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.

Climbing That Mountain

On Thursday, I participated in the last day of the American Leadership Forum’s year long leadership program I have been participating in since last June.  Our group, made up of folks from San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Merced countries, have met once a month, along with a few longer retreats, including the one in September where they took us out camping in the back-country.   And on that trip, there was a mountain they said we could choose to climb (I shared about this back in September).  I never decided to summit the mountain– I decided I would start walking with a few other people, walk as far as I wanted, and then stop when I wanted.   Step by step by step by step.  And eventually, I found myself almost to the summit and so I said “what the heck, let’s go.”


Irises in front of the church!

Often when we face big, intimidating obstacles, we are served best by focusing on the next right step and not on the bigness of the mountain.  As long as we have good company, step by step, we make our way and will surprise ourselves just how high we can make it.

After 8 weeks away on parental leave, I very much look forward to worshiping with you all this Sunday:  What We Can Do Together–Being a human being means constantly navigating our separateness and connectedness–what is good for the group? What is good for the individual? Where and how do we draw the lines, if such lines can even be drawn? Worship leaders: Rev. Darcy and Sharon Arpoika.


The mountain I climbed without intending to!

Also, there is a special messages from the Board of Trustees and myself in this week’s E-blast/Upcoming at UUFSC.  Please take a look!

Sanctuary Means Safety

Because our worship theme for March is Sanctuary, I’ve been thinking about that concept a lot, particularly these past view days since we were asked to be a place of safety for one particular person–not emotional safety, not spiritual safety, but basic physical safety.  In hearing about this person’s circumstance, thinking about what they faced, I realized how relatively lightweight my connotation of the word safety is.   How often when I use the word safety what I actually mean is comfort.  Not so long ago, when images of Syrian refugees filled the news, poet Warsan Shire’ poem ‘Home’ got passed around social media.  It is a gritty, graphic poem:  “no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark…no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land…how do the words the dirty looks roll off your backs maybe because the blow is softer than a limb torn off…the insults are easier to swallow
than rubble, than bone, than your child body in pieces.”


Freshly picked Oranges from a UUFSCer’s tree.

I’ve heard that when you are having a difficult time, it is actually helpful to think about people who are struggling with even more difficult circumstances– not in a “I shouldn’t feel this way, others have it so much harder” way.  But in a way that gives you perspective and context—that allows you to connect with the strength and resiliency of the human spirit.    Sanctuary means safety…and after the past two days, I am painfully reminded how blessed with safety and sanctuary my life is.

I look forward to worshipping with you all this Sunday: Belonging–A core human need is to belong– we honor our own sense of belonging here at UUFSC and welcome new members as they begin their journey of belonging here.  Worship leaders: Rev. Darcy, Haruko DeArth, and Sabine Klein.

After church, I hope you will join our Spiritual Formation and Religious Education team  in the Sanctuary- they will be sharing more about the research and exploration they have been doing in re-imagining how the church approaches the moral and spiritual formation of our children (and frankly, of our adults too!).

Also, I will be taking part II of my parental leave beginning tomorrow, Monday March 5th and will be back in the church office Tuesday May 1st.  I’ll start back up with my weekly reflections when I return!

Pain-in-the-Neck Community

At the New to UU class on Sunday, one of the participants asked about this concept of Beloved Community.  What is it?  I have my little schtick about it (a theological concept created by Josiah Royce, popularized my MLK, a community grounded in non-violence, where we work on expressing radical love for others, ourselves and for the greater world through acts of compassion and justice).  But, like with any of these kinds of “spiritually” words, it still felt vague– a little ooey-gooey.    And then this article came out in the UU World: “We are people who put windows in doors.”

Author Liz James says” I entered a time in my life when community became a lot less “beloved” to me. People failed me. There were power struggles. People were not brave, or compassionate. wasn’t brave, or compassionate. I knew I was supposed to forgive and begin again, but I really didn’t feel like it…”

After reflecting on how and why they installed windows in the minister’s office door (hint: it’s about creating structures of transparency and accountability, no matter who sits in that office!), James goes on to say ”

I am no longer a believer in Beloved Community. Not that safe and sacred space where we are all “woke,” or kind, or even trying our best every single day. But I am still a believer in community—regular community—filled with people who are a mix of incredibly beautiful, profoundly broken, and sometimes just run-of-the-mill pain-in-the-neck.

“Pain-in-the-neck community” has an honesty to it.

For one thing, I can belong there. I can be good enough for that world. I can give it my all, pour myself into it, and I can fail. And when I do, I have more to hold on to than aspiration and a promise to do better. There’s also the promise that I won’t do better—not always.

Frankly, I would say that I’ve always understood “Beloved Community” as “Pain-in-the-neck” community.  My wife and child are beloved to me– and they are also often frustrating and always imperfect.   But I get James’ point– words sound romantic and beautiful and we can often forget the grit and discomfort behind them.  It’s good to remember that Beloved Community IS Pain-in-the-neck community.

I look forward to worship with you this Sunday–Blossomings Come celebrate the glorious beauty we are surrounded by at this time of year (if your allergies allow!) Please wear your boots or sneakers and a coat as you will be invited to take a brief contemplative walk (or do a sitting) into the surrounding almond orchard as part of the worship service! Worship leaders: Rev. Darcy, Haruko DeArth, and Sabine Klein.


Forget Sacrifice

Reading about yet another mass shooting, the line “forget sacrifice” from UU minister Rev. Lynn Ungar‘s poem “Lent” particularly stuck out to me, as many of our Catholic brothers and sisters began their Lenten season of reflection and penance.

What will you give up for this season,
to help life alongIMG_20180214_144616036_HDR in its curious reversals?
As if we had a choice.
As if the world were not
constantly shedding us
like feathers off a duck’s back–
the ground is always
littered with our longings.

You can’t help but wonder
about all the heroes,
the lives and limbs sacrificed
in their compulsion toward the good.
All those who dropped themselves
upon the earth’s hard surface–
weren’t they caught in pure astonishment
in the breath before they shattered?

Forget sacrifice. Nothing
is tied so firmly that the wind
won’t tear it from us at last.
The question is how to remain faithful
to all the impossible,
necessary resurrections.

The truth is, we don’t get a choice about sacrifice.  And too many of us are asked to make too many sacrifices.  Don’t get me wrong– I find that the practice of giving something up to be an incredibly instructive spiritual practice.  But Rev. Ungar’s poem for me is such superb Unitarian Universalist theology– the Divine/Ultimate/God/Ground-of-Being would never want creation to suffer, to sacrifice.  That suffering and sacrifice happens is part of our human reality– but to believe that which some may call “the Ultimate” would require it of us? Well, that just sounds abusive.  “Giving up” is something we have to do all the time in this human life– as the parents and families of those slaughtered in Florida are being forced to do.   As Ungar so beautifully puts it “The question is how to remain faithful to all the impossible, necessary resurrections” that we must go through in the course of our living.

I look forward to worshiping with you all this Sunday: Curiosity Did Not Kill The Cat
In fact, maybe curiosity resurrected the cat! “Resilience is more available to people curious about their own line of thinking and behaving” says shame researcher Dr. Brene Brown. Worship leaders: Rev. Darcy and Brian Wise. Musicians: Sue Cotter, April Gutierrez, and Karen O’Dell.