Tuesday, December 7, 2010

For so the Children Come -- Tandy Scheffler

Last Sunday, during “Connections”, our 11 a.m. middle hour on Sundays, I circled up with five parents in one corner of the Social Hall for our monthly “The Art of Unitarian Universalist Parenting” session. The topic du jour was “Winter Holidays.” We began with Sophia Lyon Fahs’s “For so the Children Come:”

For so the children come, and so they have been coming.
Always in the same way they come, born of the seed of man and woman.
No angels herald their beginnings. No prophets predict their future courses.
No wise men see a star to show where to find a babe that will save humankind.
Yet each night a child is born is a holy night.

Fathers and mothers—sitting beside their children’s cribs—
Feel glory in the sight of a new life beginning.
They ask, “Where and how will this new life end? Or will it ever end?”
Each night a child is born is a holy night—
A time for singing, a time for wondering, a time for worshipping.

These words capture how my own theology has changed. The Christmas of my childhood was about the Christ Child’s miraculous birth. The Christmas of my middle-age is about Every Child’s miraculous birth. At this darkest time of year, it makes sense to me to celebrate birth--the emergence from the darkness of the womb into the light of life. On Christmas Eve, I celebrate the magic and wonder of Jesus’s birth, knowing that it represents, for me, the magic and wonder of birth universal.
Others in our group spoke of how powerful they find our church’s annual Winter Solstice Service—to sit in a circle in darkness and await the return of light is to connect with our ancestors and honor the natural cycle of human experience. They join themselves to an unending circle and know wholeness.

But winter and the winter holidays are a complicated time of year, fraught with pitfalls and challenges. We talked about missing loved ones who are no longer alive and feeling homesick when parents are no longer married. We explored depression born of the shrinking sunlight and expanding to-do lists of the season. As we shared stories of our own winter struggles, we acknowledged that such struggles are part of the natural cycle of life, both for us and for our children.

What is it we wish for our children when they come to their own inevitable times of darkness?

We agreed that we want them to believe in their own inner strength—their light—ever present, even in the darkest of times. We want them, in the darkest of times, to be able to reach out and be with others, however hard. We want for them to know that light grows when shared.

What we want for them is faith and hope. The darkest day marks the beginning of the growing light.

And how do we pass transmit these “passwords” to our children?

We live them ourselves. We find and claim and celebrate our own inner light. We share our gifts with the world. We let our lights shine. We push ourselves to reach out to others, even when what we really want to do is pull the covers over our heads. We keep on keeping on, step by step. We orient ourselves to the light. We sing. We worship. We wonder.

Our small efforts do matter. Standing on the Side of Love is contagious. This winter holiday and in all the winters to come, may it be so.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Faith Formation at 11 AM Sunday Morning

Two months into our 11 a.m. Sunday Faith Formation Groups for all Ages, we have six young people’s groups and five adult groups meeting each week, with an additional parenting group that meets on first Sundays. All groups are led by two co-facilitators each week, and most use curriculum developed by the Unitarian Universalist Association, adapted for our Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church context. Because having numerous Adult Faith Formation Groups is still so new for us, here is an overview.

Every week we offer “WELCOME,” a gathering for first time visitors.

Every week, we offer one of the following “BEGIN” sessions on a rotating basis, so that each session is offered roughly once a month. These sessions were initially intended for relative newcomers but folks who have been in the church for quite some time have attended and found them very informative and enlightening. Everyone is welcome.

1. Where do we come from? (UU history)
1. How do we grow in faith? (UU Religious Education)
2. How do we live in the world? (UU Social Justice)
3. How are decisions made? (UU Polity)

We have a third gathering each week, one of the six “GROW” sessions listed below. This series is intended for those who have been in the church awhile but have not been involved in much religious education other than perhaps the BEGIN sessions listed above. Each GROW session allows participants to sample a particular curricula that we recommend for ongoing groups. At the conclusion of each GROW session, the facilitators pass around a sign-up sheet for those who are interested in forming an ongoing group using the curriculum that was sampled that day. The form asks people to identify their best days and times to meet. When six or more people sign up for the same curriculum and can meet at the same time, we find co-leaders and form a new “DEEPEN” group.

