CUUC

CUUC

2017-02-28

Music: Sun Mar 5


Join us this Sunday at CUUC when Choir Pianist Georgianna Pappas provides tender, introspective works by French composer Claude Debussy. The CUUC Choir is also on hand with introspective, soul-searching selections to complement the monthly worship theme of Mercy. Read on for programming details.

Prelude:
First Arabesque
Sarabande from “Pour le piano”
Claude Debussy




Claude Debussy


Anthem: CUUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer and accompanied by Georgianna Pappas
"Inscription of Hope"
Z. Randall Stroop

Offertory:
La Fille aux cheveux de lin
                                                            Debussy


Anthem:
"Wayfaring Stranger"  
Linda Spevecek

2017-02-22

Keep Going

Practice of the Week
Keep Going

"If you're going through hell, keep going."
- Winston Churchill

Adapted from Rick Hanson, Just One Thing. [Order a copy for yourself: HERE]:

I once attended a workshop led by Joseph Goldstein, a Buddhist teacher. I had realized something about the lack of a fixed self, and shared the insight with him. He nodded and said, "Yes, right." I felt seen for taking a step forward. Then he smiled and added something I've never forgotten: "Keep going."

Of all the factors that lead to happiness and success -- such as class origins, intelligence, personality, character, looks, luck, race -- the one that typically makes the most difference over time is persistence. Knocked down ten times, you get up ten times.

If you keep going, you might not reach your goal -- but if you stop, you certainly won't reach it.
We respect people who persist. There's a magic in determination that draws others toward it and elicits their support.

And you just don't know when your day will finally come. There are so many stories of "overnight success" that actually arrived after many years of effort, often including some failures. For example, Dwight Eisenhower was an obscure colonel in 1939 -- and nearly forty-nine years old -- when Germany invaded Poland to begin World War II. Four years later he was in charge of all Allied forces in Europe; nine years after that he was elected president.

How

Make sure your goals are worthy of your perseverance. You can be determined to a fault. Don't "keep going" down a tunnel with no cheese. Consider the collateral damage: are you winning battles but losing the "war" of overall health, well-being, integrity, and welfare of others?

Know the feeling of tenacious persistence. It could be fierce, strong, stubborn, unyielding, clear, inspired, surrendered, on-mission, purposeful, focused, committed -- or all of these. Recall a time you had this feeling, and know it again in your body. Call it up whenever you need to draw on resources inside to keep going.

Take the step that's right in front of you -- one after another. I've taught many people to rock climb: Beginners will often have one foot down low and one foot at knee level, on solid placements, plus two good handholds, yet they can't find any new holds, so they feel stuck. But when they simply stand up on the higher foothold -- taking the step that's available -- that brings higher handholds and footholds within reach.

Find the pace you can sustain. Life's a marathon, not a sprint. For example, on my first Boy Scout backpack trip, I was a skinny, nerdy, unathletic kid. But I wanted to be the first to our campsite. We set out and the burly "alpha" boys raced ahead, while I kept up a slow-but-steady pace. After a few miles, I passed them sitting down on the side of the trail. They were startled to see me trucking along and soon got up and raced past me. But after another few miles, once again they were laid out by the side of the trail, this time really fried as 1 walked past them -- and I was very happy to get the first, really cool tent spot.

Keep going in your mind even if you can't make any headway in the world. Maybe you're truly stuck in some situation -- a job, an illness, a certain sort of marriage. But at least you can continue to reflect on what's happening, learn to cope with it better, and love the people around you. And over time maybe things will improve. As Winston Churchill said, "If you're going through hell, keep going."

Have faith that your efforts will pay off. You may have heard this teaching story: A bunch of frogs fell into a vat of cream. They couldn't jump out, and one after another drowned. But one frog refused to quit and kept swimming and staying alive, even after all the other frogs had died. Finally its movements churned the cream to solid butter -- and it hopped out to safety.

Keep churning!

For Journaling

1. Use your journal to take some take to review the last 5 or 10 years of your life through the lens of persistence. When have you most exemplified persistence? In what areas would you assess you didn't display as much persistence as you would have liked? Where did you exemplify persistence toward a goal of dubious worthiness?

2. What does persistence feel like? What bodily experience/sensation do you have when you're most exhibiting persistence?
(Writing it down will help you recall the feeling when you need to draw on it.)

