CUUC

CUUC

2018-10-18

From the Minister, Thu Oct 18

Christian writer Carroll Saussy has some wise word about anger:
"Befriend your anger. Then can you hear the deeper truth that anger is revealing. Sometimes anger tiptoes, a gentle wake-up call slipping into consciousness and building, building, building. 'I think I’m getting angry about this...'

Sometimes anger’s ring is musical – a clock radio with a snooze alarm to let you slowly rise to the brightness of its day. 'Maybe I am angry. Maybe I’m just tired.' Sometimes the sound’s a deafening clang – a jolt that throws you out of bed.

Befriend your anger. Only then can you decide the what and when and how of your reply.

Befriend your anger. Learn to stay with it, to play with it, to leap back to its roots. There you’ll find a child in fear and pain – and return, an adult with compassion.

Befriend your anger. When you feel the sting of others’ hurt, welcome the anger of hope: holy energy stirring in your soul, the work of Jesus in a hostile world – atonement.

Befriend your godlike anger, and be at peace." (The Gift of Anger: A Call to Faithful Action)
May it be so.

Yours in faith,
Meredith

The Liberal Pulpit /New this week:
Index of past sermons: HERE. Index of other reflections: HERE. Videos of sermons are on the Liberal Pulpit Youtube Channel: HERE

Practice of the Week: Trust In Yourself /Others can see things about you that you don’t see, and their perspective can be a big help. There are holes in your self-perception. But even with these holes, you see more of yourself than any other person can see of you. In the final analysis, only you can evaluate and understand your own practice. It's your own sense of your life that makes your life. If you give over that responsibility, then you become a wobbly person, constantly looking to the right and to the left to see what you are supposed to be doing and thinking. READ MORE.
Your Moment of Zen: Vows /This is Gray Wolf's third appearance. She first appeared in #22, when she asked for an explanation of karma. She showed up again in #59, when she questioned whether bushes and grasses could be enlightened.

The four Bodhisattva vows:
  • Beings are numberless; I vow to free them.
  • Delusions are inexhaustible; I vow to end them.
  • Dharma gates are boundless; I vow to enter them.
  • Buddha's way is unsurpassable; I vow to embody it.
In the most literal sense, the vows can be kept, and must be kept. Someone making these vows can and must free every single being, end 100% of delusions, enter all of the infinite dharma gates, etc. A tall order!

In another sense, the vows are aspirational. You can't free all the beings, but try to free as many as you can. Continuously work on ending delusions, even though you'll never end them all. Always be watchful for dharma gates, and enter as many as you can. Try to embody parts of the Buddha way.

In a third sense, the vows cannot be kept, even partly. You can never free any beings, can never end a single delusion, or enter a dharma gate or embody any aspect of the Buddha way. Taking the vows is an exercise in humility, a liberating exercise in loosening the grip of the impulse to control.

In a fourth sense, the vows cannot be broken. No matter what you do, your every action in fact frees all the beings, ends all delusions, enters the infinite dharma gates (all of them at once), and embodies the Buddha way.

Raven's final remark in this segment echoes a haiku by Basho (1644-1694):
With awe I beheld
All the new green leaves of spring
Glittering in the sunshine
Case
Gray Wolf seemed to attend meetings against her better judgment. One evening she came by anyway and said, "In every service I renew my vow to save the many beings, but, really, how can I do that?"
Raven said, "It's your precious keepsake."
Mallard asked, "How can a vow be a keepsake?"
Raven said, "It reminds you of a loved one."
Gray Wolf sat back and said nothing further.
Owl spoke up and said, "We also vow to waken to the countless gates of the Great Law. I always thought that vow meant I should study all the teachings, but now I'm not so sure."
Raven said, "See all the new green leaves glittering in the sunshine!"
Verse
The morning sun behind the branches of black leaves
Promises promises
Long since broken, long since fulfilled.
Nothing is more beautiful,
Nothing less.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon

Zen at CUUC: Oct 19-25

Trust In Yourself

Practice of the Week
Trust In Yourself

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.


Sometimes these “Slogans to Live By” can seem to contradict. This is because we are so likely to take a good thing too far, until it becomes a bad thing.

For example, this week’s slogan, “Trust in Yourself,” and a previous slogan, “It Comes Down To: Don’t Be Stuck on Yourself,” (HERE) point in opposite directions. The previous slogan told us not to insist on seeing everything from our own point of view, think of others, expand our lives. This one says that only you can determine what is happening in your life and what to do about it.

Slogans must be applied with delicacy. What's good medicine for one person is poison for another; what's right in one situation is wrong in another; what works today may not work tomorrow. Life is full of nuance and indeterminacy. To assess what is going on and know what to do, you must constantly adjust and refine. If you seem to be knocking your head against a wall, then it is time to take a breath and ask yourself what is going on.

In this process of creatively training your mind, where does your feedback come from? Who or what do you trust to keep you on track? This slogan tells you to trust yourself.

Others can see things about you that you don’t see, and their perspective can be a big help. There are holes in your self-perception. But even with these holes, you see more of yourself than any other person can see of you. In the final analysis, only you can evaluate and understand your own practice. It's your own sense of your life that makes your life. If you give over that responsibility, then you become a wobbly person, constantly looking to the right and to the left to see what you are supposed to be doing and thinking.

If other people's opinions of you feel diminishing or elevating, it's only because you have vacated your own opinions. No one likes to be criticized, disrespected, or judged by others in an uncomplimentary light. But when it comes to basic self-worth, only you are the judge. But judgment is a tricky thing. “Trust In Yourself” doesn't mean allowing self-judgment. Self-judgment, as we usually experience it, is corrosive and unhelpful.