1. Non Violent or Compassionate Communication
2. Spiritual Practice
3. Social Justice
4. “What do I mean when I say I am a UU?”
5. Discovering our Personal Gifts
6. Learn, Serve, Care—Home Groups

The next step on our Adult Faith Formation Path, “DEEPEN” is for going deeper into a given topic or practice with a group that meets together on an ongoing basis, over time. Our most recent “DEEPEN” group, “Spirit in Practice,” just started in November (the result of people signing up for more at the conclusion of a Spiritual Practice session in the “GROW” series.) All groups are open to anyone who would like to join in at any time.

1. Afterthoughts and Preview—every Sunday
2. Spirit in Practice—every Sunday
3. The Art of Unitarian Universalist Parenting—first Sundays of each month

To date: 69 adults have attended at least one 11 a.m. Adult Faith Formation session.
27 volunteers have co-facilitated one or more sessions.
Average attendance: 20 participants.
Nov. 7 was our highest attendance to date w/ 35 participants.

This is a snapshot of 11 a.m. Sundays, at age two months. What we have accomplished, thus far, has been possible because of the cooperation, patience, vision, presence, persistence, and skills of the team of co-facilitators. My deep gratitude to them. They are:

Marty Adler-Jasny
Gina Grubb
Harold Waddle
David Holt
Carl Bretz
Sarah Johnson
Claudia Earhart
David Savoie
Linda Shissler
Judy Bocknek
Brenda Parker
Anne Scott
Jen Stark
JoAnn Garrett
Liz Peelle
April Dixon
Annie Golson
Ernie Burress
Martin Bauer
Angelina Carpenter
Martha Deaderick
Trish Holst
Donna Bass
Robin Toth
Anne Parks Johnson

This 11 a.m. hour is a work in progress as we continue to build a “Learning Community which fosters the lifelong development of spiritual and ethical Unitarian Universalists” (Goal 2 of the Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church Long Range Plan.) The Adult Faith Formation Team members are listed below. They welcome new members of the team as well as any and everyone’s suggestions and support in shaping adult faith formation opportunities for the congregation.

David Savoie, chair
Ann Ragan, secretary
April Dixon
Robin Toth
Peter Lorenz
Kim Kasten
Linda Shissler

In faithful and fruitful partnership,

Tandy Scheffler, Director of Faith Formation
11/14/ 2010

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


As I packed for New Orleans and the 2010 LREDA Fall Conference, the annual gathering of Unitarian Universalist religious educators from the United States and Canada, I tucked in work gloves, ball cap, and aging athletic shoes tucked. I was eager to finally put in some work-service time post-Katrina.

When I picked up my registration packet at the conference hotel, I learned that my assignment was "Education." Our group was to help with a book drive project for "Liberation through Education," a non-profit organization that "assists educators by inspiring children to develop personal identity, strong values, and social skills."

The first morning of the conference I boarded a bus along with eighteen or so others. At our first destination, we learned that the location for our project had changed. We headed for a second address. When we got there, we were all a bit puzzled. We had stopped at the driveway of a large brick home in an upscale older neighborhood.

We had arrived at the home of the founder/director of "Liberation through Education's." Carolyn Stowe greeted us and welcomed us onto the expansive covered patio of her home. Large porch fans whirred overhead, and we could see the backyard swimming pool through the arched patio openings. A number of computers were set up at a large dining room table. Plastic bins filled with books sat on the floor nearby. Boxes were stacked along a couple of the back walls.

Carolyn graciously opened her home to us, inviting us to please make ourselves at home. She had prepared drinks and snacks, and had made pralines for us. A very warm and vibrant person, Carolyn came alive telling us about her own childhood and her mission to help at-risk children break the cycle of lack of education and poverty, as she and one of her brothers had been fortunate enough to do. She shared how, as a child, being singled out for hand-outs had made her feel shamed, but information had made her feel empowered. When she was in sixth grade, everyone in her class received dental floss and instructions in how and why to use it. Carolyn had never seen floss before, but she took it home and thus began a lifetime of good dental hygiene. In her own words, "(I) was able to overcome the social stigmas and cyclical paths I was groomed to succumb to."

I am an educator with fourteen years' experience in the public schools and many additional years as a volunteer tutor and "Big Sister." I have witnessed and worried over the vast disparity in children's home-life and therefore their opportunities. I have struggled with what more we need to do to effectively bridge this gap in our classrooms. "Liberation through Education," with their slogan "ProCURING SOCIAL skILLS," made so much sense to me.

Our band of eighteen or so, sorted books by age groups and catalogued them, in preparation for a Book Giveaway event. We stayed just a few hours with Carolyn and her family, during which we also shared conversation and lunch. We worked solidly, but I cannot say I broke a sweat or even that my hands were grimy or tired. I had a lovely time. When we left, Carolyn and her children even gave each of us a treat bag to take home!

