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Sun May 26 News:  e-Communitarian   ☙   Minister   ☙   RE   ☙   Music   ☙   Practice: Thank Without Ceasing (Slogan to Live By)

2019-05-24

Thank Without Ceasing

Practice of the Week
Thank Without Ceasing

Category: SLOGANS TO LIVE BY: Carry these reminders at all times. These practices don't require setting aside a separate substantial chunk of time -- but they will slow you down a bit (and that's a good thing.) Resolve to get stronger at living by these maxims, day by day. Sometimes make one of them the focus of your daily journaling.


“Pray without ceasing,” instructs the apostle Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians (5:17). The Greek word translated as “without ceasing” (adialeiptos) doesn’t mean nonstop, but constantly recurring.

Two of the central functions of prayer are to articulate to ourselves our heart’s hopes (which can devolve into the merely “asking for things” concept of prayer), and to express gratitude. For this practice, we focus on the gratitude.

Paul's full phrase is "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances" (Thes 5:16-18). For Paul, thanks is given to God. If “God” tends not to be in your vocabulary, then think of being grateful to reality, to the world, to all things that are not in your control, that you cannot earn or deserve. Such gratitude offers a remarkable path to feel closer to reality (or God) during one's daily activities.

When forty spiritual leaders were asked about their favorite method of feeling closer to their Creator, the most common answer was focusing on feeling grateful to God (or reality) throughout the day.

As Ram Dass put it,
“Gratitude opens your heart, and opening your heart is a wonderful and easy way for God to slip in."
Letting reality slip in means becoming more able to set aside the ego-defenses and delusions that separate us from reality.

Many spiritual traditions emphasize prayer that expresses thanks for the blessings in one's life. Many years ago, Jonathan Robinson arranged to interview a Native American medicine man named Bear. They met at a location sacred to Bear's tribe, and Bear suggested that they begin by offering a prayer to the Great Spirit. Robinson's simple prayer was that the time together be well spent, and that it would serve for becoming closer to reality. Then Bear took his turn. He prayed in his native tongue, and he kept praying, as Robinson grew increasingly restless, for fifty minutes.

Trying to hide his irritation, Robinson began the interview by asking Bear, “What did you pray for?” Bear's calm reply was, “In my tribe, we don't pray for anything. We give thanks for all that the Great Spirit has given us. In my prayers, I thanked Spirit for everything I can see around me. I gave thanks to each and every tree I can see from here, each rock, each squirrel, the sun, the clouds, my legs, my arms, each bird that flew by, each breath I took, until I was finally in full alignment with the Great Spirit.” It was clear to Robinson that this man really knew how to pray.

How

Begin by saying, “Thank you reality for [whatever is in your awareness]." You may want to “prime the pump" by thanking reality for things that are easy to feel grateful for. You might say, "Thank you for my health. Thank you for such a beautiful day. Thank you for [name of your partner].”

Then, as gratitude swells in your heart, say "thank you” for whatever you are aware of. If you are driving somewhere you might say, “Thank you for my car, thank you for my iPhone, thank you for this beautiful music, thank you for this nicely paved road, thank you for the man that just cut me off, thank you for the anger that he stirred up in me, thank you for the opportunity to practice forgiveness."

All things are gifts given to us to enjoy or learn from. Normally, we take virtually everything for granted, and rarely stop to appreciate the wonderful things we are given. It can be eye opening to realize that even middle-class folks of today live better than kings lived just a hundred years ago. Yet, without the “thank you” habit, the amenities of modern life go unappreciated.

Once you have used this practice for a while, you will even begin to value things that are unpleasant. Getting cut off by an aggressive driver is no one's idea a good time, yet Thessalonians says, "Give thanks in all circumstances." From a grateful state of mind, you can see that the experience is an opportunity to practice and strengthen your patience, compassion, and forgiveness. Thank you, reality, for that help!