What is self-judgment anyway? If you study it, you will see that most of the time it involves comparison: one's self is unworthy compared with others, who seem to be perfectly fine. We feel our inadequacy in relation to others—we imagine how others would judge us, and we internalize those judgments. Self-judgment is a sneakily internalized function of outside forces. The self to trust in is the self that is not self-condemnatory, that loves itself and is absolutely trustworthy. It may have a negative assessment of this or that, but this is a useful, not a crushing, assessment. However negative it may be, it helps the process of learning. If you detect self-judgmentalism, ask yourself, "Who is judging whom?" Ask this question again and again until you have found a bit of ease. This slogan is not, as it might seem on the surface, promoting conventional self-reliance. It is not opening the door to self-judgment. It is gently urging us to a profound sense of inner balance, to a deeper connection with the intimacy of mind.

There's a Zen adage: "When alone, practice as if you were with others, and when with others, practice as if you were alone.” When you're with others, try not to be an actor playing the part of yourself. We use the persona we take to be our social self as an unconscious way of distancing ourselves from our truer and more intimate selves. “Trust In Yourself” means that instead of doing that, we should try to imagine that other people are not other people, not outside our mind, not scary, and that they therefore do not require our performance. Imagine that others are actually parts of your own mind, not outside entities who need to be impressed or appeased. They are actually as intimate with you as you are with yourself. If you can situate yourself with others imaginatively in this way, you can be very relaxed and easygoing, you can be trusting and unafraid, because being with others feels like being with yourself. There's no need to be special or distinguished in any way. If your feeling is that others are you and you are they, your impulses will be socially acceptable and even kind. It is a great relief to practice like this. Social anxiety nearly disappears.

On the other hand, when you are alone, try not to sink into the usual dull subjectivity that comes when you imagine that no one is around, no one can see you, you're hiding, invisible, and so can safely be a dim-witted idiot, with the radio and television simultaneously playing as you whack mindlessly away at the keyboard of your computer or mobile device. Instead, imagine you're in the middle of a crowd, a crowd of good, kind, serious people who like you and inspire you to comport yourself with the same degree of dignity that they do. Surrounded by such people, naturally you feel at your best. You pay attention to what you are doing and you take care of things with appreciation as soon as they arise. Imagine feeling this way when you are alone, inspired and elevated by your own company!

In many ways, contemporary culture teaches us to be ashamed, embarrassed, and uncomfortable with ourselves: confused and self-clinging. It is a great achievement of consciousness, this feeling we have of being a person. Practicing this slogan may be tricky, and we can't expect it to suddenly change the long habit of how we have been feeling about ourselves, but it is a start. It will shake things up a bit. It will show us where we are stuck and how to go forward.

* * *

See also: Judith Lief, Lojong Slogan #20, "Of the Two Witnesses, Hold the Principal One" -- HERE

Practice

Pay attention to the loneliness of experience. Notice the difference between seeking for confirmation and direct witnessing. What makes you trust or distrust your own experience?

* * *

2018-10-17

RE News: Sun Oct 21

Our second Faith Development Friday, facilitated by Perry and Barbara Montrose and Rev. Garmon, segued into a busy Sunday, October 14 . The day’s agenda began with a productive RE Council meeting. The council members reviewed September RE activities, discussed plans for Social Justice Sundays and Veterans Day, organized OWL classes, and assigned tasks for Thanksgiving Sunday. Future efforts will include updating registration data and providing outreach to families. Perry was here presenting the Wonder Box Story during the service. It was an original, delightful story using colored crayons to better understand diversity. I had the opportunity to be part of classroom activities, and was especially impressed by the wonderful “mirror” exercise done by Laura Goodspeed and Lex Suvanto with K-1 students. What I observed in 8-9 grade OWL was intriguing, especially the responses the students gave to very probing questions. The weather was so pleasant that the 2-3 class went outdoors to enjoy the yard and sang together “This Little Light of Mine.” Truly, our RE students, Perry, and teachers are collectively the light of CUUC!

Michele Rinaldi
Religious Education Coordinator

RE This Sunday, Oct 21
Grades K-7 K-5 start in Fellowship Hall for children’s worship and music with Lyra. Grades 6-12 start in classes

2018-19 Curriculum: Pre-K - Chalice Children; K-1st - A Discovery Year; 2nd-3rd - Affirmation Year; 4th-5th - Toolbox of Faith; 6th-7th - Riddle & Mystery; 8th-9th - Our Whole Lives; 10th-12th - Youth Group

To view a spreadsheet version of the RE Calendar, CLICK HERE.

Halloween Costume Parade & Fun, Sun Oct 28 - Wear your costume to CUUC!
At 11:10 all classes will join the Halloween parade into the sanctuary. Then Youth Group will lead the children to the Halloween fun area in the red pod after the service.

Music: Sun Oct 21


CUUC Choir Accompanist Georgianna Pappas offers arrangements of hit show tunes with a political “edge” for the morning’s Prelude. Her Offertory selections include two of Rev. Martin Luther King’s favorite Spirituals. The CUUC Choir is also on hand with statements of hope and consolation. Read on for programming details.


Prelude: Georgianna Pappas, piano
“I Am Easily Assimilated” from Candide
                                                Leonard Bernstein
“Send In The Clowns” from A Little Night Music
                                                            Stephen Sondheim
“You've Got to Be Carefully Taught”/“Children Will Listen” from South Pacific and Into The Woods
                        Rodgers & Hammerstein and Stephen Sondheim

Anthem: CUUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer
“Hallelujah”     
 Leonard Cohen, arr. by Roger Emerson   
Mary Lane Cobb, soloist

Offertory:
“There Is A Balm in Gilead/Precious Lord, Take My Hand”
Traditional and George Allen Nelson and Thomas Andrew Dorsey

Anthem:
“Nine Hundred Miles”   
American Folk Song, arr. by Douglas E. Wagner

2018-10-11

From the Minister, Thu Oct 11

Sociologist Milton Bennett has developed a framework of different ways that people react to cultural differences. In which of these stages would you say you are? (Here's a kicker, though: most people imagine themselves at one stage higher than they actually are.)

