December 8 – Debt, Honor, and Our Love of War
Yesterday was Pearl Harbor Day. Like 9/11, the attack against our country precipitated our going to war. When we live according to a code of honor, these transgressions require a repayment of a debt to restore balance, and sometimes that can seem to be the death of our enemy. Honor can be a wonderful thing, causing us to sacrifice ourselves for the common good. When we can’t let go of the need to prove ourselves, however, we lose the capacity to forgive. Is there a way to be both honorable and forgiving?
December 1, 2019 – Seeking What Is Hidden
In her book about Jesus’ parables, Amy-Jill Levine notes that the parables are not only difficult to understand, but more radical than we expect, because – if we honestly engage with them – they force us to grow beyond our comfort zone. By wrestling with a few of Jesus’ stories, perhaps we can look, at least a little bit, at the knowledge hidden within them and within ourselves.
November 24, 2019 – Living a Life of Gratitude
It is easy to be grateful for warmth, laughter, and a good night’s sleep. Can we be grateful for the struggles that challenge us and force us to grow? Should we be? And are there limits to the extent of the misery we should be grateful to endure?
November 17, 2019 – Parasites and the Illusion of Control
Science is discovering parasites such as the Diplostomum pseudopathaceum, Euhaplorchis californiensis, and Hymenoepimecis argyraphaga and fungi such as Massapora and Ophiocordyceps that change the behavior of their hosts. The infected creature loses its own agency. What does this teach us about free will and the control of one’s life?
November 10, 2019 – Redeemed from Shame
Continuing our theme of redemption and forgiveness from last month, and last week’s exploration of how foolishness is different from shame, we look at what it takes to heal our shame and the fear connected with it.
November 3, 2019 – Holy Fools
In 1 Corinthians, it says, “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.” We’ve talked before about the wise fool or the holy fool, the one who, like the clown, makes no pretense of knowing anything. Yet the fool’s ignorance and naivete often reveal our own fallacies. If we embrace the holy fool, perhaps we can grow in strength, knowledge, and compassion.
October 27, 2019 – Does God Feel Gratitude?
If God is one, is it possible for Her to feel gratitude? We feel grateful for that which helps us or guides us or enlightens us. How can we feel grateful for that which is not separate from us? I say I am grateful for sight, for legs and arms that function, for a brain that can process ideas, for ears that hear. Although just a smattering of the things I am grateful for, they are at least part of me. Yet when we think of making gratitude lists or praying in gratitude, we think of all that we are given by that which is outside ourselves. If we are one with God and with all that exists, which many sages insist we are, then does gratitude make sense?
October 20, 2019 – In Buddhism, There Is No Forgiveness
Last week, we talked about redemption. This week, we look at forgiveness, which we would think would be a necessary part of being redeemed. Yet I understand that Buddha didn’t teach forgiveness, that indeed, there is no forgiving in Buddhist practice. Why did Buddha teach this? How do we repair relationships if we don’t forgive?
October 13, 2019 – Redemption
In Judaism, the high holy days of Yom Kippur remind us to turn back to God, to repent of our sins, and seek redemption. This is an important practice for all of us. To build beloved community, that union of souls who search for the good, we must learn to admit our mistakes and forgive one another. We must learn to connect and work together so we can build a world based on love, not fear.
October 6 -Jephthah’s Daughter
Another nameless female in the Bible, Jephthah’s daughter ends up being sacrificed to her father’s piety. This biblical take gives us more details than many that mention these Hebrew women, so we can imagine what it might have been like for the girl to learn that because her father made a rash promise, she must die young. What sacrifices do we make for our faith? When is sacrifice called for? When is it not?
September 29 – Designing Our Lives
In many ways we are powerless. So much goes on over which we have no control. As they say, “If you want to make God laugh, make plans.” Even so, unless we take charge of our life, it will peter out, and we will have done nothing. Can we design our lives? What would that look like? And how do we do so lightly, ready for God’s laughter and Her twisting of our plans?
September 22 – Balance and the Equinox
As we approach the Autumn Equinox, we near that point when light and dark are balanced. Balance is always precarious, never staying still for long. We move from one state to the next. Time does not wait. Nonetheless, on this day when summer and autumn meet, may we hold still. May we find balance in our hearts. Then perhaps we can carry within us the instant of balance, keeping us fully immersed in time, and yet not.
September 15 – Truth, Relativism, and Our Political Divide
Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “Everybody is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.” Does that mean things aren’t relative? Does it mean we can always know what the facts are? What’s the difference between truth and fact? And can we use this information to start talking with one another and working together?
September 8 – On Not Taking Oneself Seriously
When we take ourselves seriously, we are easily offended and hurt. Is there a balance between unhealthy self-deprecation and haughtiness. Learning to laugh at ourselves can free us from much unnecessary pain.
September 1 – Getting Out of the Pig Pen
In the Prodigal Son story, the youngest son awakens one day to realize he’s a good, Jewish boy sleeping in a pig pen. Our bottom is simply that point at which we start to rise. What wakes us up, and how do we facilitate awakening?
August 25 – Claiming Our Voices
The Prodigal Son story is about a father and two sons. Where, we wondered during one URC meeting, is the mother in all this? In the world Jesus inhabited, women had no influence in the wide world. All they could do was try to influence the men in their lives. This can lead to manipulation. Yet when you have no voice and no identity, no face and no power, what else can you do? Today, even in our own country, women often find they must wield power indirectly. Yet perhaps the author of the Prodigal Son story was the mother who had to tell her story through the eyes of her men because it was the only way she would be heard. Whether we are men or women, feminist or not, how do we hide our voice? How do we claim it? How do help others tell their stories?
August 18 – Love, Shame, and Forgiveness
Is love the opposite of shame? That question came up in our URC group, and we decided it was worth exploring further. How do we understand shame? How does love ameliorate shame? How do we forgive ourselves for experiencing shame and for not loving enough?
August 11 – Compassion and Its Opposites
We may think of hatred, intolerance, or apathy as the opposite of compassion. Probably they are. But what about helpfulness or pity? Are these close to compassion, or something else entirely? How do we learn to feel and behave with true compassion?