Like any repeated mantra or phrase, "thank you" can build up a momentum of its own as you use it throughout the day. It can, however, become mechanical and rote if attention is not given to appreciating in your heart the gift you've been given.

There is an ecstasy that arises out of gratitude. The “thank you” practice also helps us become more aware and present in the eternal now. By giving thanks for what's right in front of us, worries recede, replaced by an expanded awareness of what is currently occurring.

* * *

From the Minister, Fri May 24

Last weekend I was yet again impressed with, and grateful to, this congregation I serve. It was exciting to behold the outpouring of energy and interest in meeting and getting to know Rev. Kimberley Debus, who will be the sabbatical minister while I'm away for six months from Oct 1 to Apr 1. CUUC is truly ready to engage with some new possibilities, and that's wonderful!

Rev. Debus will be bringing CUUC some new ideas and some different skill sets: she was herself a UU music director before going into ministry, so she brings a level of musical expertise that I lack to the collaboration with our music staff, and with her eye for aesthetics she will surely be a help to our members that are already at work on making the look and feel of our worship space more vibrant, enticing, welcoming, and conducive to spiritual experience. She has an Adult RE curriculum of five sessions that she created herself that I believe she will be offering while she's here.

There will be some changes. Perhaps some of them will instantly strike you as good ideas, and maybe you'll be rather dubious about others, but I trust you'll give every experiment a fair chance to win you over. Then when I get back, I'll be keen to know which changes you liked and that we should keep. I've encouraged Rev. Debus to be bold in deviating from "the way we've always done it." Upon my return, I look forward to having some adapting to do to "the new CUUC"!

Yours in faith,
Meredith

Practice of the Week: Thank Without Ceasing Then, as gratitude swelled in my heart, I would say "thank you” for whatever I was aware of. If I was driving somewhere I might say, “Thank you for my car, thank you for my iPhone, thank you for this beautiful music, thank you for this nicely paved road, thank you for the man that just cut me off, thank you for the anger that he stirred up in me, thank you for the opportunity to practice forgiveness." READ MORE


Your Moment of Zen: Realization and Equanimity As for equanimity, Raven demonstrates it.

As for realization and equanimity, which one is beaver and which is dam?

As for teaching, remember what Huangbo (755?-850) said: "I do not say that there is no Zen, but that there is no Zen teacher" (Blue Cliff Record 11, Book of Serenity 53).

Case
In a private meeting Woodpecker asked, "Is realization the same as equanimity?"
Raven said, "Don't confuse the beaver with the dam."
Woodpecker asked, "What's equanimity?"
Raven said, "I'm not a very good teacher."
Woodpecker said, "Oh, come on!"
Raven said, "It's okay."
Verse
Some of them, though, had a gardener.

Daffodils did not have teachers.
They did not study the craft
Of blossoming.
They were not taught to have six petals
And a corona,
Or drilled in color selection;
Took no classes in stem construction,
Received no instruction in photosynthesis.
From blithe stamen to untutored roots,
Throughout its growing, the daffodil was
An incorrigible truant.
No, no daffodil ever had a teacher.
Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Raven Index   ☙   Zen Practice at CUUC

