About dbaxter81

I am a Unitarian Universalist minister, serving the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Stanislaus County. Reproductive justice has been the soil of my theological work, starting from the human suffering that is revealed and addressed (or not addressed) through abortion provision. Prior to pursuing liberal religious ministry, Darcy worked at the National Abortion Federation and Howard University. I currently serve on the advisory board of Backline and on the board of directors of the Abortion Conversation Project. I present frequently on topics of morality, reproductive justice, spirituality, and liberal religion to diverse groups, including doctors, medical staff, activists, church members, and lawyers.

Everything Interesting in 90% Boring

I was listening to a conversation with author Elizabeth Gilbert about creativity, what creativity means, what myths we have about ‘creative’ people, etc.  And she has this great line where she talks about how boring and tedious writing can be.  Being an artist, a writer, is not full time interestingness.   Gilbert grew up on a family run Christmas tree farm and she says:

“the Christmas tree farm is a great metaphor. And I think one of the reasons that both my sister and I ended up being authors is because we were taught how to do boring things for a long time…here is one of the grand misconceptions about creativity.  When people dream of quitting their boring job so that they can have a creative life, one of the risks of great disappointment is the realization that, “Oh, this is also a boring job a lot of the time.” It’s certainly tedious. I mean, it’s a boring job I would rather do than any other boring job. It’s the most interesting boring job I’ve ever had, but…I have a theory that I’m just growing, and I haven’t really put a roof on it, but I’ll throw it out there, which is that everything that is interesting is 90 percent boring. And we are sort of in a culture that’s addicted to the good part, right? The exciting part, the fun part, the reward. But every single thing that I think is fascinating is mostly boring. “

41009810140_eebab34e1e_oWhat does it mean to be on a path of spiritual growth? For me, it’s what Gilbert describes here.  Like creativity, spiritual growth means committing to practices, tasks, and relationships that, frankly, are not going to make you glow with enlightenment immediately or all the time.  But in the course of doing the mundane and regular, you creative the environment in which transformation, meaning, and even magic can happen.

If you can stick through those [boring] parts, not rush through the experiences of life that have the most possibility of transforming you, but to stay with it until the moment of transformation comes, and then through that to the other side, then very interesting things will start to happen within very boring frameworks.

 

I look forward to worshiping with you this Sunday: “I Am, Because You Are”–
Unitarian Universalists have a strong sense that we are all connected.  Practicing Ubuntu is a way we can live out our seventh principle of respecting the interconnected web of life of which we are all a part.  We welcome guest speaker Debbie Adair Soro.
Worship leaders:  Rev. Darcy Baxter, Sharon Arpoika, Debbie Adair Soro, and Haruko DeArth.

 

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Beyond Insularity

I came across this Joan Didion excerpt this week about the Central Valley, from her essay “Notes From A Native Daughter

“U.S. 99 in fact passes through the richest and most intensely cultivated agricultural region in the world, a giant outdoor hothouse with a billion-dollar crop. It is when you remember the Valley’s wealth that the monochromatic flatness of its towns takes on a curious meaning, suggests a habit of mind some would consider perverse. There is something in the Valley mind that reflects a real indifference to the stranger in his air-conditioned car, a failure to perceive even his presence, let alone his thoughts or wants. An implacable insularity is the seal of these towns.

First off, I wonder if you agree with Didion’s characterization of the Valley.   Secondly, that word “insularity” is what most stuck out to me.  Unitarian Universalist values guide us to reach out beyond insularity.  We embrace difference and curiosity– we believe in wisdom found in many different traditions and practices (so many exist right here in Stanislaus County!)  Rather than practicing indifference to the stranger, we aim to be welcoming and curious.  But these days, maybe you find it difficult to practice welcome and curiosity.  Being welcoming and curious takes a mental/emotional energy that is hard to muster when you are feeling stressed, fearful, and/or exhausted. No matter how you are feeling, UUFSC will be a place that reaches out beyond insularity, even if you as an individual aren’t up to in this moment!

I look forward to worshiping with you all this Sunday: Holding it Together and Falling Apart. Chaos and order, messiness and tidiness, holding and falling apart. The spiritual path requires engaging with these opposite, (or perhaps complimentary?) forces in our life. Worship leaders: Rev. Darcy, Haruko DeArth, and guest musician Jorge Torrez.

 

Team vs. Hero

Here we are again–the 4th NBA playoffs in a row where we have Golden State Warriors against the Cleveland Cavaliers.  For me, the end of the church year is synonymous with the playoffs because my first year of ministry at UUFSC was the beginning of the Warriors playoff run.  Truth be told, the Western Finals, where the Warriors faced the Houston Rockets, was far more fun to watch than the Finals.  Why? Because both the

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Sam and I run into Warrior Javale McGee in Oakland!!!

Warriors and the Rockets play beautifully orchestrated TEAM basketball.  The passing, assists, the rotation of players off the bench.  It’s just fun to watch.  The Cavaliers?  Well, it’s Lebron James plus some people to help him out.  The first game in this series, James scored 51 points and the Cavaliers looked like they had a fighting chance against the Warriors. But then, on the second game, when Lebron only scored 29 points? Well, the Cavaliers didn’t look so promising.   Real teams have flexibility and breadth– they have camaraderie and playfulness.  So when one person gets injured, the whole team doesn’t collapse.  Lebron James is absolutely incredible. And I’d never want to be on a team with him.  Collaboration and cooperation take a lot of work, humility, and patience– in other words, some real spiritual and emotional chutzpah.