August 4 – Failure and Faithfulness
Some Tibetan monks make a slow pilgrimage walk in which they lower themselves to the ground, pick themselves up again, take a step, the fall once more. What an incredible demonstration of faithfulness. It’s also a kind of failure, a falling into prayer. Sometimes, it seems, we must give up our power before we can move forward.
July 28 – The Illusion of Control
On the Galapagos Islands, iguanas will stand beneath a tree for days, waiting patiently until a fruit falls. In what ways are we like the iguana, perhaps thinking that we can control our lives if we just keep tabs on everything? We seem to think that unless we stare at the fruit, it will not fall. Ironically, the things we do to try and control our lives keep us stuck, controlled by the fruit itself.
July 21 – Stages of Growth and Becoming Who We Are
There are a number of ways to identify stages we go through as we age. One is a movement from Survival to Significance developed by Zig Ziglar. Others such as Rogers, Fowler, and Sheehy have come up with other models. These stages include a phase of life that not all of us attain, one that includes a sense of oneness with all that is and a desire to give back to the community. Whatever it’s called, how do we remain open to change and development so that we can reach this final stage with grace and significance?
July 14 – Seeing God in Everything
Bede said, “I was no longer the centre of my life and therefore I could see God in everything.” This implies that part of what gets in the way of our seeing the sacred in all creation is the enormity of our egos. When we are able to slow down and notice that we are not the most important person in the world, we gain the world.
July 7 – The Spirituality of Altruism
Why do we do good? Religious teachers and scientists seek to understand what encourages us to love, to be generous, and to take care of others. Do these thinkers offer us insights that can encourage us to be kinder human beings? What do they tell us that might help us shift our society from one based on fear and anger to one based on love?
June 30 – Present Moment, Wonderful Moment
This phrase from Thich Nhat Hanh has served me during difficult times. It means that if we live in the present, the moment will be wonderful. How do we make sense of this counterintuitive idea? Can it bring us comfort, or is it just another sop that makes us feel guilty for struggling?
June 23 – Faith and Privilege
We develop our understanding of God from our culture, from our families, and from all that we are exposed to in life. One circumstance that affects our faith is our access to power and our birth into — or out of — privilege. If we consider what influences a person’s understanding of faith, perhaps we can stop judging those who believe differently than we do.
June 16 – The Father Within
On Mother’s Day, one of our members asked, “What’s the difference between God’s love and mother love?” Today, we ask that question about Fathers. What is father love? How do we learn to love ourselves in that way? And what does God’s love have to do with it?
June 9 – Flower Communion
During World War II, Unitarian minister Norbert Capek created the Flower Communion to remind us of the beauty and worth of every person. He likened people to flowers, each unique, and each beautiful. At the time, this was a radical and dangerous message. Unfortunately, it also seems radical today. In some places, it is also dangerous. That’s why it’s so important to remember that every one of us has beauty within us, as well as worth, and every one of us deserves to be treated with respect and dignity.
June 2 – Putting an End to Anger
Buddhist wisdom teaches us ways to ease our anger. Thich Nhat Hanh draws from the Madhyama Agama Suttra to offer five ways to think differently about hurtful actions and words. Thomas Tam was taught that to deal with anger, he must “develop love and pity.” Thich Nhat Hanh also teaches us how to do that. Ultimately, though, if we can understand, that “[w]hen you touch the wave, you touch the water at the same time,” your anger anxiety, will be transformed.
May 26 – Memorial Day
On this day of memories, of honoring those who sacrifice themselves for the good of the community, let us consider what it takes to love family and country in a way that promotes nobility rather than animosity, anger, and abuse.
May 19 – They Just Want Attention
You may have heard a parent dismiss a child’s behavior – perhaps loud or shrill or intrusive – by saying, “She just wants attention,” as if attention were something bad or as if children don’t deserve attention. We all need attention. We need acceptance and affirmation, as well. What are people afraid of when they say we shouldn’t “coddle” people? And do they have some wisdom that it’s worth honoring? If so, can we use that wisdom to encourage people to be their best selves?
May 12 – The Mother Inside Us
Just because we grow up doesn’t mean we stop needing our mothers, but at some point, we need to learn to nurture ourselves. If our mothers died when we were young or otherwise abandoned us, and especially if they abused us, learning to be our own loving mother can be hard, but can also set us free. What does it mean to mother ourselves?
May 5 – Laughter, Celebration, and Praise
Cinco de Mayo falls on this day. The holiday that commemorates Mexico’s victory over France in 1862 is celebrated mostly in the United States, with parades, parties, music, dancing, and lots of food. This first Sunday in May is also World Laughter Day, a time of fun and fellowship. According to Ecclesiastes, however, “sorrow is better than laughter.” There is a time for tears, of course, but also a time for laughter and happiness, and Ecclesiastes itself reminds us of that: “a time to weep, a time to laugh; a time to mourn, a time to dance” (Eccl 3:4). Let us explore together the times when we laugh.
April 28 – Trust
Henri Nouwen tells the story of a circus performer who routinely leapt from a ring way up in the air, reaching for the hands of her partner, yielding completely to faith. For the trapeze artist, once flying, does nothing. The one who catches does it all. We have all experienced times when our trust was betrayed, yet if we don’t open ourselves up to the risk, we will never again fly. How do we balance safety with vitality, openness, and the uncertainty of life?
April 21 – The Earth Is Green Again: An Easter Story
When President Trump declared immigration a national emergency, some commentators decried his action because future presidents could abuse the privilege just as easily. What if, for instance, they declared climate change to be an emergency? The irony of that statement is that, while the concept makes sense, the reality is that our planet is in a desperate state: climate change is an emergency. But it’s not just climate change. It’s pollution, habitat destruction, and the way we treat our livestock. We need to change our attitude toward the earth and life in general. If spring, and to some extent Easter, are about renewal and rebirth, what can we do to renew our relationship with the sacred essence of life; what can we do to birth again our love of nature and of the land?