2019-05-22

Religious Education: Sun May 26

With only a week left in May there is, I’m sure, a collective rejoicing from "non winter" folks as we herald in the summer that is right around the bend! But before we start that celebration, let’s marvel at yet another impactful Children's Worship and Social Justice Sunday program last week. Lyra Harada, our children's music director, continued with the rehearsal of "It’s a Small World" for RE Sunday Jun 16. This day, however, she incorporated choreography for K-7 as well. Everyone was very animated and really showing off their starring roles. There was a lot of laughing, exuberant singing, and great dance moves. Watch out, producers of Chorus Line! The third and last installment of Social Justice Sundays was presented to 4th-7th grades by the LGBTQIA co-chairs, Tony Arrien and Joann Prinzivalli, and team members. The discussion centered around the story, "Red, A Crayon’s Story." "Red" is a blue crayon with a red wrapper, so he can only draw blue no matter how much he resists. His mother sends him out to play with a yellow classmate ("go draw a nice orange!"), but Red is miserable. He just can’t be red no matter how hard he tries! A brand new friend gives him a whole new perspective and he discovers that he is blue. Red can now be himself, and finds he has the courage to be true to who he really is. The lesson as explained by Tony and Joann hit home in a very poignant, deep way. The students saw this story as a metaphor for all individuals on the LGBTQ spectrum, often struggling to find their inner selves, just like the crayon Red. Even though Red is exactly the way he came from the factory, he didn’t feel red, nor act like red. Instead he was happiest when he was blue because that is who he was meant to be. The analogy to factory reminds us all that we do not choose the form, appearance, and role we are born into, but that does not mean we shouldn’t strive to embrace the ones we were meant to own and live. So, three more weeks of RE are busily being planned to celebrate Affirmation and our Bridging Ceremony. Combined with all this are our annual barbeque and Father's Day, as well as the Annual Meeting. The conclusion of the RE school year is an exciting time for families, students, and the congregation and is a testimonial to the children's continuing growth and engagement in CUUC. Our hope is that the years students spend in RE provide a guidepost to lifelong dedication to compassion, acceptance, and humanistic counsel to others.

Michele Rinaldi
RE Coordinator

Looking ahead...

RE This Sunday, May 26
No Religious Education classes. The nursery will be available for the youngest.

College Scholarship Awards - last week to apply
Each year CUUC offers two scholarships in the amount of $250 for our graduating seniors. Qualifying youth are encouraged to send a short essay on their contributions and leadership at CUUC, with a brief explanation of how the scholarship will be used, and the names of two CUUC references to re@cucwp.org by Fri May 31.

Special Friends Meet-Up Breakfast, Sun Jun 2, 9:00am, Fellowship Hall
To our Special Friends pen pals: you are formally invited to our Special Friends reveal breakfast on Sunday, June 2, at 9:00am in Fellowship Hall. We will have disguises for you to help create an air of mystery! Please let us know if you are not able to attend so that we can let your friend know in advance. Contact Laura Goodspeed (lkgoodspeed@gmail.com). Hope you've been having fun making a new friend at CUUC!

RE Party for Michele Rinaldi & Perry Montrose, Sun Jun 16, 11:30am, Fellowship Hall
After our Religious Education Sunday service, join us at a party to thank Perry and Michele for all their hard work on our RE program this year and to bid them a fond farewell. We wish them both all good things in the future!

Summer programs for youth and young adults are an important way to support young Unitarian Universalists in their faith development and help them discern their life’s calling. Learn more about summer programs offered by the UUA office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries at uua.org/young-adults/events.

UU Summer Camps & Retreat Centers for Children, Youth, and Families
Unitarian Universalist retreat centers offer the opportunity to connect with UUs from around the country in fun and fellowship. Whether you are looking for a place to go as a family or somewhere for your kids to experience a fun camp, there are many amazing Unitarian Universalist summer destinations:
  • Ferry Beach is oceanfront in ME. ferrybeach.org
  • The Mountain is atop the Blue Ridge Mountains in NC. mountaincenters.org
  • The Rowe Center is in the Berkshire Mountains in MA. rowecenter.org
  • Sophia Fahs RE Camp is one week in August on Shelter Island. liacuu.org/Fahs
  • Star Island is a 46-acre island off the NH coast. starisland.org
  • Unirondack is in the NY Adirondacks. unirondack.org
  • Murray Grove is a Universalist retreat center nearby in NJ. murraygrove.org
  • UUMAC Retreat is one week in July at DeSales University in PA. uumac.org
  • CERSI is one week in July in Oberlin, OH. cersiuu.or
  • SUUSI is a weeklong multignerational event in North Carolina. suusi.org

