Archives for the month of: April, 2008

 

Welcome to my web log! (blog) I hope that these entries will give you a glimpse into my world and the spirit I bring to my ministry. I write new entries every week, so check out the archives and check in again soon. Looking forward to beginning ministry with UUCFM in the fall!

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This past Sunday my home congregation’s pastor preached about making space in our lives.  She began by talking about how we humans tend to take everything to the extreme- extreme sports, extreme addictions, and extreme behavior.  These extremes take us to the edge and leave no margin, no space where we can grow in faith, in reflection.  She also stressed that “extreme living,” a drama-driven lifestyle, does nothing for growing and deepening the relationships that are the most important to us.

The middle path, a way of balance and harmony, is nearly impossible to attain.  However, it is worth the effort.  Maybe you have seen it happen in the lives of your loved ones or in yourself:  the pendulum is over to one extreme and then, in an extreme reaction, it swings to the other extreme.  And hopefully, at some point, the swinging will settle in the middle.  

Perhaps this is why I so love karate practice- a moving meditation that requires a balance between many extremes (hard and soft/ empty and full/ relaxed and focused/ disciplined and unattached).  Before seated meditation, we will sometimes do the zen-style walking meditation.  Each takes their own pace, and I so enjoy feeling every point of contact with the floor, the heel softly kissing the earth, the slow roll through the instep, and then the ball of the foot sighing as it peels away from the wood floor.  And to notice the knees, the muscles in the legs flexing and holding weight, glory hallelujah!  The extremes of binary thinking fall away to the totality of experience.

 In his writings, German theologian and ethicist Dietrich Bonhoeffer so often emphasized the “both/and” totality of life.  In Nazi Germany he witnessed first hand how an “either/or” extreme logic led to both spiritual and physical death.   We musn’t live our lives in an all or nothing fashion.  So much of the messy wildness of life ends up in the gray areas.  These are the spaces where we as Unitarian Universalists can embrace the ambiguity in ways that other organizations cannot.  We leave space and margins in the book of life, where both certainty and uncertainty can live together on the page.

I hope you are able to look at the “either/or” situations in life and see how a “both/and” approach could make more space in your life for hope and healing.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to my web log! (blog) I hope that these entries will give you a glimpse into my world and the spirit I bring to my ministry. I write new entries every week, so check out the archives and check in again soon. Looking forward to meeting you in person…

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Last week I took a break and was as slothful as possible.  The laundry pile is still there (and growing) but I am feeling well-rested.  I am usually less like a sloth and more like a squirrel.  I love squirrels, they are always busy and industrious-looking.  Yet squirrels are also somewhat manic.  When it comes to surviving a winter, squirrelly, manic behavior is potentially justified.  In humans, manic, wildly efficient behavior is more a result of too much stress, not an issue of survival.

I have come to know and love the inner sloth in me, the one who lazes about in trees, just hanging out.  The sloth can actually move quickly, swinging through the branches with a loping ease.  It appears to have no muscles at all, just stretchy fur.  Last year in Baltimore I had the great pleasure of taking a Feldenkrais course.  Feldenkrais is a body-awareness method that asks the practitioner to pay attention to the small everyday movements in the body, noticing (without judging) the way one single movement- such as breathing- can echo in muscles and trigger other smaller movements or tensions.  I remember discovering that every time I inhaled, a muscle around my left scapula would clench.  And in the act of noticing, it changed somehow.  I could simply notice this response upon inhalation and wonder if it might not be necessary for that to happen every time I breathed.  Our survival responses get stored in muscle memory, and before we know it, a simple turn of the head involves all sorts of unnecessary movements.  

So I have great aims to be slothful- the sloth that swings through the trees with utmost relaxed precision.  Instead of squandering energy on squirrelliness, embrace an intentional slothdom- it is harder than it looks!  To be intentionally slothful means to act preventatively.  If you know something wild and energetic is happening, plan for some down time.  Ever wonder about how you finally take your vacation hours at work and then get sick during or right after your vacation?  That is the body’s demand for sloth time.  The more we carve out intentional time for nothing, the better.  

Imagine the sloth, swinging and sailing among the trees, long arms extending and stretching, luxuriating in the space in between the branches, air rustling the fur.  We need these spaces to stretch in, even in times when it feels like utter luxury.  Those who train in meditation know that the most busy, demanding days require even more time for zazen sitting meditation.  For the hardest times, they say, “Sit.”  The sloth says, “Just hang in there.”