April 14 – Passover, Isaac, and the Ram
The real hero of the story of Isaac’s sacrifice, according to the poet Yehuda Amichai, is the ram. We continue to sacrifice one another in the name of blind obedience. Passover reminds us that we often sacrifice the children in the name of freedom. Yet within this tragedy lies a nobility. The ram who lovingly gave himself up to save the life of a child lives on in all of those who give themselves up because of love. Like the ram, like Moses, we are called to be the hero.
April 7 – Evil, Idolatry, and Other Things that Negate Life
In Colossians 3:5, we are told to put to death anything that is “earthly,” for those things are idolatry. The list given in the scripture includes “sexual immorality,” but nothing there excludes healthy and joyful sexuality, so it really isn’t saying that being embodied is bad. Instead, it’s saying we should honor the beauty, majesty, and frailty of life. In what ways do we allow idolatrous living to get in the way of truly living? What can we do instead?
March 31 – Promises and Renewal
According to James Luther Adams, we become human “by making commitments, by making promises.” Since we’re human, we also break them. What does it take to renew promises, then do our best to follow through on our commitments?
March 24 – Artificial Intelligence and Relationships
Sherry Turkle explains how robots and electronic media have changed, and will continue to change, our relationships with ourselves, with loved ones, and with nature. How do we come back to ourselves without necessarily shunning all that technology can offer?
March 17 – The Promise and the Pitfalls of Money
Being inanimate, money itself is neither good nor evil. Just because we lust after money, fritter it, hoard it, donate it, fear it, and mistake it for love and sustenance, does not make it bad. Money highlights our passions and weaknesses. Looking at how we relate to money can help us understand how we relate to ourselves and to the world.
March 10 – What Is Love Redux
They say that love is “all we need,” that it heals all, and will save the world. But there are so many kinds of love. What are we talking about when we talk about the importance of love?
March 3 – Abstaining from Envy
Scripture is full of the hurtful results of envy. When we are unhappy with ourselves, we are prone to envy those who appear to have something we lack. How can we become content with who we are and what we do?
February 24 – Valuable, But Not Special
Not everyone accepts we humans evolved from simians. For some reason, the idea that we are created by God matters a lot to some people. Yet we all have ideas and beliefs we cling to because they make us feel okay in the world. They make us feel special. How can we learn to hold our beliefs lightly? Maybe it’s enough just to be valuable.
February 17 – Make No Assumptions
Another of Don Miguel Ruiz’s four agreements, making no assumptions means we must always “check it out,” as I was taught in my chaplain training. Yet it’s easier said than done. Can we remember that just because we think we know what’s going on in someone else, we really don’t? Life would be much more peaceful if we did.
February 10, 2019 – Service Cancelled Due to Snow
February 3 – Martha and Mary and the Better Part
Is it better to organize the home, to prepare a beautiful space, or to sit in silence and seek wisdom? Does this story about two sisters with very different personalities have anything to tell us about what may be important in our own life?
January 27 – Boredom
Some of us are too busy to have a moment to think. Although boredom can be an excuse to drink too much, or eat too much, or otherwise indulge in unhealthy behaviors, it often leads to creativity, healing, and peace. How do we cultivate a healthy boredom?
January 20 – Prayer
What is prayer? What role might it play in our lives? How do we develop a prayer practice that feeds us, connects us, and soothes our fears?
January 13 – Take Nothing Personally
When we are children, we think the moon follows us around. Everything is about us. As we get older, we hopefully learn that we aren’t the center of the world. Still, it can be hard to remember that what people say and do, even if directed at us, is not necessarily about us. If we can learn this lesson, though, life will be a lot easier.
January 6 – More about Transformation and NewnessHow do our life experiences form us? To explore this question, we will look at a few different passages from the Hebrew Scriptures, as well as insight from the educator, Parker Palmer.
December 30 – Entering the New Year: Reconciliation and Starting Anew
All of us do things we wish we hadn’t. If we can acknowledge our mistakes and seek to repair the damage, we have the opportunity to reconcile with those we have harmed. Of course, we can’t control another’s willingness to engage with us. If we’ve hurt someone badly enough, he or she might not want to every talk to us again, and we need to respect that. It’s not up to anyone else to make us feel better about hurts we’ve caused. Regardless, the turning of the year offers us an opportunity to start again from where we are. We can always seek to become our best selves and in this way reconcile, if not with an individual, with our community and with our higher power.
December 23 – Religiosity
During this holiday season, as Christians, Jews, pagans, African Americans celebrate special days of their religious or cultural traditions, and as even the secular among us give one another gifts, we can consider what it means to not simply honor the holidays or stories of our faith, but also live according to the values we learn from them. In an interview in 1998, Maya Angelou said that she’s trying to be a true Christian. She likens this to being”a Muslim or a Buddhist or a Shintoist.” You don’t achieve religiosity and then sit back. “I’m trying to be a Christian in every moment.” How would our lives change if we tried, “in every moment,” to be the best person we could be?
December 16 – Surrender
Most of us resist giving up, letting go, surrendering. To do so makes us uncomfortable, not only because to surrender means to give up control, but also because if we surrender, we admit that we can’t do it all ourselves, nor do we have all the answers. It takes humility to surrender, but if we do so, we might find that in the end, we grow in heart and spirit.
December 9 – Death and Dying
Winter reminds us that all things come to an end. We, too, will one day die. Inga Clendinnen wondered in writing how we might “imagine the end of imagining.” Although most religious traditions tell us that our spirits live on, scientific insights suggest this is not so. We really don’t know what happens when we die. Yet there are some who admonish us to accept our mortality, for not only does that make our lives sweeter, it also helps us treat one another with kindness and justice.
December 2 – First Week of Advent: Luke 3:1-6
During Advent, Christians prepare for the coming of the savior, Jesus -born a baby in a manger. This is a time to quiet and still their hearts in anticipation of a great gift. What arrivals do you anticipate at this time in your life? How are you preparing yourself for them?