I admit that at first I was disappointed to have had a lovely time, not to have broken a sweat or gotten my hands dirty. Upon reflection, I realized that my disappointment says much more about me than it does about the conference planning. That was my stuff....my image of what service in New Orleans OUGHT to look like....my grandiose idea of what I was there to do.

Upon reflection, I believe I had just the experience I needed. I had the good fortune to meet someone whose LifeWork addresses a societal challenge that has deeply concerned me and was instrumental in my choice of profession nearly forty years ago--offering each child a fair chance to become a contributing member of society. I was reminded rather convincingly that those who wish to be of service need to do these things: let go preconceived notions, show up, pay attention, and be willing to do the work before us, whatever it is. It makes no difference if we find ourselves in a lovely home or a run-down school or a community garden. It all needs doing.

I said that I would come back from New Orleans changed, and I have. I have eaten, digested, and taken into my being some very nutritious "humble pie" (along with some great fresh seafood.) And I am more convinced than ever that we can make a difference in this world, one small step at a time, working together, as long as we are open to doing whatever it is that needs doing.

~Tandy Scheffler

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Music We Make Together

By the time you read this I will be in New Orleans, attending the annual conference of Unitarian Universalist professional religious educators from across the United States and Canada. This is my first visit to post-Katrina New Orleans. I am excited to finally see for myself what has been, is being, and still needs to be done there.

This conference is entitled "Transforming the Jericho Road." As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said to Andrew Young, according to John Hope Bryant, "I am tired of picking up people along the Jericho Road. I am tired of seeing people battered and bruised and bloody, injured and jumped on, along the Jericho Roads of life. This road is dangerous. I don't want to pick up anyone else along this Jericho Road. I want to fix...the Jericho Road. I want to pave the Jericho Road, add street lights to the Jericho Road; make the Jericho Road safe (for passage) by everybody."

This is a different conference from the previous ten or so LREDA Fall Conferences I have attended in my tenure as this church's religious educator. We religious educators are not going to sit in a cavernous conference room and soak up the wisdom of a renowned presenter or presenters. No. We are, instead, going to get out into New Orleans and work. We are going to do what we can do together and then reflect on what we have done in a small group of eight to twelve people. Experiential learning. Service Learning. These are terms for this sort of learning. It is my own preferred learning style. It is the learning method used in Clinical Pastoral Education, such as my summer chaplaincy at the University of Tennessee Medical Center. It is what our "Faith in Action" 3rd -5th grade group did this past Sunday when they visited the Ecumenical Storehouse to deliver donations from our church and to stock the shelves. It is religious education at its most authentic and effective.

I plan to bring back to you what I learn. I will have stories. Stories of New Orleans, of inclusivity, of making a difference, of failure and disappointment, of hope. I plan to come back to you changed--someone for whom a veil has been lifted. I plan to bring back to you a stronger vision of how to "weave social action, worship, and learning into a seamless garment, worn by the congregation (church's long range plan)." I plan to come back with ideas that help this congregation grow into our potential. We say we "sing a song of Beloved Community (church's vision statement)", and I say that is true. But I also say we can sing much more loudly, much more boldly, and much more harmoniously--much more in tune with our surroundings and our times. I say there is some "soul music" in us that is yet to be sung. We need to sing out!

Now, I love to sing and I am an okay singer, but I am no soloist...well, maybe in the shower. I suspect that most of you are in a similar singing situation. But that's okay. It's the music we can make TOGETHER that is the real song. I look forward to sharing what I've seen and done and learned that can help us "sing a song of Beloved Community" and "weave social action, worship and learning into a seamless garment." Meanwhile, keep those singing muscles in shape!

My son Sam's 3rd grade teacher closed each school day with "Miss you 'til tomorrow!" I'll piggyback on that-- "Miss you 'til next week!"

In faithful and fruitful partnership,

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Thoughts from Tandy Scheffler

“Religion is like sexuality: if you don't teach your children about it, they will learn it on the street.” ~Rev. Dr. Tony Larson, Unitarian Universalist minister

Last Sunday, I circled up with three moms for our first “The Art of Unitarian Universalist Parenting” Sunday 11 a.m. session. We began by sharing one thing we learned from our parents when we were children and they our primary religious educators (as all parents of children are.) Here is some of what we said. We learned to live by ethical principles--how to be fair and generous people who work for the larger good. We learned the practice of church going--that church is what we do together as a family on Sundays and we go to remind us of who and whose we are. We learned that religion is something we can make up our own mind about. We all agreed that what our parents taught us they taught by who they were and what they did more than by what they said.