Welcome to my web log! (blog) I hope that these entries will give you a glimpse into my world and the spirit I bring to my ministry. I write new entries every couple of days, so check out the archives and check in again soon. Looking forward to meeting you in person…

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I must admit, I have not read the Jack Kornfield book after which this blog entry is named.  But I love the words he uses, indicating the intersection of the sacred and the mundane in our lives.  On Sunday morning April 13th, Andy and I prepared for a landmark day.  As we sat eating an ordinary breakfast, drinking ordinary old tea and coffee, Andy said, “Well, no big deal or anything about today.  Just a culmination of all you have been working towards for four years, maybe even your life.”  He looked at me with a smile and we both cracked up.  That spirit, that joie de vivre is sacred.

And so I was called to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fort Myers.  Wow!  What huge deal- tremendous, really.  And in the midst of the wildness and joy and extraordinariness was/is an even-keeled sense of normalcy.  It is as it should be. And I am most grateful.

Andy and I are now back in Chicago, seeing it all through different eyes.  I look at our furniture and dishes and see it all washed in Florida sunlight!  The challenge remains to stay here, in this place, for the few months we have left.  We aim to enjoy where we are and not project ourselves so far into the future that we do not have gratitude for the here and now.  And, indeed, Chicago springs are glorious.  Already I have sniffed the hyacinth and daffodil.  Soon more yellow will come with forsythia’s golden sprays.

And, of course, there is the laundry! After being gone for what feels like a month, it is time to play catch up with my academic work, colleagues, and friends.  Clean house, cook, exercise: time for the old, ordinary things that, in light of recent events, are made new and special.

I plan to keep the blog going, as a way to keep in touch.  I read and enjoy all of your comments.  And now it is a pleasure to have faces with the names!

Cheers,

Allison

Welcome to my web log! (blog) I hope that these entries will give you a glimpse into my world and the spirit I bring to my ministry. I write new entries every couple of days, so check out the archives and check in again soon. Looking forward to meeting you in person…

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 Here is the poem that Don reads in the service Sunday.  It speaks to me about the life of this congregation.  I particularly feel that the garden image is very rich.  My hope in ministry with you is that we all have our hands in the dirt, on our knees (or whatever our bodies allow) digging into the work (reminds me also of Marge Piercy’s “To Be of Use” that you can find in our hymnal).  Enjoy the following:

 

found at http://www.gaygardener.org/poems/gpoem021.phtml

In Your Garden
by Holly Lu Conant Rees
The field is laid in aisles of green and brown,
lines straighter than nature planned,
but still bending through the slow waves of earth.

You on your knees,
tapped silver seed into the black living dirt,
culling stones, dim glass, cracked shards of bone.

In your hands, the vivid soil shows its fabric,
its history of roots and flood and rot.
Even in drought,
the earth sifting through your fingers
is smooth as oil, smelling of wood and breath.

The first furls of green slip through,
their skin fragile and warm, narrow as hair,
the stems bear up bits of leaf, in plain shapes
which later will split and harbor spines.

Here are all degrees of green:
lichen, lime, pine and turtle,
in unlikely blend with purple at a plant's base,
so that nothing green passes beneath the surface.

Bolder and more rapid, weeds crowd in,
colonies organized for growth alone, untroubled by color or fruit
lamb's quarter, poke, chicory: all sometimes food,
but in your garden, poachers.

You grasp each by its hollow stalk and extract a knot of roots,
dirt shaking back down on the thin beaks of onion,
frail fringe of carrot, lettuce's puckery leaf.

You, on your knees, permit the slow,
patient rise of food from the rude rumpus of grass and vine,
till the leaf broadens, till the fruit takes color, till the root fattens.
What will nourish must be tended.

 

 

 

Welcome to my web log! (blog) I hope that these entries will give you a glimpse into my world and the spirit I bring to my ministry. I write new entries every couple of days, so check out the archives and check in again soon. Looking forward to meeting you in person…

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I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.

I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish formay for once spring clear
without my contriving.

If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,
but this is what I need to say.
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.

Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,

streaming through widening channels
into the open sea.