2019-05-21

Music: Sun May 26


Music connected to war and peace is featured in recognition of Memorial Day. French composer Maurice Ravel dedicated each movement of his suite Le tombeau de Couperin to friends lost during the first World War. The title alludes to the 17th-century composer François Couperin, whose Baroque style Ravel parodies with sly references to American jazz harmonies. Schumann’s “War Song” hails from a collection of teaching pieces, and features numerous imitations of horn calls and fanfares. Samuel Coleridge-Taylor included a South East African warrior song “Take Nabandji” in his collection of Twenty-Four Negro Melodies, published in 1904. Finally, peace in the natural world is embodied in one of Unitarian composer Edvard Grieg’s touching Lyric Pieces. Read on for programming details.

Centering Music: Adam Kent, piano
From Le tombeau de Couperin
            Forlane
            Rigaudon
                                                            Maurice Ravel

Opening Music:
“War Song” from Album for the Young, Op. 68
                                                            Robert Schumann

Offertory:
Take Nebandji
                                    Traditional South East African arr. by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

Interlude:
Woodland Peace, Op. 71, No. 4
                                    Edvard Grieg

2019-05-18

From the Minister, Fri May 17

Our theme for May is beauty. We speak of beauty in many ways, primarily in three categories: beautiful people, beauty in nature, and beautiful art. Putting one’s finger on what makes a person, a scene, or an artwork beautiful is not easy. When it comes to art, philosopher Denis Dutton has an evolutionary explanation for attraction to art. The primary mechanism, he says, works through mate selection.

We are attracted to art – that is, find art beautiful – because we recognize that making it is difficult. No one would buy tickets to the ballet or a concert if just about everybody could dance or play music as well as the performers we go to see and hear. The paintings hanging in art museums are the ones that the curators – whose tastes are shaped culture generally – recognize as rare products of talent and refinement. Those paintings are significantly different from what “just anybody” could paint.

It isn't that they are rare because they’re so beautiful. Rather, it's the other way around. We find them beautiful because the skill that could produce them is rare.

Dutton’s argument is that the ability to do something difficult and exceptional is a signal of mate suitability. Art, like the peacock’s tail, is uselessly extravagant – but such extravagance is a sign of good health and nutrition -- of not having to struggle just to survive. Ability to make something particularly well – by any standard recognizable as requiring a learned skill carried to an exceptional level – is an indicator of health, intelligence, fine motor skills, and enough status and wealth to have the leisure to make something “for its own sake,” not directly useful. Thus mate selection rewarded and reinforced human propensity to display artistic skill. And, just as the peacocks with the biggest tails really were, often enough, good mates, so were the humans with the highest level of artistic skills. Thus the genes of both artist and art lover had improved chances of being passed on.

Words attributed to Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) are worth remembering: "All things beautiful are difficult.”

Yours in faith,
Meredith

Practice of the Week: Study Spiritual Texts You can learn a lot by reading. Certain texts are helpful guides for developing spiritual wisdom. Aside from the canonical scriptures of established traditions, there are many works of wisdom and insight. Here is an essentially random sampling of just a few of the sort of books I have in mind, in no particular order. READ MORE

Your Moment of Zen: Rectification Zen emerged when Buddhism from India spread to China and took on influences from Daoism. (There was no formal merger of institutions of Buddhism and Daoism, thus it is said that Buddhism and Daoism "shacked up," and Zen is their illegitimate love child.) Less recognized is the influence of Chinese Confucianism on the emergence of Zen.