November 25 – Magic, Privilege, and Entitlement
In the world of Kat Howard’s An Unkindness of Magicians, having magic is a privilege. Not that being privileged in this way bad. Unless we are the lowest member of the lowest class in our community, we all have privileges of one sort or another. Entitlement, on the other hand, is the assumption that we deserve our privilege and that we don’t owe anyone consideration because of it. By questioning our entitlement, we learn to be humble, to develop honest relationships, and share our privilege, all of which helps us be the best person we can be, and that’s ultimately what recovery is about.
November 18 – Simplicity
Thanksgiving is a time of gratitude — for life, for family and friends, and for the bounty of the earth. Simplicity is a way of living in gratitude, of accepting and appreciating the small things that make up our life.
November 11 – Listening and Forgiveness
A few months ago we explored the connection between listening and grace. This week we look at how being listened to allows us to feel forgiven. Additionally, when we listen to others, we discover a compassion that allows us to forgive them.
November 4 – All Saint’s Day: Hebrews 12:1-2
October 28 – Daylight Savings
Time rules our lives. We often don’t feel as if we have enough of it. And sometimes we can feel as if time lasts forever. What role does time play in our lives? How can we be in better relationship with time?
October 21 – Spiritual Maturity
One way to define spiritual maturity is our capacity to tolerate ambiguity and uncertainty. Life is full of uncertainty, and very little is as black and white as we would like. Twelve-step groups recognize the dangers of black and white thinking, but how do we learn to tolerate the uncertainties of life?
October 14 – Happiness, Sex, and Money
October 7 – Indigenous People’s Day: Entitlement, Race, and Anger
Those of us who have pale skin and earn a middle-class income often take for granted our status in this world. On this day when we have historically celebrated the brutal beginnings of genocide brought by Christopher Columbus, let us consider what it is like for those whose skin color or circumstances force them to be careful how they behave and to squelch the anger that arises out of humiliation and shame.
September 30 – The Five R’s of Empowerment
September 23 – Acceptance, Tolerance, and Anger
How do we respond to discomfort and pain? Do we find something to be grateful for? Do we accept our lives, tolerate it, get angry? Is one response better than another, or better at one time or other? How do we navigate our emotions, allowing them to exist without getting overwhelmed by them so we relapse?
September 16 – Joy in Our World
Unlike happiness, joy doesn’t come and go depending on our circumstances. Joy is the ability to take pleasure in the moment, to revel in being alive, even when life is difficult. How do we learn to live with joy?
September 9 – Finding that Quiet Stillness
Life can get hectic. When we get caught up in tasks and crises, we can lose our equilibrium. Learning to center our minds and hearts can help us stay on course.
September 2 – Love Song to God
In the Song of Solomon, God speaks to us in the voice of a lover, and we speak to God. What does that say about our relationship with the holy and about our relationships with one another? The reading for today is Song of Solomon 2:8-13.
August 26 – Listening and Grace
To listen deeply to another person can provide a moment of insight and healing that changes a person forever. On the other hand, learning to listen is not easy, and sometimes we need to be heard. Whether we hear, are heard, are ignored, or fail to hear another, is there grace? Is there forgiveness? If so, from where does it come?
August 19 – Accountability
Love, acceptance, and forgiveness are the basis of a spiritual life and are vital to recovery. But for recovery to work, we must pair unconditional acceptance with accountability. Who is held accountable in our world and who is not? How do we hold ourselves accountable?
August 12 – Kindness
Obviously, if we treated one another with kindness, the world would be a much more peaceful place. But what is kindness? How do we become more kind? Is kindness always the best response?
August 5 – Finding Our “Good Way”
In Jeremiah 6:16, we are asked to stand at the crossroads and walk the “good way.” What is that “good way,” who gets to define it for us, and how to we consistently travel that path?
July 29 – This Service Is Cancelled
None of our usual leaders are available this Sunday, and most of our members will be on vacation, so we decided to take the day off. We will see you next week for our Scripture Study.
July 22 – Embracing Change
For most of us, change is a constant. Whether something shifts in our personal life or at work, or whether world events disturb our equilibrium, life does not stay the same. We can resist the changes that come at us, or we can embrace them, using them to encourage our own internal growth and change. As the Buddhist’s say, impermanence is a fact of life. How can we become comfortable with it so we can move gracefully through our life?
July 15 – Letting Go of Suffering
Sometimes we choose suffering. Not that we like pain, necessarily, but sometimes it seems that it’s better to suffer than to accept that our way of looking at the world might be confused or faulty. Can we learn to see a little more clearly and thereby let go of some of our pain?
July 8 – Faith and Randomness
July 1 – The Power of Naming
The names by which we are called have deep significance. Using the story of Hagar in the Hebrew Scriptures, we explore the power of naming one another and the ways our own power can be undermined or affirmed because of what others call us, as well as what we learn to call ourselves.
June 24 – The Pulse of the Universe
The poet, Stanley Kunitz, states that at night he hears the “pulsing in the universe.” What is this sound? What lies beneath what we see and think we know? How do we learn to listen to it, and how do we let it shape our lives?
June 17 – Happy Father’s Day
The Universalist Recovery Church will not meet this Sunday. Some of our members will be celebrating Father’s Day with family; others will be marching in the Gay Pride Parade. Enjoy your holiday.
June 10 – Letting Go Revisited
Sometimes, our longings and desires encourage us to pursue our goals and maintain relationships. At other times, they trap us. How can we tell the difference, pursuing what will sustain our recovery and releasing that which harms us and others?
June 3 – To Be Forsaken and to Be Found
The words Jesus is said to have spoken on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?,” come from Psalm 22 in the Hebrew Scriptures. Here, the author begs God to deliver him. So, Jesus also begged for deliverance. We all have moments of feeling forsaken. Will God find us and raise us up? What if we think of this metaphorically? How might the idea of being found help us come out of our despair?
May 27 – Memorial Day: Sacrificing for Our Tribe
On Memorial Day, we honor those who died for our country, specifically those who died fighting wars we might or might not agree with. Some people join the military to fulfill a sense of duty, or to please a father, or to get college paid for. Regardless, to serve in this way is a sacrifice, a sacrifice made for one’s “tribe.” But what is our tribe, how do we define it, and how can we come to expand our understanding of tribe in such a way that we might be able to move toward peace?
