Repost: Friends

Reposted from March 11, 2024

When I was in high school I was not popular in any sense of the word. I didn’t have any friends. I was shy and quiet. I was also an introvert. All of which I still am. I lived in my own world to escape my life. I survived my childhood and that’s all I have to say about that.

When I graduated, I had to work to support the family.  I  have two friends that I met at work. I still talk to them. I’ve known them for over twenty years. I guess when I do make a friend, it’s for a lifetime. 

I never knew what it’s like to be surrounded by friends. I don’t feel like I was deprived because I never experienced it. I was fine because being an introvert, people can be overwhelming. I preferred to be home with my children. 

Work and home was my life. Mostly work because I was a single mother. I also had to take care of my mother, nephew and sister. One day my life changed for the better. I found UUCG. I made friends. I was happy. Then I got a new job and I couldn’t go to UUCG for almost a year. Then COVID happened and nobody was going anywhere.

In 2021, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and my life changed in every way possible. Cancer transformed me into a different person. I’m still shy and quiet. I’m still an introvert but now I enjoy being around people. Mind you, I still need time for myself. People can still be overwhelming but it happens less. 

My transformation gave me a different life. I have many lifetime friends. They are there for me and I’m there for them. Most of my friends that I met are part of the UUCG community. I enjoy going to the services because I’m surrounded by friends. That is wonderful.

~Rita Romero 

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Repost: Chaos Required

Reposted from March 8, 2024 with addendum

Transformation comes out of chaos. 

Is this true? I’ve been thinking about it lately. I imagine two different scenarios which inform transformation, whether personally (e.g. health, financial, sense of purpose, search for meaning), or in larger social, cultural and political situations (e.g. wars in Ukraine and Israel-Palestine, full civil rights for women, LGBTQIA, the differently abled, Biracial, Indigenous and People of Color–addendum–political violence against a former President of the US).

The first scenario is the one where for the person or people involved, everything is in good order. There is order, organization, timing, resources, predictability–basically, a homeostasis in all things. If I as an individual am living that short of life where everything is in place, I am NOT looking for transformation. Why would I?  Everything is in place. And, if I am a part of a majority of people in a community, city, state or nation where pretty much everything is in order, why would I want things to change? I would only be looking for transformation if all those things begin to dysfunction, to fall apart–or I begin to notice those for whom nothing is in place, and that so disturbs my world that I begin looking for, working for change.

The second scenario is the one that we find after the first one has blown up. Nothing is really in order anymore. Nothing can be predicted or expected. Resources are scarce. Organizations don’t function and order has collapsed. When things are that bad, what we begin to find are pieces of our previous existence that we didn’t even know were there, all along, and from those we begin to rise up.

I know that transformation happens in the second scenario. Human history is full of examples both on the collective as well as the personal level: out of the ashes, human endeavor and creativity arise to build something new, to do better, and maybe for a while, to be better. Clearly, in that sense, chaos is required for transformation to take place.

I’m wondering about the first scenario. While most of my personal world is still in order, can I hear the call coming from those who are already in the ashes? I think (I want to hope) there is that possibility. If there is, I think it may be because compassion comes. Before the chaos. 

~Bob Patrick

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Repost: Can the Heart Win This One?

Reposted from February 28, 2024

Are we so disconnected from our own souls that we are unable to recognize the soul within another?  

–Lisa Kiel

True justice and equity will not happen until we see each other as equals. 

–Rita Romero

The Words that Lisa and Rita wrote and shared with us over the last two days brought me back to some pondering I’ve done repeatedly over my lifetime, and they helped me consider it from different angles. 

I was born in 1959 in Birmingham, AL, a white, male. Apart from family wealth (which we did not have) I could not have been born with greater opportunity. On the equity starting line, I was given a huge advantage over others who were not white and male in the United States of America. I actually remember a time in my life when black people were barred from city parks, swimming pools, lunch counters, buses and schools–all of the ones that I had instant access to. I summarize all of this to acknowledge that my young eyes and ears were taught to see the world this way, and to view and hear those with darker skin tone with suspicion if not some quiet fear–the fear of difference. 

Are we so disconnected from our own souls that we are unable to recognize the soul within? While my eyes and ears were being trained to see “the other” my heart was wrestling with this very good question, and I emerged from Birmingham, AL struggling to see the soul within every other human being despite the loud messages to the contrary. 

My heart started asking questions when I was fairly young, questions that my culture was not ready to answer. But why can’t we ride the bus into town anymore? Why did they close the swimming pool? Why do black people work in our homes but white people don’t work in their homes? Why is the black school so sad looking? Why did you try to convince me that MLK, Jr. was a communist? Why do you believe that God made people with darker skin to be less than those of us with lighter skin?

For me, it’s been a lifelong battle between what my young eyes and ears were taught to perceive, and what my heart already knew. True justice and equity will not happen until we see each other as equals. 

God, please. My heart has to win this one. 

