The Sacred Order of Belonging

What is a sacred story? Sacred stories are stories that we find compelling. Stories that we lean into.  Stories that we find meaningful. Stories that we can listen to, read, watch or tell over and over again. Stories that evoke something: tears, laughter, aha, reaction, reflection, questions. Sacred stories call forth new stories. Stories that seem, somehow, to always be sort of like my own story. I find myself in sacred stories even if, at first take, I might deny that. I want to say that sacred stories are somehow a part of a spiritual tradition, but I think when that happens it is because human beings, who create spiritual traditions, are inherently story-tellers. Of course, stories are going to be part of a spiritual tradition or anything else that human beings create.

As a human being, every one of us belongs to a sacred order, if you will.  We belong to the sacred order of storytellers. We are participants in the interdependent web of all existence, and that web participates in us. Just as sure as we breathe, we tell stories, and we tell stories as our own individual versions of The Big Story. When you tell me a story, chances are good that even though I have never heard you tell that story before, I will recognize some part of it, even recognize some part of myself in it. That’s because you are telling your piece of The Big Story.  We all belong to The Big Story. 

So, listen. To that story forming in you your heart. To that story coming out of the heart of the person in front of you. To that story you hear playing in the background of every song, every poem, every newscast, every event that human beings have taken time to produce. Because . . . we belong to the Sacred Order of Storytellers. 

~Bob Patrick

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Finding My Way

I never belonged to any group during my childhood. My mom is Puerto Rican. My father is a first generation Mexican-American. You would think that I would have a rich Latin heritage, but I don’t. 

My mother decided not to teach me Spanish. I was brought up speaking only English. She didn’t want to live in a Latin neighborhood because of the gossip. She actually told me that. I cook awesome Puerto Rican and Mexican food. That was the only thing I was taught of my heritage, how to cook. 

I never belonged to any racial group. I was always an outsider. In one way, it helped me because I have a curiosity of other cultures. My friends come from many different backgrounds. My best friend in elementary school was an  African American girl named Deondre. My best friend in high school was a Caucasian girl named Tammy.  I wasn’t obligated to only be with my own people.

I never had a true sense of belonging. You know, that’s okay with me. I’m free to explore different cultures, different foods and different celebrations of this beautiful world. Life can be rich, not belonging to any certain group. 

~ Rita Romero

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Compassionate Friends

When our daughter, Amy, died in an automobile accident, I became a lifelong member of a group no one wants to be a part of, grieving parents. For months, I attended meetings of The Compassionate Friends, where membership consisted of being a bereaved parent, sibling, or grandparent. Nothing else mattered, – not income, race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion. Losing our children created a unique bond between us. Among these new friends, I cried, talked about my child, and found hope in the experience of those further along this path of belonging. 

I communed with this group for many months, and I still speak with friends I made along my journey. They taught me that I did not have to suffer alone. They taught me simple coping skills for the early days of loss. They showed me joy was still possible, even amidst grief. They listened without judgment, and loved without reservation. They hugged me and held my hand and walked beside me. They allowed me to belong.

~ Lisa Kiel

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The Door Is Open, Isn’t It?

“There is a place where the sidewalk ends, and before the street begins.”
~ Shel Silverstein,
Where the Sidewalk Ends (p.64)

Belonging is a hard theme to grasp. Welcoming, even harder. 

There are people I need to welcome and show hospitality to that I don’t think about in that way at all. Their philosophies and thinking patterns are too different. 

While my intention would be to understand fully and accept differences and offer internal space to ‘all’, I don’t know that I can, or  want to. And I don’t know how that makes me feel about myself and who I claim to be. 

People are difficult, deep, educated and ‘aware’. We feel as though we have many important things to say.

We assess ourselves in group activities and identify as the ‘Sunshiners’, the ‘Must Make It Happen’, the ‘Tap Tap Time Keepers’, The ‘Careful Caregivers’, and the ‘Closers’. We talk about how important each group is and how each group provides balance and meaning. And as the year progresses we struggle to maintain the openness to the ‘other’. 

Can we settle in to the comfort of discomfort? Should everyone be included in the circle of love? 

The answer to that question is yes… Because… we ALL know what it feels to be on the outside looking in. 