May 20 – What Is Spiritual Guidance?
In honor of Pentecost, we ask how we know what is true. What guides us? Can we trust that guidance? How do we test our assumptions and live with the uncertainty of not really knowing? What do we believe in, and how does that inform our recovery and our life?
May 13 – On Being a Mother and Learning to Let Go
May 6 – Finding True Greatness
April 29 – On Being Good Enough
April 22 – Honoring Our Connection with the Earth
April 15 – Moments of Clarity
April 8 – Embracing Impermanence
April 1 – What Is the Passover?
March 25 – Wisdom to Know the Difference
The final part of Rheinhold Niebuhr’s “Serenity Prayer” asks that we be granted the wisdom to know what we can and cannot change. What is wisdom? Where does it come from? And how do we figure out what to accept and what to change, and does it ever make sense to do both at the same time?
March 18 – On Trying Again and Again
Thomas Edison redefined failure by stating that his 10,000 attempts to create a viable light bulb were successes because he proved those bulbs would not work. To find the one that would work, he had to get them out of the way. In the same way, when we try to create something new, get clean and sober, change an annoying habit, or start a new one, we only fail when we stop trying. How can we keep shame, blame, and harsh judgments from getting in our way? How can we learn to care enough about ourselves to keep striving to become happy and whole?
March 11 – Coping with Money
Whether we’re rolling in dough or can’t make ends meet, we probably have some issues around money. In and of itself, money isn’t good or evil, so why do some of us lose our souls over it while others of us hate it? Whatever our personal wounds and insecurities, they get reflected in our relationship with money. How can we change that?
March 4 – Passion, Preparation, and Repentance
This is the third Sunday of Lent, a time of repentance and penance. For this Scripture Sunday, we will consider John 2:13-22, in which Jesus clears the temple of vendors. The reading can tell us something about our own need to balance passion with wisdom; to prepare for a time when our life work is over, even if it’s not complete; and to repent of that which defiles our house.
February 25 – Changing What We Can
Last month, we explored the meaning of serenity in Rheinhold Niebhuhr’s prayer. This week we consider what it means to be courageous enough to change what we can change, whether inside ourselves or in the world around us.
February 18 – On Trying Again and Again
Thomas Edison redefined failure by stating that his 10,000 attempts to create a viable light bulb were successes because he proved those bulbs would not work. To find the one that would work, he had to get them out of the way. In the same way, when we try to create something new, get clean and sober, change an annoying habit, or start a new one, we only fail when we stop trying. How can we keep shame, blame, and harsh judgments from getting in our way? How can we learn to care enough about ourselves to keep striving to become happy and whole?
February 11 – We Are Love
Valentine’s Day is coming soon, that time when we focus on love. But love is not a simple emotion triggering a desire to buy cards and candy for our beloved. Some mystical religious traditions suggest everything is love. What does it mean to say “we are love”? How, then, do we explain anger, fear, bitterness, and hatred? How do we explain cruelty? Are they somehow part of this loving force? A moment when love ceases? Or something else?
February 4 – How We Heal
From the gospel of Mark, today’s Scripture reading shows Jesus healing people by driving out demons. In what way are our addictions, griefs, and traumas our demons? What might it mean to “drive” them out? Can we learn anything from this about our own healing process?
January 21- The Blessings and Challenges of Desire
With addiction come craving and desire. Without desire, however, we wouldn’t achieve, we wouldn’t procreate, and we wouldn’t eat. How can we harness desire to help us enjoy life and create meaning without losing control of our lives?
January 14 – Resistance Revisited
Our world is full of pain and sorrow, injustice, and imprisonment of all kinds. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke about freedom, about beloved community, and a form of resistance that didn’t betray our own values. In March, we explored the resistance Jesus promoted. This Sunday, we will look at the challenges and opportunities in today’s political climate, but also what it means to resist the ways we imprison our heart, spirit, and soul.
January 7 – Holy Relationships
A Course in Miracles describes two types of relationships: special and holy. In special relationships, we seek happiness or distraction outside ourselves, whether through ideologies, objects, drugs, or people, and includes our interactions with friends and family. Holy relationships, on the other hand, starts with the understanding that we do not need others to complete ourselves, so we give of ourselves completely, understanding that separateness is an illusion. How do special relationships nurture us? How might we grow into holy relationships with all that is around us?
December 31 – Destruction and Beginning Again
It’s a new year, time to reflect on who we are and where we’re going. We make plans and hope for new and better things to come, but sometimes life gets worse, at least for a while. In the Hebrew Bible, God cleansed the world with a great flood with the idea that the new life would be better than the old. This didn’t work very well, but that and other flood stories bring us wisdom about starting anew when it seems our lives have been destroyed.
December 24 – Happy Holidays!
December 17 – What It’s All About Is Love
December 10 – Respect, Rights, and Recovery
December 10 is Human Rights Day. In 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on this day. The first Unitarian Universalist principle is respect for the inherent worth and dignity of every person. For us to be in recovery as individuals, we must respect ourselves and our rights to love, dignity, and kindness. We also need to treat others this way. Recovery for the world – recovery from our greed and violence – means we must respect, care for, and honor the rights of every person, regardless of what they look like, whom they love, or even what they’ve done.
December 3 – Waiting for All Good Things
The Religions of the Book – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – hope for a time of joy and prosperity, when “the mountains and hills will burst into song” (Isaiah 55:12) and “all the ends of the earth will see God’s salvation” (Isaiah 52:10). This Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent, a time of spiritual reflection and celebration, of journeying through darkness with the promise of all good things to come. Recovery is a little like that. We move through darkness, wrestle inside ourselves with confusion and despair, only to find that joy exists and love abounds. Not that we will never suffer again, but as we heal, hope becomes easier to find.