 

-Rainer Maria Rilke

I woke up yesterday and asked my husband Andy, “Is it Tuesday?”  Already it has been a busy time, filled with great conversation and questions that reveal the depth of caring in your congregation.  I have had social time with old and new Board, our family meet and greet and some of our youth, a wine and cheese open social, meetings with Thoughts on Life, Cypress Cove folks, Welcoming Congregation, and the Women’s potluck. It is an intense week, but how else can it be if I am to meet as many of you as I can?  So today, at least, it is Tuesday.

I do find however, that I tire of hearing myself talk!  If you remember those Charlie Brown cartoons, the grown-ups would speak and all you would hear was, “Wanh wahn wahn wanh wahhh,” which represented the grown-up blatherings that children did not really care about.   By 8:30 last night, that is just about how I felt.  So I shan’t blather on this morning!

The poem Elaine read on Sunday is posted above.  One of my favorites.

Cheers and see you this week! 

 

Welcome to my web log! (blog) I hope that these entries will give you a glimpse into my world and the spirit I bring to my ministry. I write new entries every couple of days, so check out the archives and check in again soon. Looking forward to meeting you in person…

rootswings.jpg 

As a part of my own faith development, I have been walking with a spiritual director here in Chicago since the fall.  Lucky for me, the Institute for Spiritual Leadership is in Hyde Park by Meadville Lombard Theological School.  Spiritual directors-to-be offer their services for free in exchange for my being willing to work with a director-in-formation.  I have had such a rich experience with my spiritual director.  Spiritual direction is not directive, it is driven by the directee.  The “direction” is more like facilitation.  We begin with prayer, poetry and/or meditation, and then simply talk, sometimes sit, sometimes engage in a guided meditation based on what I am called to explore.  The nature of spiritual direction is to be open to the client, not to proselytize. 

 

Catholics have a number of well-kept secrets.  The first one is the astounding justice work that they do globally (reparations for the colonial imperialism!).  The second is the contemplative space that many of the brothers and sisters provide as spiritual directors.  If only they would ordain women and have them serve in the Vatican!  Spiritual directors are not all Catholic either.  Some list themselves as “interfaith” or from a specific denomination.

 

If you are interested in finding a spiritual director, visit the website of Spiritual Directors International. (http://www.sdiworld.org/home.html)

In the “seek and Find” section you can explore by state and then find the city.  The website also discusses more about spiritual direction in general.  We also have a Unitarian Universalist Spiritual Director’s Network, but I saw none listed for Florida.  For snowbirds, check this out: http://www.uusdn.org/gdir.html

 

In this huge life transition of search and settlement, I am grateful for this grounding of spiritual development and exploration.  Spiritual direction has helped prepare the way to meeting you for candidating week.  The luggage is out, and we are getting ready to fly down to Florida!

Welcome to my web log! (blog) I hope that these entries will give you a glimpse into my world and the spirit I bring to my ministry. I write new entries every couple of days, so check out the archives and check in again soon. Looking forward to meeting you in person…

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Hello dear folks,

Living in Chicago is gritty, fast-paced, and so difficult to do in March. Today is another gray day. My backpack feeling particularly heavy, I walked to the bookstore with my head down staring at the wet, grey cement of the sidewalk. And suddenly joy appeared! I saw the first crocus, and soon everywhere I saw little shoots of grass, bulbs unfurling up and out of the earth, and a green stubble on the face of the mud all around. What a pleasure! Today I thought of daffodils- how soon they would be trumpeting their bold spring scent into the air. And the forsythia will soon spray us with yellow.

So today spring is in my heart, and much anticipation in meeting all of you and worshiping with you.

On my way to church yesterday, I came across the artistic creations of some renegade knitters who are sending a message that we must care for the earth. Whoever these craft knitters are, I love them for their random act of caring: tree cozies!

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My grandmother has knitted thousands of booties and hats for newborns at St. Luke’s in New Bedford, MA as an act of caring. I cannot wait to tell her about this. Oh fah heaven’s sakes, she’ll say. Oh deeah, deah, deah!

This punk-knitting makes a creative, humorous statement in a way that bumper stickers simply cannot. In honor of spring, I dare you to some random act of kindness for the earth. Tomorrow I am doing public transit all day. I love art that inspires action!