In Michelle Richards's book Tending the Flame, she shares a story from family educator Bill Doherty. When Bill's son was seven, he asked what happens to us after we die. Being a former Catholic fleeing dogmatism, Bill feared imposing his own beliefs, so he said, “Well, some people believe that after we die, we go to heaven forever. Other people believe that when we die, our life is over, and we live on through the memories of people who have known and loved us.” The son was not so easily satisfied: “But what do YOU believe, Dad?” After additional sidestepping, Bill finally admitted that he believes we live on in the memories of those who loved us, to which his son replied, “Well, I'll believe what you believe for now, and when I grow up, I'll make up my own mind.”

Children NEED to know what their parents believe. This is a documented developmental step in faith formation. First, we catch our beliefs from our family. Later, we examine those beliefs and form our own conclusions. Sharing beliefs is not indoctrination; it is meeting children where they are developmentally and providing appropriate guidance. Just as we guide our children to make ethical choices, so we provide our children with a foundational understanding of the meaning and mystery of life.

This means that, as parents, we need to get comfortable with what we believe about the big questions of life. What happens when we die? Why is there war? Who was Jesus? Why are there so many different religions? Does God exist? What do we mean by “God”?

This means that we need to get comfortable with intentionally sharing our faith—naming the compass points that guide our lives and give us direction and purpose—that higher good to which we are faithful.

This means that we need to attend to our own faith formation. We need to grow and nurture our own souls.

I invite you to make our “Art of Unitarian Universalist Parenting” circle larger by joining us when next we meet at 11 a.m. on Nov. 5. (every first Sunday of the month.) I hope you will attend other faith formation sessions, as you are able. The overarching goal of every gathering is to help each person grow deeper and find their way to a “home” in a church group. It might be in the small group that meets on Thursday evenings. Or possibly in the choir, or on the Adult Faith Formation Team or Memorial Committee. Or a group newly formed to explore spiritual practices together. Whatever group it turns out to be, may that group be comprised of fellow seekers journeying in community—learning together, caring for each other, and being of service to others.

May it be so. Amen and Blessed be.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Scarlet Cord

This is an inspirational poem by Tom Hoornstra, Keweenaw UU Fellowship, Houghton, MI, who attended our Celebration Service at the UUA-GA. He was inspired after hearing our Celebration Service.

Scarlet Cord

How often I’ve seen it: God’s secret servants,
guardian angels, some of them human;
the saving stroke, the outstretched hand,
the line flung to save the drowning man;
the cord strung across a Jericho doorway,
marking the ones set aside for protection;
the scarlet streak on Israel’s dwellings,
the five scarlet wounds flowing rivers of healing,
the signs of His covenant-love on the altar,
seals of betrothal, standing to witness:
“This one is mine, and noone may touch them!”

And there is a River faithfully flowing
down through the years of my life’s many seasons,
like a thread running through a tapestry, weaving,
binding the wounds and stitching the edges,
the ripped, ragged seams, the gaps in-between
these striving attempts and sad incompletions,
the things I did and my heart’s real intentions;
A touch of grace when I least expect it,
a song in the night, the words of a poet,
the music contained in a reddening sunset;
a face in the crowd, the smile of a sister,
the soft, secret force which binds us together.

And so I have found that it’s not by compulsion,
nor by decree, nor force of persuasion,
doctrines, religions, organizations
that a heart is redeemed and bound to another,
but by covenant-love, faithful, persistent,
the gentle betrothal of spirit to spirit.
Prophet of old, truly you saw it…

“Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit”,
says the Lord Almighty. Zech. 4:6

The grace we can experience when we’re emptied enough, transparent enough in our feeling and perception, to see the beauty in one another and in Creation all around us, and so walk in the harmony, grace, and blessedness of that beauty.

Dear Oak Ridge UU's,

I attended, and loved, your improvisational worship at GA. The music and message struck some chords with my own experience, as expressed in poetry: see Attached.

Tom Hoornstra, Keweenaw UU Fellowship, Houghton, MI.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Inspiration for April

Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle.

The world you desired can be won. It exists, it is real, it is possible, it is yours.