The answer is yes .. because we all know what it feels like to be boxed in, to feel lonely, to have been bullied, to have championed a cause…

The answer is yes because we have more in common than we know. 

Yes, because there is MORE that brings us together than we think.

Yes, because, until we look close enough to see each other’s humanity we are just strangers filled with distrust and fear. And who likes to live like that?

~Lydia Patrick

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Walking as Belonging

We had an appointment with a professional who was helping us do some estate planning. They sent us an email the day before reminding us of the appointment and included a helpful message: give yourself some extra time.  Our building is hard to see from the road. Look for the sign, and follow the way in. 

We often find ourselves, even in the very common things of daily living, approaching spaces in which we are unfamiliar.  Actual physical spaces that are new and unknown to us create a visual.  Perhaps we approach a building we have never been in.  We stop and look for signs. Then, we go through a door, but after going in, we stop again. Do we keep going forward? Go left? Go right? It’s a sort of start and stop and start again proposition. Do I belong here? Is this the right way? And, when we finally find the place, person or spaces that we are looking for, a wave of relief comes over us.  This is where we belong, at least for now. 

The same can be said of new and unfamiliar ideas, information, individuals and circumstances.  The new and unfamiliar makes us hesitate, stop, start, stop again.  We wonder if we belong “here” with this set of ideas, people, or circumstances.  Ultimately, the only way to know if we “belong here” is by taking the next step. When we hold back, retreat or never even leave the safe places we are in, we simply cut ourselves off from new possibilities. Belonging is not just a good feeling that goes with safe places and people. Belonging is an invitation to venture out. Belonging invites us to new stories that we can only create and tell if we take the next step.

We belong in the walking. 

–Bob Patrick

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Belonging: Spiritual Home

I was born into a non-practicing Baptist family. We did celebrate Easter and Christmas but not much else. That was my religious upbringing. I had to go on my spiritual journey alone. 

When I was a teenager, I was an atheist. I couldn’t believe in any God with all the suffering in this world. But, Jesus kept knocking on my door. I then started down my path towards Christianity. My uncle was Rev. Ruben Quiros and he was Pentecostal. I tried this denomination and it was not for me. 

I then started going to a nondenominational mega church. I felt like I belonged there for a moment but it was leading me in a way that was not good. It is a church that has become right wing, not for me. 

I married a Tanzanian man of Islam. I converted to Islam. I was a Muslim woman. I wore my hijab. I prayed five times a day. I fasted for Ramadan. I read the Quran. I believed that I had found where I belonged. I felt beautiful and closer to God. My marriage ended but I was still a practicing Muslim. Then, 2016 came along and I was in a situation where I feared for my life. I decided to leave Islam for the safety of my family and myself. 

I became interested in UUCG from a Facebook ad. That first Sunday service, I knew that I belonged. I have found friends. I have found those with similar beliefs and I love it. We have a wonderful congregation. 

I don’t know if this is my last path to walk. But for now I’m home. I have to say that I sometimes miss Islam. I miss my hijab. My cross still sits on my mantle.

~Rita Romero

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Belonging: Getting Off the Hamster Wheel

“Hey, we’re making music twice as good.
By playing what we’ve got!”
~ Shel Silverstein, Ourchestra, Where the Sidewalk Ends (p. 23)

In this century we are all connected somehow, and for many of us, those connections are everything. We can’t seem to get away from the pull of needing to belong. 

I can be, from time to time, on that hamster wheel of keeping up. Doing all of the surveys so I’d have something to say about it when asked, binge watching all of the shows, signing up for the deals and the offers, liking, posting, seeing who was liking me, replying and sending to 10 friends, donating to birthday causes, participating in group studies, circles, offering to sponsor events, adding my name to a cause because I knew most of the others who signed. 

I find myself making sure I am seen, liked, and ‘shared’. I want to have what it takes to really belong in all situations and scenarios. But, if I can’t remember why I am ‘there’ in the first place then what is the purpose? If I don’t have the why, I need to let go, sit back down, and wait until I have it again. Then I can stand up and move forward. 

The simple truth is  – it doesn’t take all of these social connections to be centered. We belong to our soul, our journey, only our space. We need to center ourselves in what gives us balance and peace and direction. Once we’ve found those, we belong.

~Lydia Patrick

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