3. What goal are you now persistently pursuing. Is that goal really worthy? If so, write about why you think so.

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Rick Hanson on keeping going:


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For list of all weekly practices: "Practices of the Week Index"

Music: Sun Feb 26


Our musical commemoration of Black History Month at CUUC concludes this Sunday with solo piano works by African-American composers featured during the Prelude. First up is a charming appeal for an early spring by the Canadian-born R. Nathaniel Dett’s Cinnamon Grove. Rags by Scott Joplin and Artie Matthews follow. The theme of Mercy is embodied in the morning’s Offertory, a tender Intermezzo from Johannes Brahms’s late years. Like the Ballade performed at last week’s service, this work is inspired by traditional Scottish poetry translated into German by the philosopher Johann Gottfried von Herder (See below for the full text of the epigraph). In this case, Brahms was moved by a sorrowful lullaby, entitled “Lady Ann Bothwell’s Lament” in the original Scottish version.

The CUUC Choir is also on hand with festive, celebratory works by contemporary composers Cynthia Gray and Mary Lynn Lightfoot. Read on for programming details.


Prelude: Adam Kent, piano
From Cinnamon Grove
            IV. Allegretto: “Oh, the winter’ll soon be over, children, Yes, my Lord.”
                                    R. Nathaniel Dett
The Sycamore
                                                Scott Joplin
Pastime Rag No. 3
                                                Artie Matthews

Anthem: CUUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer and accompanied by Georgianna Pappas
'Tis You That Are The Music  
Cynthia Gray

Offertory:
Intermezzo in Eb Major, Op. 117, No. 1*
                                    Johannes Brahms
*Sleep gently, my child, sleep gently and sweet!
It pains me so, to see thee weep!
(Scottish lullaby)

Anthem:
A Festive Alleluia
 Mary Lynn Lightfoot


2017-02-15

The Mirror Exercise

Practice of the Week
Speak Well to Yourself

In the Mirror


Advertisers tell us that if we were only richer or more beautiful, we'd be loved. Although we may know better in theory, it's easy to fall into the trap of trying to gain recognition from others as a substitute for our lack of self-love. Yet, there is no substitute for really liking yourself. Unfortunately, the sad truth is that most people don't feel good about themselves. Fortunately, there is a method that can greatly nurture and enhance your feelings for yourself. It's the Mirror Exercise.

Simply go to a mirror (or find a hand held one) and look yourself in the eyes. Notice what thoughts or feelings come up for you. Then, begin talking to your self out loud, as if you were talking to a really good friend. Tell the person in the mirror how much you care for and appreciate him or her. Acknowledge what you're proud of. Say things that the person in the mirror needs to hear in order to feel accepted and cared for. Imagine that you're talking to a young, vulnerable child who needs to be encouraged.

For example:
"Hello, Jonathan. How are you? You've been feeling pretty stressed lately, haven't you? Well, you've been busy helping a lot of people. You need to remember to take care of yourself. You deserve it. You've worked hard. It's amazing all the tasks you do. I'm proud of the fact that you've become a very giving person over the years. I appreciate how you're really committed to helping others. I like you. You're often a lot of fun to be with. Some of the stories you told last night at the party were really funny. I appreciate your sense of humor. You don't have to try so hard to be liked -- because you are liked. Not for what you do, but for who you are. I want you to know that you're doing just fine. Allow yourself to relax more and just receive all the goodwill people feel towards you. I respect who you are, and I want you to know I love you."
Although there is no formula for what to say during this exercise, it's helpful if you steer clear of put-downs. If you notice you begin to think of negative judgments during the Mirror Exercise, tell those thoughts, "Thank you for sharing, but right now I'm committed to loving myself."

You may find this exercise difficult to do at first, but it becomes easier with practice. It's common for negative thoughts to arise, especially when you are complimenting yourself. As you practice this exercise, you'll notice that the self-criticisms fade more into the background, and the self-appreciations are taken in at a deeper level. After a while, you'll begin to feel a deep love and compassion for the person in the mirror.

There are many variations to the basic Mirror Exercise that can be tried for different effects. For example, you may try to do this exercise completely naked in front of a full-length mirror. Most people are at war with their bodies, but the Mirror Exercise can help. By starting with specific parts of your body that you like, you can eventually get to accept every part of your anatomy. During this form of the Mirror Exercise, talk to the various parts of your body and try to develop a better relationship with them. You might say, "Hello nose. As you know, you're bigger than I would like you to be, but I am grateful for all the wonderful smells you send my way. I'm going to try to appreciate you more. You really do a great job. Thank you for adding to my life."

If you have favorite affirmations you use for your growth, saying them while you look 9in the mirror is a way to "turbo-charge" their effect on you.

If all you say is:
"I am committed to loving you and taking care of you."
this is enough to have powerful effects.

Because the Mirror Exercise is so effective, there is often a lot of resistance to doing it. You may feel squeamish, silly, or stupid at first. In general, feelings of embarrassment or resistance are all signs that you could greatly benefit from this exercise.