Ayn Rand
Russian-born American Author

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Repaying Gratitude

“To the generous mind the heaviest debt is that of gratitude, when it is not in our power to repay it.”

--Benjamin Franklin

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Experience the Miraculous

The truth is, we don’t need to expect a miracle to experience the miraculous. Life itself is a miracle. Our very being is predicated against impossible odds, odds infinitely more daunting than winning the lottery. Going back to the very first human beings, all our ancestors lived to puberty, chose the only mate they could have chosen for us to exist, made love at the only possible moment and united the only possible sperm and egg to keep our tenuous prospects alive. Then go back a billion years further, all the way to the ur-paramecium. And back billions of years before that, hedging the earth’s bet on the combustion of gasses and the pinball of stars. A single, unbroken thread connects us to the very moment of creation. The Universe was pregnant with us when it was born.

Rev. Forrest Church, UU 21st Century

Raise Your Arms to the Skies

There is guidance for each of us, and by lowly listening, we shall hear the right word. Certainly there is a right for you that needs no choice on your part. Place yourself in the middle of the stream of power and wisdom which flows into your life. Then, without effort, you are impelled to truth and to perfect contentment.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson, 19th-Century

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was,
"Thank You,"
that would suffice.

—Meister Eckhart, 14th-Century,
German Philosopher

Let us pray to the God

Let us pray to the God who holds us in the hollow of his hands — to the God who holds us in the curve of her arms — to the God whose flesh is the flesh of hills and hummingbirds and angleworms — whose skin is the color of an old black woman and a young white man, and the color of the leopard and the grizzly bear and the green grass snake — whose hair is like the aurora borealis, rainbows, nebulae, waterfalls, and a spider's web — whose eyes sometime shine like the evening star, and then like fireflies, and then again like an open wound — whose touch is both the touch of life and the touch of death — and whose name is everyone's, but mostly mine.

And what shall we pray? Let us say,
"Thank you."

Rev. Max A. Coots, 21st Century UU


When the mind knows, we call it knowledge.
When the heart knows, we call it love.
When the being knows, we call it prayer.

Osho, 20th-Century Indian Mystic

An Accounting Of Gratitude
The grateful soul of the wise person is the true altar of God.

I say to myself: Be thankful.

Be thankful for the happiness you have known in times past, the moments of mirth and ecstasy, the years of health. How many of your dreams have come true; promises, long deferred, have so often at last been made good.

Be thankful for the dearness of your loved ones, the fidelity of your friends, the courtesy and kindness repeatedly shown you by total strangers.

Be thankful that your fears have again and again proven groundless, that you have survived so many close calls, so many narrow escapes; and that the same good fortune has generally followed your children in their misadventures, and your friends likewise.

Be thankful not only for the joys that have accompanied your way, and the unnumbered gifts of a kindly providence. Master the harder art of gratitude for life’s sterner lessons. You have known pain, pain that has given you warning of unseen dangers. You have known failure, failure that shattered false hopes of easy victory, and toughened your spirit for renewed efforts. Having made mistakes, you have learned important lessons. Having encountered obstacles, you have found courage and endurance to surmount them. Having known sorrow and loneliness, you have discovered that even these have quickened your sympathy, and taught you your need of others.

Be thankful, then, that so much you have not sought and would have by-passed if you could, nonetheless has proved enriching to your experience. Even in life’s dark labyrinthine ways and bitter moments, the person of faith and hope can trace the workings of a mysterious wisdom, and impartial providence, a more than human love.

—Philo Judaeus, First-Century, Jewish Philosopher and Historian

Friday, February 5, 2010


In February, We Revere

This month, as we focus on experiencing wonder — of the earth around us, of the beauty in even these cold, rainy days of winter — we also celebrate and cherish love — of our partners, of our friends, of our children, and of our church. Langston Hughes poem, “Wealth,” resounds with reverence of goodness, kindness and love:

From Christ to Ghandi
Appears this truth —
St. Francis of Assisi
Proves it, too:
Goodness becomes grandeur
Surpassing might of kings.
Halos of kindness
Brighter shine
Than crowns of gold,
And brighter
Than rich diamonds
The simple dew
Of Love.