Stage 1. Denial of difference. One experiences one's own culture as the only “real” one. Other cultures are either not noticed at all or are understood in an undifferentiated, simplistic manner. One is uninterested in cultural difference, but when confronted with difference, seemingly benign acceptance may change to aggressive attempts to avoid or eliminate it. Most of the time, this is a result of physical or social isolation, where one's views are never challenged and are at the center of their reality.

Stage 2. Polarization provides defense against difference. One has dualistic us/them thinking, frequently accompanied by overt negative stereotyping. In Version A, one’s own culture is experienced as the most “evolved” or best way to live. One will openly belittle the differences between their culture and another, denigrating race, gender or any other indicator of difference. One is openly threatened by cultural difference and likely to act aggressively against it. In Version B, this is reversed. One’s own culture is devalued and another culture is romanticized as superior.

Stage 3. Minimization of difference. The experience of similarity outweighs the experience of difference. One recognizes superficial cultural differences in food, customs, etc, but emphasizes human similarity in physical structure, psychological needs, and/or assumed adherence to universal values. One overestimates one's tolerance while underestimating the effect (e.g. “privilege”) of one's own culture. One approaches intercultural situations with the assurance that a simple awareness of the fundamental patterns of human interaction will assure success of communication.

Stage 4. Acceptance of difference. One’s own culture is experienced as one of a number of equally complex worldviews. One accepts the existence of culturally different ways of organizing human existence, although one does not necessarily like or agree with every way. One can identify how culture affects a wide range of human experience, and one has a framework for organizing observations of cultural difference. One will eagerly question others, reflecting a real desire to be informed, and not to confirm prejudices. The key words of this stage are “getting to know” or “learning.”

Stage 5. Adaptation to difference. One's worldviews expand to accurately understand other cultures and behave in a variety of culturally appropriate ways. One effectively uses empathy and frame-of-reference shifting to understand and be understood across cultural boundaries. One has the skills to act properly outside of one’s own culture and is able to “walk the talk.” As facility at smoothly shifting among cultural worldviews increases (sometimes called "Stage 6, Integration"), one's sense of identity expands and one sees oneself as “marginal” (not central) to any particular culture.

Yours in faith,
Meredith

The Liberal Pulpit / New this week:
Index of past sermons: HERE. Index of other reflections: HERE. Videos of sermons are on the Liberal Pulpit Youtube Channel: HERE

Practice of the Week: Start a Joy Collection / 1. The day-end review. Your joy collection begins by reinforcing the collection in your memory. Lying in bed at night, instead of stewing about mistakes committed or rudenesses endured, make an intentional practice of reviewing moments of joy experienced that day. 2. Artifact collection. Start deliberately collecting movies, videos, books, music, art, photos, or writings that express joy. 3. Sharing. With technology we can have a further communal practice of sharing these artifacts. READ MORE.
Your Moment of Zen: She Doesn't Know / Lines from the Heart Sutra:
"Form is no other than emptiness; emptiness no other than form.
Form is exactly emptiness; emptiness exactly form.
Sensation, perception, mental reaction, and consciousness are also like this.
All things are essentially empty -- not born, not destroyed; not stained, not pure; without loss, without gain."
Our brains are so full of biases -- confirmation bias, correspondence bias, self-serving bias, belief bias, hindsight bias, etc. Yet this is what allows us to be the social creatures that we are, bonding with and caring about each other. We love our tribe and would be lost without them. But our brains our built to pay a cost in true understanding for the blessings of tribal bonding.

Brown Bear and Raven seem to suggest that we say what we need to say to affirm our vital connections -- but don't believe it. We really don't know. We don't know anything. We are beings built for love, not knowledge -- so don't believe anything you think. "Only don't know" is the way.

Case
Raven took her perch one evening and told the story that a visitor had once come to Brown Bear and asked, "What is the meaning of 'form is no other than emptiness'?"
Brown Bear had replied, "I don't know. It's a line in an old sutra."
When Raven had said this, Owl asked, "Brown Bear knows the sutras very well. How could she say she didn't know?"
Raven said, "She doesn't know."
Owl said, "But she's a great teacher. She's our grandmother in the Great Law."
Raven said, "She really doesn't know."
Verse
What is the meaning of your
"What is the meaning of...?"?
Say more of what is biting you.
I have various potions in my apothecary;
Tell me about your bug, and I'll select
A bottle for you.
They are all placebos, still
The telling is treatment,
And the rituals of care.

It is a brave physician
Who withholds these ministrations,
Avers there is no cure,
And casts the patient out to
Live with the terrifying condition
Of having no disease.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon

Zen at CUUC: Oct 12-18

Music: Sun Oct 14


Diversity finds rich expression in music. Sunday morning’s selections include works from Spanish, Norweigian, Rumanian, and African-American traditions, all part of the U.S.’s richly varied ethnic fabric. Read on for programming details.

Prelude: Adam Kent, piano
Evocación and El puerto from Iberia, Book I
                                                Isaac Albéniz

Opening Music:
Norwegian Melody, Op. 12, No. 6
                                                          Edvard Grieg

Offertory:
Rumanian Dances
Dance with Sticks; Waistband Dance; On the Spot; Hornpipe; Rumanian Polka; Quick Dance
Béla Barték

Intlerlude:
The Entertainer
   Scott Joplin

2018-10-10

Build Your Joy Collection

Practice of the Week
Build Your Joy Collection

Category: Might Be Your Thing. The practices here are not for everyone -- but one of them may be just the thing for you! Any of these might also be, for you, in the "Occasional" category, but are listed here because they are good candidates for regular, central practices.

from Ann Richards, "Collecting Joy as a Spiritual Practice," in E. W. Wikstrom, editor, Faithful Practices: Everyday Ways to Feed Your Spirit, abridged and adapted.