At first, the Mirror Exercise can bring to the surface how difficult it is for you to feel or express love for yourself. Yet with practice, those initial feelings of armoring will get peeled off like layers of an onion. You'll soon be left with a loving relationship with yourself. When you look into the mirror, you'll no longer hear a critical voice saying how you're not good enough. Instead. you'll appreciate that you are an absolutely perfect rendition of yourself.

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For list of all weekly practices: "Practices of the Week Index"

2017-02-14

Music: Sun Feb 19


Music suggestive of churches, holy places, and prayer is featured in the Prelude this Sunday morning at CUUC. Claude Debussy’s massive evocation of the Catherdral of Ys, which rises and sinks with the sun, according to the Medieval legend, opens the Prelude. Isaac Albéniz’s depiction of Córdoba, Spain, home of the greatest mosque outside of the Middle East, built upon the ruins of an earlier church and Roman temple and festooned with a Renaissance-era cathedral at its center, follows.

Other works evoke martial or bellicose associations. Schumann’s festive “War Song” is a popular number from a collection of pieces written for young piano students. The first of Johannes Brahms’s Four Ballades, Op. 10 is a programmatic depiction of the Scottish legend of Edward, a young warrior guilty of parricide. Mozart’s celebrated “Rondo all turca”, the last movement of his Piano Sonata in A Major, K. 331, features imitations of Turkish military music, all the rage in the Vienna of the composer’s day. Read on for programming details.

Prelude: Adam Kent, piano
From Préludes, Book I
            La cathédrale engloutie
                                    Claude Debussy
From Cantos de España
            Córdoba
                                    Isaac Albéniz

Opening Music:
Kriegslied, Op. 68, No. 31 (War Song)
                                                Robert Schumann

Offertory:
Ballade in D Minor, Op. 10, No. 1 “Edward”
                                                Johannes Brahms

Interlude:
Rondo all turca
                                                Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

2017-02-09

Turn All Mishaps Into the Path

Practice of the Week
Turn All Mishaps Into the Path
"Here is the rule to remember in the future, When anything tempts you to be bitter: not, 'This is a misfortune' but 'To bear this worthily is good fortune.'" --Marcus Aurelius

"Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune." --William James

The spiritual path -- the path toward wholeness, deepening wisdom and expansive equanimity, peace, and joy; that is, the path of life, insofar as we tread it with the intention of becoming more fully alive  -- isn't all sunshine and sweetness. Mishaps happen. If we treat them as part of the path, then they are.

When things go all right we are cheerful, we feel good, but as soon as bad things start happening, we get depressed, fall apart, or at the very best, we hang on and cope. We certainly do not transform our mishaps into the path. And why would we want to? We don't want the mishaps to be there. We want them gone as soon as possible. They are certainly not the spiritual path toward wholeness -- we think.

Previous "Practices of the Week" have included: "See Everything As a Dream," "Rest in the Openness of Mind," "Think Long and Hard on Four Points," "Examine the Nature of Awareness," "Don't Get Stuck on Peace," "Be a Child of Illusion," "Real Compassion," "Turn Things Around," and "Patience." Simply by treating these titles as slogans and repeating these, and other slogans from our "Practice of the Week" titles, to ourselves over and over, and reflecting on them repeatedly, they will begin to pop up naturally, unbidden, when we need them. This week's Practice introduces the slogan: "Turn All Mishaps Into the Path."

When something difficult or terrible happens to us -- a loss, a setback, a frustration, an insult -- naturally we immediately feel dismay, anger, disappointment, or resentment, just as everyone does and just as we always have. But now we have a slogan to train with until, in the midst of bad circumstances, it pops into mind: Turn all of this in the path!

When we catch ourselves trying to run away from the things that make us feel bad, we can, instead, reverse course. We can turn toward our afflictive emotions, understanding that they are natural, under the circumstances, and understanding that avoiding them won't work. Dismay, annoyance, anger, anxiety, resentment arise sometimes for all of us -- this is how the human heart works. Instead of denying, repressing, or (trying to) ignore these emotions, we can allow them to be present with dignity.

Forgive yourself for having the negative emotions. Forgive others -- whoever you might be blaming for your difficulties. With these forgivenesses come relief and even gratitude. We can say to ourselves, for example:
"Oh, yes, I really am angry right now, I am pretty upset right now, but this doesn't belong to me. This upset is what animals feel under such conditions -- so of course I feel this way. And I am grateful to feel what anyone, under such circumstances, would feel. I am glad to stand in solidarity and understanding with other human beings/primates/mammals/vertebrates who are probably, right now, in this very moment, also feeling these emotions."
This is not far-fetched. It does, however, take training. We are not talking about miracles, nor about affirmations or wishful thinking. We are talking about training the mind.