Love, as simple and beautiful as drops of dew, is more wondrous than all the riches of the world. Let us cherish the ones who bring love to our lives. Let us focus on reverence towards the divine, the earth, and each other, as the song “What Wondrous Love Is This” reminds us. Let us find, as Jane Kenyon does in her poem, the secret porch of heat and light where the green moss grows in the midst of winter. — Margaret Hoff


Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.
John Milton

Ethics is nothing else than reverence for life.
Albert Schweitzer

Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.
Henry David Thoreau

Fullness of knowledge always means some understanding of the depths of our ignorance; and that is always conducive to humility and reverence.
Robert Millikan

Worship means reverence and humility it means revering your real self and humbling delusions.

Sacred Love

The minute I heard my first love story
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.

Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere.
They’re in each other all along.

The moment I have realized God sitting in the temple of every human body, the moment I stand in reverence before every human being and see God in him - that moment I am free from bondage, everything that binds vanishes, and I am free.
Swami Vivekananda

That sense of sacredness, that thinking in generations, must begin with reverence
for this earth.
Paul Tsongas

Revere Minute Gifts

Depression in Winter

There comes a little space between the
south side of a boulder
and the snow that fills the woods around it.
Sun heats the stone, reveals
a crescent of bare ground: brown ferns,
and tufts of needles like red hair,
acorns, a patch of moss, bright green....

I sank with every step up to my knees,
throwing myself forward with a violence
of effort, greedy for unhappiness—
until by accident I found the stone,
with its secret porch of heat and light,
where something small could luxuriate, then
turned back down my path, chastened
and calm.
—Jane Kenyon

Revere Friendship, Revere Love

What Wondrous Love Is This
What wondrous love is this,
O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this
That brings my heart such bliss
And takes away the pain of my soul, of my soul
And takes away the pain of my soul

When I was sinking down,
Sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down
Beneath my sorrows ground,
Friends to me gather’d round,
O my soul, O my soul,
Friends to me gather’d round, O my soul

To love and to all friends, I will sing, I will sing,
To love and to all friends, I will sing
To love and to all friends who
Pain and sorrow mend,
With thank unto the end I will sing, I will sing,
With thanks until to the end I will sing.

American Folk Hymn,
New words by Connie Campbell Hart, UUA

Revere Life, Wonderful Life

An Old Cracked Tune
My name is Solomon Levi,
the desert is my home,
my mother's breast was thorny,
and father I had none.

The sands whispered, Be separate,
the stones taught me, Be hard.
I dance, for the joy of surviving,
on the edge of the road.
-Stanley Kunitz


The air vibrated
with the sound of cicadas
on those hot Missouri nights after sundown
when the grown-ups gathered on the
wide back lawn,
sank into their slung-back canvas chairs
tall glasses of iced tea beading in the heat

and we sisters chased fireflies
reaching for them in the dark
admiring their compact black bodies
their orange stripes and seeking antennas
as they crawled to our fingertips
and clicked open into the night air.

In all the days and years that have followed,
I don't know that I've ever experienced
that same utter certainty of the goodness of life
that was as palpable
as the sound of the cicadas on those nights:

my sisters running around with me in the dark,
the murmur of the grown-ups' voices,
the way reverence mixes with amazement
to see such a small body
emit so much light.
Julie Cadwallader-Staub

Through Science, We Revere Nature

Science is not about control. It is about cultivating a perpetual condition of wonder in the face of something that forever grows one step richer and subtler than our latest theory about it. It is about reverence, not mastery.
Richard Powers

In every true searcher of Nature there is a kind of religious reverence, for he finds it impossible to imagine that he is the first to have thought out the exceedingly delicate threads that connect his perceptions.
Albert Einstein

A religion old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the universe as revealed by modern science, might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths. Sooner or later, such a religion will emerge.
Dr. Carl Sagan

Check out uuworld.org: Why Unitarian Universalists Need a Language of Reverence

Title: uuworld.org : Why Unitarian Universalists Need a Language of Reverence
Link: http://gotaf.socialtwist.com/redirect?l=-690311960065158561011

"I see at least three different purposes for which we might find a language of reverence useful: to respond in the moment to our experiences of awe and communion; to describe those experiences to others; and to solicit such experiences, both in ourselves and in others." - Kendyl Gibbons

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

In January, We Resolve To Grow

In January, we are given the gift of new beginnings with a new year. Many of us choose to start anew and improve our lives. We resolve to eliminate unhealthy habits, to loose our sluggish ways, to reduce the clutter of our busy lives, to shed our materialistic ways. We resolve to spend our time more wisely, to contribute more of our talents, time, and love to the world around us, to work for justice, deepen our wisdom and bring new meaning into our lives.