"The rectification of names" is a Confucian idea that stresses that a stable social order depends on ensuring that words correspond to reality -- or at least to consensually shared understanding. In the Analects, Confucius writes:
"A superior man, in regard to what he does not know, shows a cautious reserve. If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success. When affairs cannot be carried on to success, proprieties and music do not flourish. When proprieties and music do not flourish, punishments will not be properly awarded. When punishments are not properly awarded, the people do not know how to move hand or foot. Therefore a superior man considers it necessary that the names he uses may be spoken appropriately, and also that what he speaks may be carried out appropriately. What the superior man requires is just that in his words there may be nothing incorrect." (Book XIII, Chapter 3, verses 4–7, trans James Legge)
Raven here invokes the Confucian idea -- though more for "getting one's own house in order" than for social order.

On the one hand, words are but fingers pointing to the moon. Don't mistake the finger for the moon.

On the other hand, the finger is our "pointer." It matters that we're pointed in the right direction.

Even so, back on the first hand, when it comes to enlightenment, "realization is not like your conception of it; what you think one way or another before realization is not a help for realization" (Dogen).

On the other hand again, Dogen also spoke of the need to arouse the aspiration for enlightenment -- which necessarily involves some conception, howsoever vague, tentative, and inevitably ultimately wrong.

Case
During snacktime one afternoon, Black Bear asked, "How can I realize enlightenment?"
Raven asked, "What do you mean by 'enlightenment'?"
Black Bear said, "You know what I mean."
Raven said, "Fix up your terms and your path is fixed up."
Black Bear asked, "How can I fix up my terms?"
Raven said, "Your own intimate terms."
Verse
Knife scrapes butter over toast
Morning sun slants across the table.
Through the window: spring leaves, a few flowers.
Beside the coffee: a folded paper telling
Today's effects and causes of
Unhappiness, of names sliding apart.

This is a knife.
It, and my hand, spread that butter.
There is the light, the sun.
The leaves are green, flowers yellow, white, purple.
These names are right.
What is there to get wrong?

In a minute I'll unfold the paper,
Let in the day's chapter,
Slanted as the light,
Looking for clues to what is asked of me.
One must be careful
When there is this much to love.
Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Raven Index   ☙   Zen Practice at CUUC

2019-05-17

Religious Education: Sun May 19

Well, as shocking as this might sound, last week was another busy, informative, and fun RE children’s service in Fellowship Hall. Grades K-7 started out with Jane Dixon, who explained that two new refugee families had arrived in our country and asked if the students would like to make welcome cards. They absolutely did, and worked intently on designing beautiful and colorful “welcome to America” cards, which Jane promised to deliver. Next on the agenda was children’s music director Lyra Harada working with the students on “It’s A Small World,” to be sung at RE Sunday, June 16. Lyra led the rehearsal with a great deal of energy and the students responded with a lot of laughter and bantering back and forth. The audience of adults even “egged” the kids on by saying, “we can’t hear you” and the children stood up like a chorus and increased the volume, as asked. They were great, as was Lyra – our very own junior choir! At this point, grades K-3 left to their classrooms and 4-5 and 6-7 students were invited to hear special guest Ivan Smith from the Coachman Family Center talk about the plight of people who are homeless and about the resources that Coachman provides for them. The youngsters quickly got a sense of how limited the space was for these families at the center and how few personal belongings they could have. This served as a perfect segue for the question posed to the students: what items would they bring if they were homeless and there was a limit? They also were asked to think about what they would miss the most. The answers that several children had were not surprising, as we have very focused, introspective, and deep young people in CUUC RE. They felt that the lack of privacy, or as they aptly termed it “personal space,” was the biggest loss. This session with Ivan and Ray Messing truly added another level of understanding and compassion to the UU principles taught every Sunday. Looking ahead, we have another Social Justice Program on May 19 by the LBQTIA team, we have Memorial Day around the corner on May 26 with no RE classes, the Special Friends breakfast and Annual Meeting on Jun 2; barbeque and Affirmation Sunday on Jun 9; and of course RE Sunday on Jun 16. Whew! I don’t know about you but I’m amazed at the whole lot of fun, food, camaraderie, and well-deserved honoring and recognition of the RE students that is coming up. The culmination of a wonderfully facilitated RE year… until next time!