I have struggled to recognize joy my whole adult life. I have always veered toward the pessimistic and skeptical. Then one day, when I was working for Rev. Ginger Luke, she encouraged me to leave my computer and come out with her to the front lawn. I was feeling overwhelmed with work and didn't want to stop typing, but grumbling to myself, I followed her.

There, alongside the walkway leading to the church was a small, lonely purple flower. I thought it sort of sad and underwhelming and was considering something polite to say when I looked up at Ginger. She brightened looking at it; her mouth became a dimple-punctuated smile. "Look! Look!” she exclaimed. Her joy was contagious. Walking back indoors, I didn't have a dowdy office; I had a shared space with my excellent friend Beth. I had good music on and was making progress with my projects. I felt joyful.

I began to conscientiously collect moments of joy that I could relive and treasure as a way to awaken joy in myself. Collecting moments of joy has become a spiritual practice for me.

1. The day-end review. Your joy collection begins by reinforcing the collection in your memory. Lying in bed at night, most of us think about events in our day. Instead of stewing about mistakes committed or rudenesses endured, make an intentional practice of reviewing moments of joy experienced that day.

2. Artifact collection. Start deliberately collecting movies, videos, books, music, art, photos, or writings that express joy. I now have a file on my computer marked "Joy" for email artifacts to review on days when I'm feeling blue and a collection of video artifacts on YouTube at home for the same purpose.

I have certain guidelines for selecting items for my joy collection:

I don't include mere happiness, peace, or serenity. It’s not always easy to tell the difference, but look for things that inspire unbridled, unbounded joy -- things that engross you with positive feeling, that you can focus on only a moment and everything else is shut out – things that leave you with a warm feeling and a smile, even when the experience is over. Look for enthusiasm, unmitigated élan: the wide-eyed, panting, bop, bang, boom of Animal the Muppet playing the drums. (There is an interview with Animal viewable online, and he says that the two things he loves the most in this world are drums and bunny rabbits. He's a fictional character, but I believe him! His drum playing gives the viewer a vicarious thrill. I’m no drummer, but watching Animal do what he loves gives me a new sense of what joy can be.)

Joy is infectious, so look for it in others. It’s infectious even if the other person is joyful about something that wouldn’t make you joyful. For example, the Edwin Hawkins Singers exude joy in their great gospel song, "Oh Happy Day." I'm not a born-again Christian, and I don't share the religious fervor that inspired Edwin Hawkins to write this song. It doesn't matter. I can hear their joy, and that lets me take it on for myself.

Byrd Baylor's beautiful picture book, I'm in Charge of Celebrations explains how she creates her own holidays based on the moments in her life she most wants to remember. I added this artifact to my joy collection the very first time I read it. I have also adopted the book’s approach. To be be in charge of my own celebrations, I don’t include in my collection memories or mementos of events where joy may have been a heavy expectation. I don’t include weddings or births, for example. The holiday season can feel like a tyranny of prescribed joy. I often do experience joy at weddings, births, and holiday celebrations, but I leave this joy out of my joy collection, which is reserved for items not freighted with expectation.

Another sort of joy I exclude from my collection are victories that came with someone else’s defeat. I have worked hard on political campaigns, for instance, and my candidates sometimes win. That kind of joy is worth remembering and savoring, but I don't include those moments in my spiritual practice collection because someone else was miserable.

3. Sharing. With technology we can have a further communal practice of sharing these artifacts. We are privileged to be able to hear live music -- every Sunday morning, even if at no other time. The joy is, in part, from experiencing it together. With the internet we can hear at any time Anna Maffo's version of Songs of the Auvergne, or Katrina and the Waves' “Walking on Sunshine.” But can we have it as a shared joy? Sure! We can share artifacts of joyful experiences with others.

The spiritual practice of collecting moments of joy has grown for me as I share them with the people I love. They may not feel the same sense of joy I do when listening, looking, and sharing, but they do get to know a little more about me, and I have the wonderful feeling of enjoying those moments again with those I care about.

Share links of your favorite music to friends you haven't seen in a while, share photos of your joyful moments in nature with homebound congregants, or read a poem over Skype to a friend. To keep the moments that bring you true joy to yourself is a lost opportunity. Here, I'll share one with you right now: if you haven't heard John Mayall's harmonica solo in “Room to Move," you must!



For Journaling

In your journal, reflect on these questions:
  • How do you define joy in your life? How do you know it when you experience it?
  • Do you tend to really take note of the moments of joy in your life, or are they overshadowed by more difficult things and times?
  • What is the difference between "joy” and “happiness"?
  • How might you integrate a practice like this into your own life?

2018-10-04

From the Minister, Thu Oct 4

In January 2007, LoraKim and I were living in Gainesville, Florida, so of course we watched the NCAA football championship game that month, and of course we rooted for the home team Florida Gators against the Ohio State Buckeyes. When Florida, slight underdogs going into the game, won 41-14, I was glad. All around me the town was celebrating. Post-game shows seem to like to include fan reaction segments -- don't ask me why. They cut to a scene in Columbus, Ohio and showed a woman bedecked in OSU red and white. She was dejected, of course. In fact, she was crying. The broadcast cut back to a Gainesville bar, and two young men who had just seen on the bar TV the shot of the Ohio woman crying. The young men gleefully jeered and mocked her.