In January we resolve to grow: spiritually, mentally, and communally. As much of nature is in hibernation, we will begin to sprout new growth beneath the brown leaves of the winter forest. We promise, to ourselves and each other, to unfurl new strengths, responsibilities and enlightenment. As we resolve to grow — to expand our boundaries and stretch our tentacles up and outwards, reaching for the bright blue skies — we also resolve to burst into blossom.

Resolve to Be Radiant

Vow to be valiant;
Resolve to be radiant;
Determine to be dynamic;
Strive to be sincere;
Aspire to be attuned.
 —William Arthur Ward

Resolve to be thyself: and know, that he
Who finds himself, loses his misery.
Matthew Arnold

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

Courage is a moral quality; it is not a chance gift of nature, like an aptitude for games. It is a cold choice between two alternatives; the fixed resolve not to quit, an act of renunciation that must be made not once but many times by the power of the will.
Richard John McMoran Wilson

Resolve is Faith

Religion is our human response to the dual reality of being alive and having to die. Knowing we are going to die not only places an acknowledged limit upon our lives, it also gives a special intensity and poignancy to the time we are given to live and love. The fact that death is inevitable gives meaning to our love, for the more we love the more we risk losing. Love’s power comes in part from the courage required to give ourselves to that which is not ours to keep: our spouses, children, parents, dear and cherished friends, even life itself. It also comes from the faith required to sustain that courage, the faith that life, howsoever limited and mysterious, contains within its margins, often at their very edges, a meaning that is deceptive.
F. Forrester Church

A mature faith is honest; of one piece. It is lived. It is not just a set of boundaries and pietisms. It is a serious effort to conduct life according to principles and ideals. It is emotional; heart-swelling. It is even naïve. In spite of uncertainty, it does not rule out leaps of faith. Finally, it is free, not bound by tradition, inheritance, geography or the passing parade.
Jack Mendelsohn, UU minister

I Have A Dream

During this month of resolve, we remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his life’s work towards justice. Below is an excerpt from his speech, I Have a Dream, delivered August 28, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. As we resolve to better this world, King’s words resonate with courage, faith and promise towards a better future. When it appears that this world is hopeless, that all things are stacked against love and justice, Dr. King reminded us to have faith and to continue to work towards the integrity of humanity.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends. Even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

…With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride, From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania. Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Blessed Are Those

Blessed are those who yearn for deepening more than escape; who are not afraid to grow in spirit.

Blessed are those who take seriously the bonds of community; who regularly join in celebration and learning; who come as much to minister as to be ministered unto.

Blessed are those who bring their children; who invite their friends to come along, to join in fellowship, service, learning, and growth.

Blessed are those who support the church and its work by their regular, sustained, and generous giving; and who give of themselves no less than their money.

Blessed are those who know that the church is often imperfect, yet rather than harbor feelings of anger or disappointment, bring their concerns and needs to the attention of the church leaders.

Blessed are those who when asked to serve, do it gladly; who realize that change is brought about through human meeting, who do the work of committees, and stay till the end.

Blessed are those who speak their minds in meeting, who can take and give criticism; who keep alive their sense of humor.

Blessed are those who know that the work of the church is the transformation of society; who have a vision of Beloved Community transcending the present, and who do not shrink for controversy, sacrifice, or change.

Blessed are they indeed.

John Buehrens, Reading #728

Sunday, November 1, 2009

In November, We Receive

As we move from October — Release, to November — Receive, let us focus on everyday inspirations and let us be receptive to gifts, however they may appear to us.

In the act of daily living, it can be difficult to observe the surrounding abundance — to gracefully and consciously receive the blessings that have been given to us. In life’s daily grind, we often forget to realize our wealth, be it monetary or spiritual or are not as appreciative of our friendships, family, and communities as we would like. Often, we forget to recognize the warmth of the sunshine, the soothing quality of the rain, the magic of the fall foliage. This November, traditionally a time of gratitude, let us be inspired by the magnitude of the earth’s bounty, the plethora of the harvest. Let us celebrate the ancient traditions of harvest moons and gatherings in joyous thanksgiving — let us graciously and knowingly receive the gifts that have been bestowed upon our lives.

Margaret Hoff

Receive Help

Receiving help, gifts, or wisdom can often be difficult — sometimes it is not easy to admit our needs. In October, as we released what we did not need, we created a space within our souls and now we have room enough to receive the blessings around us.


