A responsive reading from today’s service:
Within us all is the soul of the whole.
When it breaks through our intellect, it is genius;
When it breathes through our will, it is virtue;
When it flows through our affections, it is love.
A meditation from the great Unitarian minister Forrest Church….
How To Begin (Changing Your Life)
Let me share with you 10 simple hints on beginning—on how to re-boot your spiritual life, if it has become automatic or stale. Getting your soul in shape may lead to awe-inspiring mystical encounters some day. Yet how to begin (or begin anew) isn’t the least bit mystifying. Here are 10 simple thoughts to launch you on your way.
- Begin here. How deeply you would long for all the things you take for granted, if suddenly you lost them. So much of what we want we have already, so want what you have. Begin here.
- Begin now. You have everything you need. Everything. Plus the bonus of today, one day more than you will have if you wait until tomorrow. Begin now.
- Begin as you are. At your fingertips is a treasure trove of memories and dreams. Put one good memory together with one good dream and you are ready to begin. (Good memories are memories that make you feel good about yourself. Good dreams are the stuff of which tomorrow’s good memories are made.) Begin as you are.
- Begin by doing what you can. No more, but also no less. Don’t throw yourself against the wall. Walk around it. You can’t do the impossible, but so much is possible. So many of the things you haven’t tried you still can do. To get around the wall, you can set out in either direction—the wall has two ends. The important thing is to start walking. Begin by doing what you can.
- Begin with those who are closest to you. They can cheer you on only if you let them. Invite them to give you a hand—bow. And to lend you a hand—ask. And to take your hand—no one can take your hand, if you bury it in your pocket. You say they won’t cheer you on, help you out, or take your hand? Maybe not, but how will you know without asking? Begin by asking.
- Begin by turning the page. Today you can open a new chapter of your life. If you are trapped in your story (stuck in place, botching the same old lines), revise the script. Practice a new line or two. When reading a book, we sometimes reach the bottom of a page only to realize we have been glossing its words without registering their meaning. We haven’t been paying attention. We don’t have the faintest idea what we’ve just read. So we go back to the top of the page and try to concentrate. It happens again. Sentences dissolve into words. Words into sounds. The books of our lives are no different. Resist the temptation to wallow over some dark passage until you know exactly what went wrong. You never will. Besides, perfection is not life’s goal. Neither is unnecessary pain. If you are stuck, open a new chapter. Turn the page.
- Begin by cleaning up your slate. Don’t erase the past. File it by experience, to keep it handy should you need it. But don’t obsess over it. Ticking off a growing list of grievances gets you nothing from life’s store. As for the things on your “To Do” list that you’ll probably never do, place them under a statute of limitations. When they serve no longer to inspire but only to haunt you, x them off. Not only is there no reason to carry over unnecessary indictments from one day to the next, but you’ll also never reform the things you can about yourself, until you stop trying to reform the things you can’t. Begin by cleaning up your slate.
- Begin by looking for new questions, not old answers. Answers close doors. Questions open them. Answers lock us in place. Questions lead us on adventures. Socrates boasted himself the most ignorant man in Athens. Each new insight raised a dozen questions, extending the compass of his ignorance. Yet beyond every ridge he climbed there lay a wider vista. The more questions we have, the farther we can see.
- Begin with little regard for where your path may lead. Destinations are overrated. And never what we imagine. Even should we somehow manage to get where we are heading, we won’t end up there. Until life ends, no destination is final. In fact, the best destinations are those we look back upon as new beginnings. Good journeys always continue. So don’t be driven by desire (that empty place within you), never to rest until you reach your goal. Invest your joy in the journey.
- Begin in the middle. Our lives will end mid-story, so why not begin there? Don’t wait around for the perfect starting pistol. Or until you are ready. You may never be ready. No reason to wait in the grandstand for some official to guide you to the gate. Jump the fence. Enter the race in the middle. Here. Now. As you are. By doing what you can. With those who are closest to you. By turning the page. Cleaning up your slate. Looking for new questions, not old answers. And with little regard for where your path will lead.
Finally, before you begin, a bonus suggestion—Begin small. Dream possible dreams. Set out to climb a single hill, not every mountain. Soul work needn’t be strenuous to be high impact. You can begin transforming your life with a single phone call. Or by writing a kind letter. Or by opening your blinds to let the sun flood in. Don’t say it’s nothing. It’s everything. For you have now begun.
Source: Original. Rev. Dr. Forrest Church (1948-2009) was Minister of Public Theology at the Unitarian Church of All Souls, New York City. He died on September 24, 2009, following a long illness.
Copyright: Any reprints must acknowledge the name of the author.
Last weekend, the First Unitarian Society held the annual Giant Recycling Sale. This is the biggest and most important fundraiser of the year, and volunteers have spent the summer collecting and sorting material. There is an entire room for clothes, one for furniture, for books, electronics, crafts, housewares, and things I can’t remember. The first year we moved here, we donated a ton of items – all the things we realized we didn’t want or need after dragging them across the country. This year, I only had a small bag of books, some clothes, and a few miscellaneous geegaws.
Though I went to see if I could find some interesting furniture for the house, I ended up purchasing only some postcards and a few broken necklaces that had interesting beads. It was fun to see the variety of shoppers – a lot of college students but also some die-hard deal seekers. The strangest thing was seeing a young woman carry around and then purchase a dress I’d donated. At least I know it is getting a second life!
easter morning, unitarian church
Originally uploaded by aimeedars
Easter at a Unitarian Church is not like Easter at other churches – it’s not about, as George likes to call it, Zombie Jesus Day.
Today, the sermon was called, “Hope, When Hope Is Hard to Find.” Our minister suggested there are three ways to tap into hope: 1) help others, 2) always strive to be your best self, and 3) remember the big picture. In discussing helping others, Reverend Grimm quoted Ram Dass, who said, “you live, you help,” and suggested that our awareness of the suffering of others promotes compassion. In striving to be our best selves, we must endeavor to live our most deeply held values. Personally, I probably have the most difficulty remembering the big picture, so of course, that is the element I am having a hardest time describing. Maybe you can share your wisdom relating to that point!
Promoting the Annual Pledge Drive:
Stained Glass Window:
The organist is John Riss, an amazing musician and an Ithaca College graduate.
Take the quiz here and find out what religious faith best matches your own beliefs. Here are my results:
I am excited that there is a Unitarian church in Ithaca. It’s been so long since I’ve gone regularly. I didn’t really feel comfortable at the UU churches in Oklahoma City or Norman, and the UU churches in the Valley are way too far from our house. The Ithaca Unitarian Church, from what I’ve seen on the website and newsletters, is more like the Salt Lake City congregation. While I may be wrong about that, I’m glad I will get the opportunity to explore UUism again. And, bonus, the church is walking distance from our house!
If you aren’t familiar with Unitarian Universalism, these are the basic tenets:
There are seven principles which Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote:
- The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
- Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
- Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
- A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
- The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
- The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
- Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
Unitarian Universalism (UU) draws from many sources:
- Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
- Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
- Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
- Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
- Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.
- Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.
These principles and sources of faith are the backbone of our religious community.
Our mission, as told to the San Francisco Chronicle. I shouldn’t be telling you this, but my Unitarian Universalist jihad name is Sister Broadsword of Quiet Reflection.