November 26 – All the Little Deaths
Around this time of year, the rains usually start in earnest. Leaves fall, annual flowers wither. The cycle of life and death becomes obvious. How do we cope with being alive and having to die? What losses do we experience on the way to that one big loss of leaving the earth and our bodies? No one knows for sure what death is like, yet sages past and current remind us that the more we prepare for our deaths, the more alive we become.
November 19 – Gratitude
As Thanksgiving approaches, we think about what we’re thankful for. When we pay attention to our blessings, we enhance our physical and emotional health and support our recovery. How lovely that such a simple action should make such a big difference in our lives.
November 12 – Resilience in the Face of Fear
As fear grips our nation, leading to insane politics and violent acting-out, many of us feel uncertain, off balance, and anxious. How do we cope with our own fear and the fear that others project on us? What is resilience, and how can we increase our own capacity to be resilient?
November 5 – Humility and the Exalted Ones
This Sunday’s lectionary reading from Matthew includes this line: “All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.” What does it mean to be humble, and how does that lead to exaltation? If excess pride is a barrier to recovery, what about exalting ourselves?
October 29 – Inviting Magic into Our Lives
As Halloween approaches, let us take some time to think about magic, about what magic means to us, and how we can invite the magical, mystical, and wonderful into our lives and our recovery.
October 22 – Finding Peace in the Midst of Change
During the fall, we witness change in a direct and poignant way. Our lives are always changing, physically and spiritually. Change can be uncomfortable, especially when it feels sudden. As the rate of change in our world increases, how do we find equilibrium How do we fine peace of mind and heart?
October 15 – The Impact of Historical and Generational Trauma
On this Columbus Day, or Indigenous People’s Day, we once again hold a White Supremacy Teach In with a little bit different focus. We will explore what generational and historical trauma are and how we, personally, are affected by them. How do we help one another heal from these sorrows and pains?
October 8 – Healthy and Unhealthy Shame
Shame can debilitate us. It can cause us to project our pain and resentment onto others, leading to abuse and torment. However, the emotion of shame can also remind us of what’s important in our relationships, can guide us in our actions, and stop us from doing things that betray us and others. How can we heal the debilitating shame so we can allow our healthy shame to guide us?
October 1 – The Day of Atonement and Becoming One With God
Yesterday, Jews celebrated the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur. Along with the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana, this is a time to reflect on our past year and commit to changes we want to make. This is a time of atoning, of acknowledging our transgressions, and making redress where we can. Atonement allows us to enter, once again, into right relationship with ourselves and our community. During this Scripture study, we will consider what we can learn from this holiday.
September 24 – The Bounty of the Harvest
This time of year, crops are being harvested and put by to store for the winter. If we are lucky, we have a bounty of food. In what other ways do we experience bounty in our lives?
September 17 – Mercy and Grace
What is grace? How is it the same or different from mercy? Do we need grace? How do we learn to see and accept the grace that is all around us?
September 10 – Guilt and Forgiveness
Sometimes we do things that are wrong. Sometimes wrong is done to us. How do we forgive ourselves or forgive others? Should we forgive? How do we find closure without forgiving?
September 3 – Purpose and Mission in Our Lives
Scripture Study – The Story of Moses and the Burning Bush
God is emphatically clear when He gives Moses his mission of saving the Hebrew people. Having a purpose of some kind helps us get through challenges and cope with failures. Sustained recovery requires some sense of mission or purpose in this life. Where do you find your?
August 27 – Bias and What We Can Do About It
Our brains are wired to form alliances, identify enemies, jump to conclusions, and judge others more harshly than we do ourselves. Yet we don’t have to do this, or at least we can try to notice when we do. Let’s explore how we can be more intentional in how we view and understand the world.
August 20 – Play
Recovery is hard work, but it shouldn’t be grim or belabored. Part of recovery is playing, or remembering how to play if we have forgotten. This Sunday we’ll explore what healthy play looks like.
August 13 – Moments of Change
When we are ready, a statement, a glance, or a line of music can change our lives. Before we reach that point, however, we have probably heard the same thing time and again without realizing it or fully understanding the significance. When we try to make people change, by convincing them or proving to them, we generally meet resistance. Yet when we raise questions, or introduce an new idea, and let it sit, giving ourselves or our loved ones time to notice and hear and wonder, then moments of change appear as if from nowhere.
August 6 – The Use and Abuse of Power
There are so many types of power. Starhawk talks about power-over and power-with. The educator, Maria Harris lists other types of power, including the power to receive, or resist, or create, or love. These powers are important in the political arena; they are also important in our personal lives, and in our lives of recovery. Our Scriptures this Sunday will draw on both Pagan (Starhawk) Christian (Maria Harris) insights.
July 30 – Patience
Successful recovery requires patience. Until we learn to wait, we’ll have trouble maintaining sobriety, reaching out to others who themselves are imperfect, or sustaining in a spiritual practice. Patience requires trust in ourselves and in the process. How do we cultivate a patience that can support us as we become our best selves?
July 23 – Hope
Christians extol the virtue of hope; Buddhists do not. What is hope? What can it do for us? How can it get in the way of our recovery?
July 16 – Aging and Recovery
They say that growing old is not for sissies. Not only do our joints ache and we get sick more often, but we get less respect from the people around us. What causes our culture’s fascination with all things young and new? How does our love of youth and our own aging affect our recovery? Read Barbara’s Reflection.
July 9 – Empathy
When we’re caught up in our additions, we tend not to care about others. Recovery gives us the opportunity to be compassionate and empathetic to another’s experience. What is empathy and how do we enhance our capacity to journey with others? Read Amanda’s Reflection.
July 2 – Shout Songs of Joy
In Psalms 47, the Bible encourages us to express the joy we feel from our connection with the holy. Some find joy in a monotheistic God. For others, joy is in sunsets or music or simply being alive. We’ll look at a scriptural understandings of joy, then consider where we find joy. What role does joy play in our lives and our recovery? Read Barbara’s Reflection.
June 25 – The Practice of Recovery
Part of the Twelve-Step program includes meditation or prayer practices that help us sustain our calm, our sobriety, and our connection with that which surrounds us supports us. What spiritual practices give us strength and peace? Let’s share what we already do and learn from one another. Read Barbara’s Reflection.