Michele Rinaldi
RE Coordinator

Looking ahead...

RE This Sunday, May 5
Grades K-7 start in Fellowship Hall for Children's Worship. Lyra will be here with music activities. Grades 4-7 will move to 41 for the LGBTQIA Social Justice Sunday program. Grades 8-9 start in classes. Youth grades 10-12 will stay with their families in the sanctuary.

College Scholarship Awards
Each year CUUC offers two scholarships in the amount of $250 for our graduating seniors. Qualifying youth are encouraged to send a short essay on their contributions and leadership at CUUC, with a brief explanation of how the scholarship will be used, and the names of two CUUC references to re@cucwp.org by Fri May 31.

Special Friends Meet-Up Breakfast, Sun Jun 2, 9:00am, Fellowship Hall
The secret pen pals in our Special Friends program will be revealed at a celebration breakfast. We will provide masquerade costumes to help with the excitement of meeting our mysterious writing partners. Thanks to all participants for helping our kids and adults get to know one another better and for creating greater community at CUUC!

Summer programs for youth and young adults are an important way to support young Unitarian Universalists in their faith development and help them discern their life’s calling. Learn more about summer programs offered by the UUA office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries at uua.org/young-adults/events.

UU Summer Camps & Retreat Centers for Children, Youth, and Families
Unitarian Universalist retreat centers offer the opportunity to connect with UUs from around the country in fun and fellowship. Whether you are looking for a place to go as a family or somewhere for your kids to experience a fun camp, there are many amazing Unitarian Universalist summer destinations:
  • Ferry Beach is oceanfront in ME. ferrybeach.org
  • The Mountain is atop the Blue Ridge Mountains in NC. mountaincenters.org
  • The Rowe Center is in the Berkshire Mountains in MA. rowecenter.org
  • Sophia Fahs RE Camp is one week in August on Shelter Island. liacuu.org/Fahs
  • Star Island is a 46-acre island off the NH coast. starisland.org
  • Unirondack is in the NY Adirondacks. unirondack.org
  • Murray Grove is a Universalist retreat center nearby in NJ. murraygrove.org
  • UUMAC Retreat is one week in July at DeSales University in PA. uumac.org
  • CERSI is one week in July in Oberlin, OH. cersiuu.or
  • SUUSI is a weeklong multignerational event in North Carolina. suusi.org

2019-05-14

Music: Sun May 19


Hard to believe she’s a grandma, but Janet Bear, our intrepid Music Committee co-chair, is the guiding force behind this morning’s musical selections. At last fall’s Goods and Service Auction, Janet won the chance to plan music for a Sunday morning worship service. Mindful of her interest in music inspired by women as well as by her joyously burgeoning family, I have programmed works connected to childhood, women, and female offspring. The Catalan composer Xavier Montsalvatge alludes to his daughter Yvette in his charming Sonatine pour Yvette from 1962. Robert Schumann’s Kinderszenen was inspired by his love of Clara Wieck, who would eventually become his wife. These “Scenes of Childhood” remind listeners that Clara was a girl of 11 when Schumann met her. Debussy had his beloved daughter “Chouchou” in mind, when he wrote his Children’s Corner, which furnishes his memorable tribute to African-American musical culture in “Golliwogg’s Cakewalk.” Jacques Ibert’s lilting “A Giddy Girl” rounds out the gallery of portraits of young women. Read on for programming details.

Centering Music: Adam Kent, piano
Sonatine pour Yvette
            I. Vivo e spiritoso
            II. Moderato molto
            III. Allegretto
                                                            Xavier Montsalvatge

Opening Music:
From Scenes of Childhood, Op. 15
                                    Träumerei
                                    Robert Schumann

Offertory:
From Children’s Corner
                        Golliwogg’s Cake Walk
                                                Claude Debussy

Interlude:
From Histoires
             A Giddy Girl  
                                                Jacques Ibert