That was the moment I lost interest in college football. I'd been a football fan all my life, and I understood that jeering and mocking the opposition before the game -- and a certain amount of gloating afterward from partisans of the victor -- were to be expected. Yet I was unprepared for the delight I saw being taken in another's pain: the evident pleasure in cruelty for its own sake. The brief shot of those celebrating Gator fans haunted me. As I processed my horror, a more extreme example of the same phenomenon rose to mind: the photos I'd seen from the 1920s of smiling, celebratory white faces at the lynching of a black person.

All of this came back to me this week as I read Adam Serwer's article, "The Cruelty is the Point," and Lili Loofbourow's "Brett Kavanaugh and the Cruelty of Male Bonding." Cruelty, directed toward women, apparently functions as a bonding mechanism for some men, a means "for intimacy through contempt." Oh, dear God.

Political theorist Judith Shklar is credited with saying "liberals are the people who think cruelty is the worst thing we do." I am quick to distinguish a religious liberal and a political liberal, recognizing that many people are religiously liberal and politically conservative. I don't know if viewing cruelty as "the worst thing we do" is actually any less prominent among political conservatives than political liberals, but Shklar's point resonates with me as a characterization of religious liberals. Moreover, I have always appreciated that Shklar's way of putting it avoids claiming that liberals actually are less cruel -- just that, when we are, or discover that we have been, we think of it as "being at our worst."

My life as a Unitarian Universalist has kept me in the company of people with an intuitive revulsion to cruelty -- people who see cruelty as, indeed, worse than, say, betrayal, dishonor, subversion, or desecration -- which, of course, are also unfortunate. I'm so grateful to all of you who keep this place going, who give your lives to sustaining a liberal religious community, who see cruelty as the worst thing we do and therefore see care and kindness as the best and who keep lit the flame of care and kindness as the supreme value. During these times when cruelty -- and, perhaps more distressing, the celebration of cruelty -- seems to be ascendant, the only hope I see is . . . you -- the people who side with love. Thank you. You're lifesavers!

Gratefully, so gratefully yours,
Meredith

The Liberal Pulpit / New this week:
Index of past sermons: HERE. Index of other reflections: HERE. Videos of sermons are on the Liberal Pulpit Youtube Channel: HERE
Practice of the Week: Rethinking Genesis / At Genesis 3:17 God curses the Earth. The soil is literally cursed, and Adam must then struggle to extract a living from it. Instead of experiencing Earth as holy, which was (and is) the norm for indigenous cultures around the world, the cultural heirs of Genesis viewed the Earth as a vehicle for punishment, an enemy, a cursed thing, filthy and corrupt. The Earth-as-enemy idea became less overt but the underlying paradigm remained. Total mastery of the Earth became a driving vision of the Enlightenment and subsequent Industrial Revolution....READ MORE.
Your Moment of Zen: Follow Your Bliss / "Follow your bliss" is Joseph Campbell's phrase. Campbell explained:
"If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Wherever you are — if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time."
To discern your bliss requires sacred space,
"a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen."
Your true "employers" -- the true bosses of your life, in whose service lies your authentic vocation -- is that which is alive in you, simultaneously universal and unique.

Think of something you do -- something that is both as ordinary and as magnificently special as a robin singing in an oak tree. That's it. That's your bliss. It might not have seemed like much, but that's it. Follow it.

Case
Grandma was chatting with Turkey at Vinecot, when Granddaughter made a surprise visit. That evening after supper, when they had caught up with each other's news, Granddaughter said, "Now that I've finished school, I don't know what I will do next."
Grandma said, "Follow your bliss."
Granddaughter said, "That sounds selfish."
Grandma said, "Your employers don't all have desks and files."
Next evening, Turkey asked Raven about Grandma's advice.
Raven said, "It's like Brown Bear said: 'The Robin sings in the oak tree; the finch sings in the madrone.'" [See Raven 5]
Turkey did not respond.
Woodpecker asked, "Aren't they distractions?"
Raven asked, "From what?"
Turkey seemed to come to herself, and gobbled.
Raven said, "Like that."
Verse
What makes a distraction?
The brain doing something,
Then thinking it shouldn't have?
I'm not saying your inner moralizer
Might not have a point,
just that maybe there's
Another angle.
What the brain did,
It did pursuing
its need and bliss.
Distraction isn't following
the wrong thing
But following
At a distance.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon

Zen at CUUC: Oct 5-11

RE News: Sun Oct 7


Last Sunday, Sep 30, was a living testament to the vigor, dedication, and spiritual commitment of parents, staff, and teachers. The Parent-Teacher Meeting was the first event of the day, facilitated by Perry Montrose, our Director of Faith Development, and me. Perry led a thought-provoking exercise: remember a time or event when you were a child or youth that was a joyful and transcending moment. The group shared a diverse collection of memories and personal experiences, a “journey discussion,” that helped the adults understand and relate to the children’s feelings and connections. The K-5 grade children started their instruction with Lyra Harada, our Children’s Music Director, learning the song “Circle of Life” in preparation for our Thanksgiving service. Perry concluded the children’s worship with a chalice lighting activity on the theme of “letting go” where each child had an opportunity to share a thing they wanted to let go of. Later, the parent orientation for the Our Whole Lives (OWL) class gave me the opportunity to better understand and truly appreciate the depth and complexity of this important curriculum. The facilitators asked probing, relevant questions, and the parents offered an engaged integration of opinions and feedback. The culmination of the Sunday activities left me once again impressed with the integrity and excellence of CUUC’s RE program.

Michele Rinaldi
Religious Education Coordinator

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Religious Education this Sunday, Oct 7
All ages meet in Fellowship Hall for Spirituality Sunday, which will include music, a nature walk, and meditation.