You always belonged here.
You were theirs, certain as a rock.
I’m the one who worries
if I fit in with the furniture
and the landscape.

                        But I “follow too much
the devices and desires of my own heart.”

Already the curves in the road
are familiar to me, and the mountain
in all kinds of light,
treating all people the same.
And when I come over the hill,
I see the house, with its generous
and firm proportions, smoke
rising gaily from the chimney.
I feel my life start up again,

like a cutting when it grows
the first pale and tentative
root hair in a glass of water.

Jane Kenyon

May Our Ears Be Open

Each morning we must hold out the chalice of our being to receive, to carry, and to give back.
Dag Hammarskjold

God, may our ears be open to little birds who are the secret of living, may we take time to see flowers and people for the beauty they are, may we make room in our lives for one another.
Richard F. Boeke

When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears.
Anthony Robbins

Each day offers us the gift of being a special occasion if we can simply learn that as well as giving, it is blessed to receive with grace and a grateful heart.
Sarah Ban Breathnach

Receive Inspiration


Daylight, full of small dancing particles
and the one great turning, our souls
are dancing with you, without feet, they dance.
Can you see them when I whisper in your ear?

Jelaluddin Rumi, 1207-1273


You’re song,
a wished-for song.

Go through the ear to the center,
where sky is, where wind, where
silent knowing.

Put seeds and cover them.
Blades will sprout
where you do your work.

Jelaluddin Rumi, 1207-1273

If you want the truth, I will tell you the truth. Listen to the secret sound, the real sound, which is inside you – The music from the strings no one touches. . .

Receive Daily Blessings

The Traveling Onion

It is believed that the onion originally came from India. In Egypt it was an object of worship - why I haven't been able to figure out. From Egypt the onion entered Greece and on to Italy, thence onto all of Europe.
- Better Living Cookbook

When I think how far the onion has traveled
just to enter my stew today, I could kneel and praise
all small forgotten miracles,
crackly paper peeling on the drainboard,
pearly layers in smooth agreement,
the way knife enters onion
and onion falls apart on the chopping block,
a history revealed.

And I would never scold the onion
for causing tears.
It is right that tears fall
for something small and forgotten.
How at meal, we sit to eat,
commenting on texture of meat or herbal aroma
but never on the translucence of onion,
now limp, now divided,
or its traditionally honorable career:
For the sake of others,

Naomi Shihab Nye

Receive Healing Through Giving

Healing The Mare

Just days after the vet came,
after the steroids that took
the fire out of the festering
sores—out of the flesh that in
the heat took the stings too
seriously and swelled into great
welts, wore thin and wept, calling
more loudly out to the green-
headed flies—I bath you
and see your coat returning,
your deep force surfacing in a
new layer of hide: black wax
alive against weather and flies.

But this morning, misshapen
still, you look like an effigy,
something rudely made, something
made to be buffeted, or like
an old comforter—are they both
one in the end? So both a child

and a mother, with my sponge and
my bucket, I come to anoint, to
anneal the still weeping, to croon
to you baby poor baby for the sake
of the song, to polish you up,
for the sake of the touch, to a shine.
As I soothe you I surprise wounds
of my own this long time unmothered.
As you stand, scathed and scabbed,
with your head up, I swab. As you
press, I lean into my own loving
touch, for which no wound
is too ugly.

Linda McCarriston

Be Open to Receive Wisdom

Axe Handles

One afternoon the last week in April
Showing Kai how to throw a hatchet
One-half turn and it sticks in a stump.
He recalls the hatchet-head
Without a handle, in the shop
And go gets it, and wants it for his own.
A broken-off axe handle behind the door
Is long enough for a hatchet,
We cut it to length and take it
With the hatchet head
And working hatchet, to the wood block.
There I begin to shape the old handle
With the hatchet, and the phrase
First learned from Ezra Pound
Rings in my ears!
“When making an axe handle
the pattern is not far off.”
And I say this to Kai
“Look: We'll shape the handle
By checking the handle
Of the axe we cut with-”
And he sees. And I hear it again:
It's in Lu Ji's Wen Fu, fourth century
A.D. “Essay on Literature”-in the
Preface: “In making the handle
Of an axe
By cutting wood with an axe
The model is indeed near at hand.-”
My teacher Shih-hsiang Chen
Translated that and taught it years ago
And I see: Pound was an axe,
Chen was an axe, I am an axe
And my son a handle, soon
To be shaping again, model
And tool, craft of culture,
How we go on.
Gary Snyder