June 18 – Fathers and the Coming of Summer
The Summer Solstice arrives just a few days after Father’s Day. In summer, trees and vegetables bear fruit. Regardless of the relationship we had with our fathers, are there lessons we gained that we use to support and nurture ourselves and others now? For those of us who are fathers, how can we help our children blossom and grow fruit that feeds and nourishes the world? Read Barbara’s Reflection.
June 11 – The Search for Enlightenment
According to Buddhist teachers, when we reach enlightenment, we lose our fear and craving. Our illusions fall away, and we experience the oneness of all creation. Compassion and equanimity are our normal states. Enlightenment isn’t guaranteed, however, no mater how much we meditate or pray. So what do we gain during the process? Read Barbara’s Reflection.
June 4 – The Joy of Pentecost
Pentecost is the birthday of the Christian church, the time when the followers of Jesus were filled with the Holy Spirit and sent off to convert the multitude. How can this holiday inform our own spiritual path, and what does it say about our ability to embrace the joy and community that is part of recovery? Read Barbara’s Reflection.
May 28 – Re-creating Our Stories
Memorial Day is a time of remembering. We remember those who have died, those who served, and by remembering them, we recall our relationships. By recalling, we re-create our lives, over and over again. The meaning of our history changes; sometimes the history itself changes. How can we use this malleability to enhance our recovery? Read Barbara’s Reflection.
May 21 – Acceptance
When we realize we are imperfect, we have the opportunity to accept the truth of who we are. Then we can learn to accept others. Recovery demands this kind of truth, and this kind of open, affirming relationship. Read Barbara’s Reflection.
May 14 – Mother’s Day
It’s an honor to be a mother; it’s an honor to have a mother. Nonetheless, our love of motherhood may be mixed with annoyance, anger, and animosity. Love of our mothers can be complicated. On this Sunday, we will share the blessings and the curses of being and having mothers. Read Barbara’s Reflection.
May 7 – False and True Prophets
This Sunday’s lectionary reading (John 10:1-10) seems to be saying that Jesus is the only way to salvation, whatever salvation means. If we explore a little deeper, however, we will see that Jesus is really inviting into community. Since communities have leaders, we who follow are at risk of being led astray. Unitarian Universalists err on the side of distrusting all prophets. But surely we can find wisdom somewhere? How do we know who is false and who is true? Read Barbara’s Reflection.
April 30 – White Supremacy Teach In
April 23 – Drawing Wisdom from the Transcendentalists
Although not all Transcendentalists were Unitarian, many were, and they influenced our faith. Their mystical experiences guided their understanding of the “Over Soul” and of our responsibilities toward one another and the planet. How might their teachings guide us in our life today? Read Barbara’s Reflection.
April 16 – Passover
Although this Sunday is Easter, it is also the fourth day of Passover, a festival celebrating freedom. If we really think about it, this story is also filled with brutality and vengeance. Can we find in that story a message of peace, love, and beloved community? Read Barbara’s Reflection.
April 9 – Living Our Values
How do we decide what is right and wrong? What values do we use to guide us? In this world where simple answers are misleading and even facts are murky, it’s sometimes hard to know what to do. And if we can figure out what is best, how do we follow through? Read Barbara’s Reflection.
April 2 – Coping with Temptation
During this time of Lent, let’s honor our capacity to be true to our values and recovery. The forty days of Lent represent the forty days Jesus spent in the desert, tempted by visions of power and greed. It’s a time for us to search our own souls and acknowledge our own cravings and unhealthy desires. We must all deal with temptation, and searching our souls will help us cope. This is a Scripture Study. Read Barbara’s Reflection.
March 26 – Honesty
March 19 – Birth and Rebirth
March 12 – Living with Fear and Uncertainty
Spiritual practices from around the world offer guidance in trusting and staying firm in our values. When we get lost in fear and uncertainty, our recovery is threatened. We’re no good to anyone if we fall apart ourselves, but how do we maintain our own health while also supporting others through these bleak days? Read Barbara’s Reflection.
March 5 – Jesus and Resistance
According to Walter Wink, Jesus was not a revolutionary or reformer. His goal was to topple what Wink calls the “domination system,” to usher in an entirely different “kindom,” that based on love rather than legalism, on harmony rather than greed and violence. How do we understand this gospel today? How do we live out Jesus’ call to justice, in our personal lives in in our country’s? Read Barbara’s Reflection.
February 26 – Choosing Life
Although the calendar tells us we have another month to spring, in the Pacific Northwest, bulbs start sprouting in February, and bushes start leafing out. This is a great time to commit to life and to living our life to the fullest. Today we’ll gather and talk about how we can do that. Read Barbara’s Reflection.
February 19 – Letting Go
Although there are plenty of times when we gain friends, wisdom, jobs, material riches, life is also filled with little losses. We move, heirlooms break, loved ones die, we age and our bodies fail. We learn, day by day, to let go. How do we do so gracefully? Read Barbara’s Reflection.
February 12 – Building Loving Relationships
Sometimes we behave worst with the people we care about most. What gets in the way of treating our loved ones with gentle compassion? How do we reach out in healthy ways to friends and family? Read Barbara’s Reflection.
February 5 – Tu B’Shevat and Honoring Nature
On this Scripture Study day, we’ll look at how each person “is a tree of the field,” as it says in Deuteronomy. The trees of the field are vital to our survival; so is each one of use. What does this tell us for how we treat one another and how we treat the growing things of our earth? Read Barbara’s Reflection.
January 29 – Guilt, Repentance, and Recovery
A big challenge for many of us in recovery is coping with the guilt we feel over past deeds. Twelve-Step programs and religious thinkers can guide us in healing our guilt through repenting or making amends. Read Barbara’s Reflection.
January 22 – Anger and Anger Addiction
Violence, name-calling, intolerance, and bullying are rampant in our country and our world. Are we addicted to the rush of power we get when we act out in anger? In what ways does addiction fuel our anger, or our anger fuel our addiction? Most of all, how do we as individuals and as a society enter into recovery from our anger? Read Barbara’ Reflection.