2018-19 Curriculum: Pre-K - Chalice Children; K-1st - A Discovery Year; 2nd-3rd - Affirmation Year; 4th-5th - Toolbox of Faith; 6th-7th - Riddle & Mystery; 8th-9th - Our Whole Lives; 10th-12th - Youth Group
To view a spreadsheet version of the RE Calendar, CLICK HERE.
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Faith Development Friday, Fri Oct 12, CUUC
An evening of learning, spiritual growth, and community. RSVP to admin@cucwp.org. 6:15pm Pizza & Salad Community Dinner, 7:00pm Programs, including:

"Faith Like a River" Adult RE - Session facilitated by Rev. Meredith. The class explores the people, ideas, and movements that have shaped our faith heritage. If you can't attend in person, you can join online via Zoom videoconferencing at https://zoom.us/j/2898507899.
Family Journey Groups - Parents discuss the theme of faith, facilitated by Barbara Montrose, while children have their own group, facilitated by Perry Montrose, Director of Faith Development. Adults without children are welcome to participate in the parent group.
Youth Group Social Night - High school youth gather for a night of fun. Bring a friend!

Adults may also just share dinner and then stay to chat and be together in Fellowship Hall, without specific programming. We welcome all to stay for coffee and conversation after the programs.

2018-10-03

Music: Sun Oct 7


Sunday morning’s music features the talents of the CUUC Choir and their Director Lisa N. Meyer, Choir Pianist Georgianna Pappas, and our own Kim Force. Read on for programming details.

Prelude: Georgianna Pappas, piano
Three Preludes
 Allegro ben  ritmato e deciso
Andante con moto e poco rubato
Allegro ben ritmato e deciso
George Gershwin
Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child
 Spiritual arr. by Noreen Sauls

Anthem: CUUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer
Simple Gifts 
Aaron Copland, arr. by Irving Fine


Offertory: Kim Force, vocals
1492       
Nancy Schimmel
Anthem:
Song of Freedom  
American Spirituals arr. by Victor C. Johnson

Rethinking Genesis

Practice of the Week
Rethinking Genesis

Category: Ecospiritual. These practices are oriented toward developing our spirituality through our connection with our planet home and our responsibility to care for it.


The Genesis story of creation and fall gave rise to cultural attitudes about the natural world that remain with us today. The fall narrative of Genesis 3 is viewed by some as an allegory for the transition from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to an agricultural one, by others as a culturally symbolic tale of the demotion of some deities and the ascendance of others, and by still others as showing the favor of a deity for the lifestyle of nomadic pastoralists over a lifestyle of sedentary farming. Perhaps Genesis 3 is all of these.

The story originated in the Fertile Crescent, the birthplace of Western civilization, a written language, agriculture, and the beginnings of the rule of law. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all trace their roots to this area.

At Genesis 3:17 God curses the Earth. The soil is literally cursed, and Adam must then struggle to extract a living from it. Instead of experiencing Earth as holy, which was (and is) the norm for indigenous cultures around the world, the cultural heirs of Genesis viewed the Earth as a vehicle for punishment, an enemy, a cursed thing, filthy and corrupt. (The association of women with all things earthly certainly did nothing to enhance their status.) The Earth-as-enemy idea grew and morphed over time. By the late Middle Ages, the dominant worldview declared that to reject all earthly things—including bodily functions and desires—was the path to godliness. Gradually, as the medieval mindset gave way to earliest modernity, the overt story of Genesis faded somewhat, but the underlying paradigm remained. Total mastery of the Earth became a driving vision of the Enlightenment and subsequent Industrial Revolution. Suddenly we were in charge. We built cities and factories. We moved away from the farms, from the muck and mud of a life lived close to Nature. We invented technologies. We cured diseases. And today, we live our lives in shrink-wrapped sterility, disconnected from the natural world and its processes.

The Western cultural drive to control and dominate the natural world stems from the deep taproot of the Genesis narrative. Our path of un-learning requires knowing social milieu around us and letting go of the cultural paradigm in which the Earth is cursed, corrupt, and in need of domination.

Practices

1. Journaling: Reflect on Genesis 1-3. Slowly read chapters one through three of Genesis. In your journal write about your reaction. Has your attitude toward Genesis changed? If so, how?

2. A Blessing Meditation. Find a quiet place outdoors. Consider all that is needed for life--air, water, food, shelter, energy, and so on. Consider all that makes life more than simply existence, such as beauty, inspiration, connection, and love. Now, either aloud or silently, recite a litany of how you are blessed by the Earth. For example:
  • I am blessed. The Earth provides oxygen for me to breathe.
  • I am blessed. As I gaze at the sunset, I am in awe of the beauty around me.
Make your litany both personal and universal. See yourself as a part of the Earth, and contemplate what it means to be blessed.

Group Activities

Giving Voice to Genesis. Stage an impromptu improvisation of the story of Genesis 3. Assign various group members to play the parts of Adam, Eve, God, and the Serpent. Then assign someone to play the part of the Tree of Knowledge, the Tree of Life, the Earth itself, the rivers of Eden, and the other animals and plants. Consider playing it out as written, and then trying it again, this time letting the story flow freely, without a predetermined outcome. See how the story unfolds when more characters speak than the traditional few. Afterward, reflect on the experience, and allow characters to add any insights that were not spoken during the improvisation.

Questions for Group Conversation:
  • For all its problems, might there still be some wisdom to be found in the story of the fall? What is it? Is it relevant to only individuals, or to the entire culture?
  • Historically speaking, how has the idea of the Earth as an enemy or an object for domination played itself out?
  • Can we as a culture let go of the image of Earth as our adversary and a thing to be conquered? What would that mean for our society?
  • Genesis 3 gives one picture of God's relationship to the Earth, but other passages in the Bible give a different picture. How do the characterizations of God in the following passages differ from the one who cursed the Earth? What do you make of the difference?
“Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.” (Matthew 6:26-29)

“In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed. O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.” (Psalm 95:4-7)

“You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills, Giving drink to every wild animal; the wild asses quench their thirst. By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation; they sing among the branches. From the lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.” (Psalm 104:10-13)
* * *

2018-09-27

From the Minister, Thu Sep 27

As I write this on Thursday afternoon, it's been a day of Senate testimony for Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh. The experience raises my anxiety -- about the future of the Senate, the Supreme Court, my country. Wendell Berry has helpful words for such times when "despair for the world grows in" us.
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Whatever happens in politics, our job is the same: to love; to do what we can for justice and let go of the rest. It might help us do that to take an occasional break to be with ducks and herons -- or perhaps just stroll among some trees.

