Friday, November 30, 2007

nothing so pretty

[A] young man and…woman, each laughing at the other for being so mad as to want a ride in this strange old flying machine…[T]he tall old wheels sped along the ground. Then…it was pure engine sound and wind beating us, and the trees and houses shrank smaller and smaller…Despite their laughter, they had been afraid of the [biplane.]…now they smiled and shouted to each other, looking down, pointing.
Why should that be so pretty to see? Because fear is ugly and joy is beautiful, simple as that? Maybe so. Nothing so pretty as vanished fear.
The air smelled like a million grassblades crushed, and the sun lowered to turn it from silver air into gold…
The girl touched her [husband’s] shoulder…to point out the church…It couldn’t have been too long ago that they had walked out the door of that church into a rice-storm,
and now it was all a little toy place, a thousand feet below. That tiny place? Why, it had been so big then, with the flowers and the music. Maybe it was big only because it was a special time.
We circled down lower…As soon as the tires touched, the dream was broken.
“Thanks a lot,” the young man said, “that was fun.”
“That was wonderful!” his wife said, radiant, forgetting to adjust the mask of convention about her words and her eyes.
“Glad to fly with you,” I said, my own mask firm in place, my own delight well down within myself and under tight control. There was so much more I wanted to say, to ask: Tell me how that all felt, first time…was the sky as blue, the air as golden for you as it is for me? …Thirty years, fifty years from now, will you remember?”
They walked away arm in arm, still smiling.

--from Richard Bach's Nothing By Chance: A Gypsy Pilot's Adventures in Modern America (Avon Books, 1969).

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Jess just included one of my sermons in her Best of UU pages. I am honored and tickled. Thanks, Jess!

Friday, November 23, 2007

buckled hats

I love buckled hats. Many images in my mental "Thanksgiving" file include Pilgrims wearing buckled hats. Not only their hats, but their story-coming to a strange land, losing many of their friends to disease or starvation, receiving help from the indigenous peoples, and expressing their gratitude for that whole journey-is compelling.

Of course, the first North American Thanksgiving was nowhere near Plymouth Rock--Europeans settled in Virginia a century earlier, and Norse sailors arrived in Nova Scotia, several centuries prior to that--and they were all grateful to find food. More importantly, the indigenous peoples, those of the First Nations, had been expressing their thanks to the Corn Mother (and other symbols of natural benevolence) long before any Europeans arrived.

It doesn't matter who was first; what matters is that we *do* remind ourselves of the good things in our lives. Human beings operate by contrasts; our happiness is measured by comparisons. If we compare ourselves to our rich neighbors, or to the deliriously happy folks in TV commercials, we'll feel less fulfilled. If we are mindful of the blessings we do enjoy, we'll feel better about our situations. We don't have cool buckled hats, but we do have full bellies, and modern medicine, and our families and friends.

Friday, November 16, 2007

grandkids' call to offering

"it's 3:23 in the morning
and I'm awake
because my great great grandchildren
won't let me sleep
my great great grandchildren
ask me in dreams
what did you do while the planet was plundered?
what did you do when the earth was unraveling?..."
writes Drew Dellinger.

In part, I respond,
"I joined this congregation
and supported and strengthened
the people and the environment
in my corner of the world;
I worked to keep my self, and my family and my community
as healthy and as strong as possible.

I exercised my right of conscience,
and covenanted with these people—-
this congregation, free of state and church hierarchy—-
to journey together
and care for each other and our world.

I donated my time, and my talents.
I pledged my financial support
*and* I gave an additional dollar or two each week,
to demonstrate my commitment to our shared venture.”

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

best board opening ever

We had the best opening ritual that I've ever seen, at our Board meeting last night.

A shrine dedicated to St. Winefride (or Gwenfrewi, in her native Welsh) has a healing pool of water. It has been receiving pilgrims daily for over 1300 years. There are piles and stacks of crutches at the place, left there by people who came injured and left cured. One of our Board members visited the abbey two years ago, on a trip around Europe he took with his mother, who is an Episcopal priest. She stepped off a curb wrong, while they were over there, and broke her ankle in five places. They visited the pool, she soaked her ankle in the healing waters, they caught a plane home--when she landed in Los Angeles, none of her bones were broken anymore.

He brought some of the water home with him, and (because he's recently survived a cancer scare himself, and is thinking a lot about healing, and about his friends) he shared it with us last night. He passed around a small bowl, and offered it to us, to heal us in whatever ways we needed it.

I am sure that there were both believers and skeptics in the room--and it still felt incredibly special, that this man was sharing with us an important part of his life. Whether or not the water had special powers, his compassionate *act* of sharing brought healing to us.

Monday, November 12, 2007

veteran's day 2007

I am awash in complex emotions this morning.
I feel grief for our veterans—for their loss of limbs, or peace of mind, or their lives.
I feel relief that it wasn’t me;
and a little shame at admitting that.
I feel angry that we’re in Iraq at all,
and that it has distracted from a more defensible mission in Afghanistan.
I feel anger that we did not,
and still are not,
doing more to bring them all home.
I feel shame that I have not done more.
I feel gratitude that I live in a democratic republic
with more freedoms that most human beings.
I feel angry that “defending our freedoms” has become such a cliché,
an empty phrase used to defend the most ridiculous abuses.
I feel anger that “support our troops” is also an empty phrase,
usually requiring us to send even more troops into harm’s way
while simultaneously cutting benefits to veterans and their families.
I feel anger that our civil liberties have been eroded,
taken from us in the guise of “national security.”
I feel anger and shame that we haven’t done more to prevent that.
I feel defensive about criticism from the left—
that I should preach only pacifism and nonviolence
instead of saying that some wars are just.
I feel despair that our U.S. troops will be occupying Iraq
well into the next President’s term,
whoever that may be—
and the next, after that.
I feel grief for all the families in Iraq and Afghanistan
and a hundred other countries where superpowers—
nations or corporations or just powerful individuals—
battle over our world’s resources,
and our human cousins feel the worst of it.
I feel anger that our country,
once a shining example of the best society and highest ideals
that we humans could create,
is now the biggest bully on the international neighborhood,
even now looking for a pretext to start *another* war
and populating secret prisons and torture chambers.
I feel anger that the politicians are on the TV news programs today
talking about how they appreciate and honor the sacrifices of our veterans—
many of whom they sent into war in the first place!
I feel gratitude for all of the difficult and dangerous and deadly things
that so many veterans did,
because the felt it was their duty,
to their country or to their fellow humans

So, you might say I’m ambivalent about Veteran’s Day.


Each of us is fighting the good fight, in the theater of our own lives.
We are all veterans of many skirmishes,
physical, emotional, sexual and spiritual.
We have all been wounded by something in our past
and we all wear invisible medals
for sometime, somewhere
when we went above and beyond
what we thought we could do.

On the 11th day of the 11th month,
we honor the human spirit of perseverance
exemplified by our veterans—
and the echoes of that spirit in all of us.

So may we be.