I look forward to worshiping with you all this Sunday: Forming and Formation: Honoring Our Youth.  Our early years are a precious period, and the spiritual lessons we learn then shape us for the rest of our lives. Join us in celebrating the faith formation of our children, of which we are all a part. Worship Leaders this week are Rev. Darcy, Matthew Mason, and guest musician Jorge Torres.

 

Love is Not A Ladder

It’s tempting to think of love as a progression, from ignorance toward the refined light of reason, but that would be a mistake. The history of love is not a ladder we climb rung by rung leaving previous rungs below. Human history is not a journey across a landscape, in the course of which we leave one town behind as we approach another. Nomads constantly on the move, we carry everything with us, all we possess. We carry the seeds and nails and remembered hardships of everywhere we have lived, the beliefs and hurts and bones of every ancestor. Our baggage is heavy. We can’t bear to part with anything that ever made us human. The way we love in the twentieth century is as much an accumulation of past sentiments as a response to modern life.

-Diane Ackerman’s  “A Natural History of Love”

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A rainbow of succulents planted by Ron.

June’s spiritual theme is “Love” because of the things you shared back in September about what is most essential about UUFSC, this as a place to experience love was a top priority.   In talking with many of you this past month, a number of you have mentioned missing people who are no longer here.  People who have died, people who have moved out of the area, and people who have lessened their involvement in the life of the congregation.  For some, coming to church is filled with the absence of beloved friends.  For others, coming to church is filled with the possibility and hope of such connections.  In whatever ways UUFSC decides to focus it’s ministry, however we decide to share Unitarian Universalist Belovedness, our love is not a ladder.  Whatever and however we share, it’s the accumulation of all the people who have ever sat in our church, all the people who have volunteered, labored, laughed, and cried.  We carry all the people along with us who have ever crossed our threshold.

This Sunday is Jazz Sunday: We welcome back the New Horizons Jazz Band for a special music Sunday, inviting their music to stir, provoke, and move us in ways simple words cannot. Worship leaders this week are Rev. Darcy and Matthew Mason.

Scared Calling

I laughed out loud reading Adrienne Rich’s “Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution” when I saw this typo: instead of “Sacred Calling” the heading read “Scared Calling.”   It had never occurred to me that ‘sacred’ and ‘scared’ were words with just one little difference in the placement of the ‘c.’  And it also felt fairly appropriate.  In 40965490955_8e791df96b_othe Hebrew Bible, God is always calling on someone whose first response is “who, me? You are kidding, right? Go find someone more well qualified.”  When God calls to Moses, telling him he is to lead the Israelites out of slavery, Moses says “I am nobody. How can I go to the king and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”  Scared calling is right– when we are called, it can be a scary thing.  We have doubts, we think other people should do it, whatever the “it” is.    But often, we are the ones– the ones to do ‘it’, the ones who must deal with fear and doubt to do “the thing.”   All too often a “sacred calling” is also a “scared calling.”

This Sunday in Worship: Presence– Is “Presence” the byproduct of mindfulness? Or is “Presence” that state of being in the proximity the the divine? Can you have one without the other? Join Todd W, Brian W, Sharon A, Sarah B, and others as they explore this theme through poetry, song and other vocal expression.

 

Beautiful Weeds

A friend was getting advice about what to do with these weeds in her backyard. She got40329567720_27ea922101_o the advice that if she wasn’t planning on doing landscaping, she might want to consider keeping these pretty looking weeds.  Because if she pulled them out, some not-so-pretty weeds might sprout up instead.  What I appreciated about the advice was that it prioritized what is beautiful, regardless of it’s category as “weed.”  It was advice that was both pragmatic and aesthetic.  There is so much ugliness in the world that preserving what is beautiful does seem like a really important endeavor.    And not beautiful in a shallow way– but true beauty.  Like the beauty of tenderness of caring for a loved one, the beauty of the irises out front of the congregation, or the beauty of tears shared with those who know hard it can be to hold it all together while also giving yourself permission to also have time to fall apart.  And not beauty in an overly laborious way either–beauty that was already here, right now, without a lot of intensive manicuring.

I look forward to having some beautiful time with you this Sunday: Absolute Cooperation with the Inevitable–Jesuit priest Anthony De Mello says that “enlightenment is absolute cooperation with the inevitable.” What is inevitable in our lives that we should stop resisting? And what only seems inevitable . but in fact we should fight like hell?  Worship leaders: Rev. Darcy, Brian Wise, and Sabine Klein.

Also, the congregation’s annual business meeting will be held after worship this Sunday, at 12 noon.  I hope to see you there!

The Road We Are On

Years ago, when reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal Dreams, I came across this quote which I have had posted by my front door (wherever that front door is) for many years:

IMG_20180510_113842487“What keeps you going isn’t some fine destination but just the road you’re on, and the fact that you know how to drive. You keep your eyes open, you see this damned-to-hell world you got born into, and you ask yourself, ‘What life can I live that will let me breathe in & out and love somebody or something and not run off screaming into the woods?”

What I know about getting through this life is that the people you are with make all the difference.  I got separated once while traveling with my friends in New York City.  I was  so relieved when I finally got reconnected with them.  I realized then this fundamental truth about me–as long as I am with my people, then I don’t care where we are traveling.

I look forward to worshiping with you all this Sunday: The Value of Care
On this Mother’s Day we explore what journalist Anne Marie Slaughter calls “the care paradigm,” and how a religious community can be a place that truly honors and celebrates the idea that people who provide care are just as indispensable to our society as those who provide income. Worship leaders this week are Rev. Darcy, Matthew Mason, and Sabine Klein.