Yours in faith,
Meredith

The Liberal Pulpit / New this week:
Index of past sermons: HERE. Index of other reflections: HERE. Videos of sermons are on the Liberal Pulpit Youtube Channel: HERE
Practice of the Week: Respond, Don't React / The key point is to make it a priority to feel good, to look for everyday opportunities for peacefulness, happiness, and love, and to take all the little moments you can to marinate in well-being. Each time you rest in your brain's responsive mode, it gets easier to come home to it again. That's because "neurons that fire together, wire together" stimulating the neural substrates of calm, contentment, and caring strengthens them. This also makes it harder to be...READ MORE.
Your Moment of Zen: Mosquito / An exercise: Imagine a mild, bearable discomfort -- like a mosquito biting, say, or waiting for a bus in the cold when you didn't wear a heavy enough coat. Now reflect on the beauty and wonder of that very moment of discomfort. Love the annoyance. All the mystery of the universe is right there in that moment. Don't you feel it?

With the mosquito's proboscis, Raven moved from "thought I understood" to "at last able to appreciate the mystery." It's not that she hadn't understood before. It's that appreciating the mystery is different from understanding a line.

Case
​One night after a meeting, the Tallspruce community lingered in the dark under the stars, and Raven reminisced about her time with Brown Bear.
"I remember," she said, "one day when I wasn't feeling well, and Brown Bear Roshi had me rest in her cave. Somehow it was a special gathering place for mosquitoes. One of them suspended herself before my face. She was almost not there -- so fragile, her long threadlike legs hanging down motionless. I marveled that she was a living being with appetites and incentive, yet hardly more than gossamer."
Raven continued, "When we chant the Heart Sutra, we recite, 'Form is no other than emptiness; emptiness no other than form.' Sometime earlier, when I was looking up at the night sky, I thought I understood that line, but when I was resting in Brown Bear's lair and I felt that mosquito sink her long proboscis in my face, I was at last able to appreciate the mystery."
Verse
The package deal of appetites and incentive --
Hunger-satiation, fear-security,
Lust-orgasm -- arrives as advertised,
Home delivered, and throughout the neighborhood,
Sensations of
Mosquito bites, tea, sky, paper cuts
Thrown in, no extra charge.
The promise of essence, independent and abiding,
is never kept, nor was ever made.
Read again the fine print,
The fine, fine print.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon


Zen at CUUC: Sat Sep 29

2018-09-26

RE News: Sun Sep 30

Classes last week really transformed into a flurry of activity via our RE curriculum! Grades 2-3 learned all about Unitarian Universalist Principles and created beautiful Rainbow Principles key chains. On the other end of the spectrum, Youth Group conducted a “Getting To Know Each Other” game and even created a brand new covenant. There will be much more to hear about at this Sunday’s Parent-Teacher Meeting at 8:45am in Fellowship Hall.

Michele Rinaldi
Religious Education Coordinator

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Religious Education this Sunday, Sep 30
K-5th grades start in Fellowship Hall for Children's Worship with Children's Music Director Lyra Harada.
6th-12th grades start in classrooms.
2018-19 Curriculum: Pre-K - Chalice Children; K-1st - A Discovery Year; 2nd-3rd - Affirmation Year; 4th-5th - Toolbox of Faith; 6th-7th - Riddle & Mystery; 8th-9th - Our Whole Lives; 10th-12th - Youth Group
To view a spreadsheet version of the RE Calendar, CLICK HERE.
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Faith Development Friday, Fri Sep 28, CUUC
An evening of learning, spiritual growth, and community. RSVP to cuucEvents@gmail.com. 6:15pm Pizza & Salad Community Dinner, 7:00pm Programs, including:

"Faith Like a River" Adult RE - Session facilitated by Rev. Meredith. The class explores the people, ideas, and movements that have shaped our faith heritage. If you can't attend in person, you can join online via Zoom videoconferencing at https://zoom.us/j/2898507899.
Family Journey Groups - Parents discuss the theme of faith, facilitated by Barbara Montrose, while children have their own group, facilitated by Perry Montrose, Director of Faith Development. Adults without children are welcome to participate in the parent group.
Youth Group Social Night - High school youth gather for a night of fun. Bring a friend!

Adults may also just share dinner and then stay to chat and be together in Fellowship Hall, without specific programming. We welcome all to stay for coffee and conversation after the programs.
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Parent-Teacher Meeting, Sun Sep 30, 8:45am, Fellowship Hall
Join Perry and Michele to learn more about the vision of Religious Education. Parents, meet your children's teachers and hear about the curriculum. Breakfast served and childcare available. Please RSVP to RE@cucwp.org.

2018-09-25

Music: Sun Sep 30


This morning’s musical selections feature examples of American music from a variety of traditions. The sweet, nostalgic piano works of Edward MacDowell speak to the composer’s assimilation of European musical traditions even while reflecting impressions of his native New England. Duke Ellington might well be considered a classical jazz artist, whose exquisitely shaped melodies, distinctive harmonies and characteristic rhythms set the standard for a quintessentially American art form. The CUUC Choir is on hand with inspirational statements from both American and African traditions, while our own Kim Force performs Paul Simon’s “American Tune” as the Offertory. Read on for programming details.

