overactive imagination.  And for the most part, I am successful.  I occupy myself with the Sunday paper; watch a football game, and grade papers.  It helps, but not much.  But for some reason, I calm down over the course of the day, and even allow my estimation of his time of arrival to coincide with the time that supper might be ready.  My wife gets everything ready to throw together at the last minute, and we continue to wait.  When he doesn’t arrive at 7pm, the earliest we expected him, we both shrug and figure it could be later – sure it could be.  By 9pm I have thrown a huge log on the fire and expect a long wait.  I consider giving up my vigil and go downstairs to watch TV to get my mind off things.  When I am finally downstairs and engrossed in the tube, I hear the front door open and I hear voices and the tone of delight in  my wife’s voice.  I run upstairs and there he is: Acting cool.  Casually detached.  And home. Safe. Sound. Alive. In one piece.  Hugged.  Smiled at.  And safe.  Welcome home, son.

—Ken Stewart

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Topophilia

Topophilia is a Greek word that means love of place. The term suggests that we carry within ourselves familiar sights, sounds, and images that, once recognized, give us a sense of belonging. No matter where we go or how far we travel, this internal checklist keeps pointing to things that make us comfortable. A particular geography calls us: ocean, mountains, prairies.

I think that the place we do call home is more than landscape or topography. It is the place where the social, political, and human history of a people fits with our own story. It is the texture of the friendships we form while we live together in one particular place. It is that feeling we have been welcomed and that we can welcome others. It is the knowing we are part of a community where people call each other neighbor.

—Sheila Moriarty

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In the end, nature will out, rooting us deeply to itself: Welcome home.

—Ken Stewart

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