~Bob Patrick

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Repost: It’s the Power and the Privilege

Reposted from February 20, 2024

If, then…

If we want a beloved community, we must stand for justice, have recognition for difference without attaching privilege to difference.

bell hooks

Do we want a beloved community? Then here’s what we must do according to hooks: stand for justice and recognize difference without attaching any privilege. Succinct statements like hooks’ work both ways. If we’re not willing to prioritize justice and stop assigning privilege to differences, then we don’t want beloved community. It’s like philosophical algebra.

In the first lesson of the online program, Trans Inclusion in Congregations, Alex Kapitan and Rev. Mykal Slack, characterize beloved community as not “homogenous.” It is not a collection of identical people who look, identify, think the same. Instead, beloved community invites us all to rub elbows at the table of conflict and reconciliation with people who are different, but equal.

Standing for justice and equity doesn’t mean we turn our backs on our own identities. It doesn’t require that we “stop seeing color,” or minimize our own struggles and challenges, not if we seek to create beloved community, and that leads us back to hooks’ equation. What do we want to build in place of a system that attaches privilege to specific differences, and are we willing to build relationships with those we have perceived as enemies or do we simply want revenge in place of justice? 

We are all different. Pretending as if our differences don’t exist will only result in an illusion of  equity. Alternatively, hooks encourages us to acknowledge our differences, to see our true individualities. It’s not our differences that create injustice and inequity, it’s the power and the privilege we give them. We could change that, but it all depends on the values we place on the variables in the equation.

~Lisa Kiel

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In the Face of Violence

We must not have a violent response to violence.
We can have an angry response to violence.
We can have a fearful, even terrified, response to violence.
We can have a response that is deepened by sorrow.
We can curl up in a ball.
We can lash out at a boxing bag.
We can smash our fists in to a pillow of fury.
But never can we respond in violence.
The shootings, the rhetoric, the attack on democracy.
We never accept a response in violence.
Be vigilant, my beloveds, because we must respond in
Compassion, Inquiry, Questioning & Understanding.
We must not have a violent response to violence.

~Dan Kelly

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Repost: See. Notice. Witness.

Reposted from February 12, 2024

There’s a parable that Jesus tells in the Christian gospel of Matthew. For years it left me troubled. This is my summary of that parable, which Jesus said illustrated what the Kingdom of God is like. (NB. One way of thinking about “Kingdom of God” is “When all things are well, when all things are very well.”)

A landowner went out at dawn and found workers to work in his vineyard. He offered to pay them a denarius for the day’s work, and by all accounts that was a fair wage. They agreed.  But, this landowner went back out at 9 AM, at noon, at 3 PM and at 5 PM, and each time, he found workers whom no one had hired.  He asked them why they were standing about, and they said–because we can’t find work. Each time, he said–come to my vineyard. I have work for you.  At 6 PM, he told his foreman to pay the workers one denarius each, beginning with those who came last and ending with those who were first hired.  By the time the first to be hired were paid, they were grumbling. They had expected to get more since those who came last got the same denarius they were promised. The landowner heard them and said to them: why are you envious because I am generous with my own money?

There is a pattern in this story. It’s a pattern that has taken me a long time to understand. The pattern is this: see; notice; and witness.  See. Notice. Witness. 

These three words, all of which have something to do with our capacity for perception, describe what I think happens in us when the energy of equity and justice begins to flow through us.

We see or otherwise perceive someone or something.  

We begin to notice things about that someone or something that we had never noticed before.

And we feel compelled to act–to give witness to what we have seen and noticed. 

The landowner in the parable saw some people who were looking for work, and he hired them for the day. 

He noticed that there were more people all through the day, through no fault of their own, looking for work. And so he hired them, too.

At the end of the day, he decided that based on what he had seen, their circumstances all called for living wages, and they had all been willing to work.  They were all beginning the struggle for wages at different beginning places. He took action. He chose to pay them all a day’s wage. Why not?  He could. They needed it. And so he did. 

He saw. He noticed. He gave witness.

~Bob Patrick

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Repost: My Heart

Reposted from February 5, 2024

My Heart 

For the holidays this year Bob gave each of us in our family a gemstone heart and a satchel to carry it in. He talked to us about the energy given and received from the gemstone and his intention with the gifts. For him, it was a way to stay connected with those he loved.

Mine is in my purse in its satchel. I take it out in traffic,  parking lots, and when I enter and leave my car. I hold it in church and when I am waiting for appointments. I hold it when I am a passenger on trips. Recently I have found myself thinking about it when it is not on me or with me. I hesitate to put it in my pocket since I don’t have pockets in all of my outfits nor do I wear the same outfit each day. I don’t wear a lot of jewelry although I have thought about wearing gemstones from time to time. I probably am starting down that road now.

What I have noticed about myself with the heart in my hand is that I am focussed on its presence and its energy. I am more calm and think with clarity about how I can generate the love and compassion I wish for in my life. I think about showing more compassion to folks who might walk past me or greet me. I think about healing and forgiveness and find myself praying more for both. I think about how I can be more peaceful and champion peace in my encounters each day. 

I think this month I am going to set my intention more on justice and equity. Blessed be. 

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

~Lydia Patrick

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