Repeat this slogan, turn all mishaps into the path, to yourself at various points during your day. Write it in your journal, along with your reflections on how it is working in your life: do this every day for a week, or a month -- until it is thoroughly internalized. The mind and heart react according to their well-worn habits. Whatever habit of mind you have now comes from your actions and thoughts of the past (however unexamined or unintentional they may have been). Whatever habits of mind you will have in future depend on what you do or don't do from now on. The way you spontaneously react in times of trouble is not fixed. Your mind, your heart, can be trained. Once you have a single experience of reacting differently, you will be encouraged. Next time it is more likely that you will take yourself in hand. Each time becomes easier than the last. And little by little you establish a new habit. When something difficult happens, you will train yourself to stop saying,
"Damn! Why did this have to happen!"
and begin saying,
"Yes, of course, this is how it is. Let me turn toward it. Let me practice with it. Let me go beyond entanglement to gratitude."
Because you will have realized that because you are alive and not dead, because you have a mammalian body and not some other kind of a body, because the world is a physical world and not an ethereal world, and because all of us together are the animals that we are, bad things are going to happen. It's the most natural, the most normal, the most inevitable thing in the world. Don't think "mistake," or "fault (my own or someone else's)." When mishaps occur, we can make use of them to drive our gratitude and our compassion deeper.

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For list of all weekly practices: "Practices of the Week Index"

2017-02-08

Music: Sun Feb 12


Join us at CUUC this Sunday morning for a rare musical treat. Jazz great Antoinette Montague teams up with her quartet in selections connected to love and spirituality in honor of Valentine’s Day. Read more about Antoinette and preview her artistry at www.antoinettemontague.com. Read on for programming details.

Prelude: The Antoinette Montague Experience
Antoinette Montague, Vocals
Danny Mixon, Piano
Bobby Sanabria, drums
AC Lincoln, tap

How I Got Over/Walk with Me Lord (Gospel Hymns)

Opening Music:
There Is No Greater Love
                        Isham Jones

Offertory:
Turn Me Round
            Spiritual

Interlude:
The World Needs to Learn to Love/And So It Is
    (An original prayer for our World)

2017-02-05

Bird Report, Sat Feb 4

Bird Report CUUC
Sat Feb 4
Rev. Dr. LoraKim Joyner

Though it was a chilly 20 degrees outside, the sun was out and the wind was down making for fairly pleasant birding.

A surprise was the flock of 6 American robins that perched in the tulip and larch trees, and then went up top to bask in the sun with a northern flicker. They were puffed up and not budging from their sunny spot when I passed underneath.

Also nice to see was the chipmunk scurrying around up near the front door in the gravel by the parking lot.

I was moving a big quick myself, only lasting from about 8 a.m. - 10 a.m.

Here's the list of 9 avian species below:

1 Red-bellied Woodpecker
1 Downy Woodpecker
1 Northern Flicker
4 Blue Jay
3 Black-capped Chickadee
1 Tufted Titmouse
6 American Robin
1 White-throated Sparrow
1 Northern Cardinal

2017-02-02

Give Grace a Hand

Practice of the Week
Give Grace a Hand

Grace doesn’t just surprise us; it also often invites us to be part of the surprise. It’s sneaky that way. It likes to enlist us as its partner-in-crime. This exercise asks us to explore that more deeply— it asks us to notice how we are both givers and receivers of grace. Simply put, your challenge is to find a way to bring grace to someone’s life. That may seem simple, but there is one big, challenging rule you must follow: They can’t know you were involved!

Your task is not a generic "do a good deed.” It is to help someone experience life differently. The goal is to remind someone that life itself is generous, not stingy; open, not closed; full of surprises, not full of threats. If they know you are involved, it will only convince them that you are a good guy or gal. Your goal is to convince them that “life is good!”

Here is some inspiration to help you. (Notice that some of these ideas involve you getting grace to many people at once. If that's your calling as well, go for it!):
In your journal, tell the story of how you gave grace a hand, and reflect on these questions:
  1. Was remaining anonymous harder than you thought? Did the difficulty have more to do with you wanting credit or with you wanting to vicariously experience the recipients joy?
  2. Why did you choose the recipient you did? Does this say anything about what kinds of people you think “deserve grace”?
  3. How was this spiritual for you? Did it just make you feel happy? Or part of something larger than yourself?
  4. Did the recipient have any trouble receiving the gift? Did others have trouble with the fact that they didn’t get the gift themselves?
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For list of all weekly practices: "Practices of the Week Index"