January 15 – Martin Luther King’s Legacy
It may seem that our gains from the Civil Rights movement are quickly disappearing, yet no matter how we backtrack, we are not the same. Just as every relapse is different and is an opportunity for growth and resilience, so this relapse into self-righteousness and greediness is an opportunity to rise up stronger, more enlightened, and more compassionate. Read Barbara’ Reflection.
January 8 – Technology and Time to Think
Recovery requires time for reflection. Some of us thrive on being alone; others prefer company. Regardless, we might not take time in silence to commune with ourselves or our higher power. How do we create boundaries on our technology use and find time to take care of our inner self? Read Barbara’ Reflection.
January 1 – Claiming a New Purpose in Life
On this New Year’s Day, we will look at the story of Esther, the Hebrew orphan who became a queen and thus had the power to save her people. By winning the queenship, she was given a new beginning, an opportunity to become a new self. That new her also had a new purpose in life. Read Barbara’ Reflection.
There will be no service on December 25.
Enjoy the holidays!
December 18 – Privacy versus Security
Most of us feel better if we think we are safe and secure. Behind the locked door of my house, I feel comfortable, partly because I have privacy. Sometimes, though, privacy is at odds with security, as when our bags are searched at airports, jails, or treatment centers. We make trade offs all the time. If we were better able to tolerate insecurity, perhaps we wouldn’t be so willing to give up personal rights to feel safe. Read Barbara’s Reflection.
December 11 – Resilience
What gives us the courage to bounce back? Who supports and protects us? The road to recovery – as individuals and as a country – is long and hard. How do we find the resilience to keep going when times are hard? Read Barbara’s Reflection.
December 4 – Prophecy, Doubt, and the Abuse of Authority
Because Christmas comes in December, I thought we could explore the story of Mary and Joseph fleeing to Egypt with their new baby, thereby escaping death and fulfilling an earlier prophecy. Not only is there much to ponder here about the place of spiritual messengers and prophecy in our lives, about belief and doubt, but also about the abuse of authority and how we respond. Read Barbara’s Reflection.
November 27 – Waiting
On this first Sunday of Advent, we will consider how often we wait: to feel better, to discover our purpose, to succeed. Sometimes sitting patiently is important, especially if we don’t forget to live in the meantime. How does waiting support, and not support, our recovery? Read Barbara’s Reflection.
November 20 – Faith, Fear, and Security
What do we have faith in? Whether we trust in the strength of weapons, a “well-trained” militia, the support of friendships, or the love of God, where we put our faith affects how we live in the world and impacts our recovery. Read Barbara’s Reflection.
November 13 – The Election and “Amazing Grace”
John Newton was a slave trader who was struck by the mercy of God and changed his life. In response, he wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace,” a paean to the power of forgiveness. During this Sharing Circle, we will talk about the place of forgiveness and grace in our lives. Read Barbara’s Reflection.
November 6, 2016 – Specialness and Being Chosen
The Jews are “the chosen people.” Henri Nouwen explains that just because one group of people is “chosen” doesn’t keep the rest of us from being chosen, too. Combining Hebrew scripture with Nouwen’s insight, we will explore the longing to be special. Read Barbara’s Reflection.
October 30, 2016 – Darkness, Death, and Life
What can we learn about life by looking at darkness and death? Around the world, October 31 is celebrated in some way by honoring that thin veil between the living and those who have passed before us. Read Barbara’s Reflection.
October 23, 2016 – Being Faithful
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, in The Little Prince, tells the story of a lamplighter on a tiny planet who work tirelessly to perform his job, even though it has become untenable, and the Little Prince is touched by his faithfulness. Is this foolishness, or is there something to be said for hanging on even when we feel overwhelmed and weary? Read Barbara’s Reflection.
October 16, 2016 – The Wisdom of Escape
Life can be hard. Emotions can feel overwhelming. At times, we long for relief. What kind of escape is healthy? What kind of escape can promote recovery? Read Barbara’s Reflection.
October 9, 2016 – Building Our Covenant
Last Sunday, we looked at what covenant was. This Sunday, we will start the work of creating a covenant together. Join us for this hands-on, joyful, work session. We value your input. Read Barbara’s Reflection.
October 2, 2016 – The Covenants We Make
Let’s look some different covenants in scripture, then consider what Unitarian Universalist groups have to say about covenant. Read Barbara’s Reflection.
September 25, 2016 – Connecting with the Healing Power of Autumn
In this Sharing Circle, we’ll look at the cycle of nature during this fall season. How can we find healing in this time of slowing down and turning inward? Read Barbara’s Reflection.
September 18, 2016 – Ego and Humility
What is our ego? In what ways does our ego support us, and how does it get in our way? Can we have a strong ego and be humble at the same time? This is a Sharing Circle. Read Barbara’s Reflection.
September 4, 2016 – Labor
What does the Bible say about work? How about Eastern or Indigenous religions? We’ll explore some different approaches to labor and how that can inform our lives. Read Barbara’s Reflection.
September 11, 2016 – Anger, Fear, and 9/11
Where does anger come from? In this Sharing Circle, we will explore when anger is useful and when is it not, and we’ll share ways we release anger and move on. Read Barbara’s Reflection.
August 28, 2016 – Awe and Wonder
Throughout the ages, people have found many different ways to merge with the holy, to get lost in the awe and mystery of it all. For this Sharing Circle, we will look at how different peoples experience and express their awe and wonder. Read Barbara’s Reflection.
August 21, 2016 -Seeking
What do we long for? How do we go about finding that which we seek? How do we make sure the things we strive for support our recovery? This is a Sharing Circle. Read Barbara’s Reflection.
August 14, 2016 – Resilience
For this Sharing Circle, we will explore ways to enhance our resilience. Read Barbara’s Reflection.
August 7, 2016 – Lead Us Not Unto Temptation
For this Sunday’s Scripture Study, we will look at what the Christian Scriptures say about temptation and explore what that can teach us about growth, innocence, sobriety, and recovery. Read Barbara’s Reflection.