Prelude: Adam Kent, piano
From Woodland Sketches, Op. 51
            1. To a Wild Rose
            4. In Autumn
                                                Edward MacDowell
Sophisticated Lady
Birmingham Breakdown
                                                Duke Ellington

Anthem: CUUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer and accompanied by Georgianna Pappas
Flying Free
Don Besig 


Offertory: Kim Force, soprano
American Tune
                                                Paul Simon

Anthem:
Takadamu*
                                                Sally Albrecht and Jay Althouse
                                                           
*Translation: Lead the way, step forward.
                       Go straight ahead.
                       You’re on the right road. Step by step.

2018-09-21

From the Minister, Fri Sep 21

Kudos and much gratitude to Mary Cavallero, Jeff Tomlinson, and Pam Cucinell who, with me, constitute the SJCC -- Social Justice Coordinating Committee. (The name always reminds me of the historically significant SNCC -- the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee that did so much in the '60s to advance justice.)

Mary, in particular, has done yeoman's work in keeping the SJCC, our SJTs (Social Justice Teams) and, indeed, our congregation's social justice effort organized. The SJT Fair we had after the service last Sunday (Sun Sep 16) was wonderful, and I'm thankful to all SJTs for the heart and time they put into their displays. Way to go, teams!

If I had only seven words to say what Unitarian Universalism is all about, they would be these: Nurture your spirit; help heal our world. But I must take some additional words to emphasize that these are not two things, but one: nurture your spirit BY helping to heal our world -- and help heal our world BY nurturing your spirit, healing yourself, growing in wisdom and compassion. This was clearly on display at every table last Sunday at the SJT Fair!

Our Social Justice Teams are organized on a model of concentric circles: the center circle is the chair or two co-chairs of each team. The second circle is the 5-member "leadership core" of the team. The third circle is all the active members. Fourth is the "on-call" members. Fifth is the entire congregation, which may be called upon for certain specific big projects any SJT might initiate.

Love, my friends! And justice -- for justice is what love looks like in public,
Meredith

The Liberal Pulpit / New this week:
Index of past sermons: HERE. Index of other reflections: HERE. Videos of sermons are on the Liberal Pulpit Youtube Channel: HERE
Practice of the Week: The Shower-Write Practice / Our minds can sometimes fall victim to thoughts/feelings that spin out of control, resulting in a feeling of high anxiety and overwhelm. This simple Shower-Write practice stops thoughts and emotions from spiraling out of control. This practice rescues us from mental "freak-out" and allows us to get our thoughts and emotions back under control. Begin with a warm shower, then...READ MORE.
Your Moment of Zen: Not Helping / After a talk by Raven about the precepts, Woodpecker said, "The cowbird lays her egg in the wren's nest, and the two wrens have to hustle to feed the cowbird's baby as well as their own. I don't see why the wrens stand for it, especially since the cowbird's baby is a lot bigger than theirs and has a huge appetite. Maybe the wrens are really bodhisattvas, selflessly devoted to helping others." Raven said...READ MORE
Zen at CUUC: Sat Sep 22

2018-09-20

RE News: Sun Sep 23

Lifespan Religious Education

September has arrived with all the promise and beauty of fall. The academic school year begins for all and so, too, Religious Education at CUUC! Our program was launched on Sun Sep 16 commencing with teacher orientation. The teaching staff were most receptive and very eager to embark on the new year.

As I visited all the classrooms and observed, there was no denying the enthusiasm and engagement of the teachers and children.
The feedback I have received from teachers concerning their first class has conveyed a very positive foundation with even better things to come.

In just a week, the parent-teacher meeting will take place, on Sun Sep 30. I envision this meeting to be an exceptional opportunity for our Director of Faith Development, Perry Montrose, and me to talk about our religious education program, our curriculum, and our goals. Most importantly, the parents also have the ability to meet and speak with our teachers!

It is my hope that this team energy will continue to grow and flourish toward providing a give and take balance of learning and understanding between teachers, students and families.

Michele Rinaldi
Religious Education Coordinator
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Religious Education this Sunday, Sep 23
K-5th grade start in Fellowship Hall for Children's Worship with Children's Music Director Lyra Harada.
6th-12th grade start in classrooms.

2018-19 Curriculum: Pre-K - Chalice Children; K-1st - A Discovery Year; 2nd-3rd - Affirmation Year; 4th-5th - Toolbox of Faith; 6th-7th - Riddle & Mystery; 8th-9th - Our Whole Lives; 10th-12th - Youth Group

To view a spreadsheet version of the RE Calendar, CLICK HERE.
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Faith Development Friday, Fri Sep 28, CUUC
An evening of learning, spiritual growth, and community. RSVP to cuucEvents@gmail.com.
6:15pm Pizza & Salad Community Dinner, 7:00pm Programs, including:

"Faith Like a River" Adult RE - Session facilitated by Rev. Meredith. The class explores the people, ideas, and movements that have shaped our faith heritage. If you can't attend in person, you can join online via Zoom videoconferencing at https://zoom.us/j/2898507899.
Family Journey Group - Parents discuss the theme of faith, facilitated by Barbara Montrose, while children have their own group, facilitated by Perry Montrose, Director of Faith Development. Adults without children are welcome to participate in the parent group.
Youth Group Social Night - High school youth gather for a night of fun. Bring a friend!

Adults may also just share dinner and then stay to chat and be together in Fellowship Hall, without specific programming. We welcome all to stay for coffee and conversation after the programs.
---
Parent-Teacher Meeting, Sun Sep 30, 8:45am, Fellowship Hall
Join Perry and Michele to learn more about the vision of Religious Education. Parents, meet your children's teachers and hear about the curriculum. Breakfast served and childcare available.