Feb 24 2018

March Journal: Soul Matters Spiritual Exercise for Balance

Published by under Minister's Musings

What Does It Mean to Be a People of Balance?
Soul Matters Spiritual Exercises for March
Gathering: Sunday, March 25, 2018, 1:00 p.m., Ramsden Fireside Room
Take our theme of the month deeper by engaging in one or more of these spiritual exercises.

Then join our small group to enrich the experience!

Option A:
A Reminder to Re-Balance

Sometimes balance is as simple as remembering to take a moment to breathe. The problem is
we’re not so good at reminding ourselves and remembering on our own. Take a week this month
and commit to the practice of a “daily pause”—or maybe a few daily pauses. You can keep it
simple by setting an alarm on your phone reminding you to take a break. Or you can use one of
the recommended apps below to help remind and guide you.
You’ll also need to decide what to do during your daily pauses. Some of us will step
away and go for a walk or find a quiet place to be by ourselves. Others will keep it short and
sweet, staying put and just taking 5 deep breaths. Still more will use the time for brief
meditation. Figure out what works for you.
Here are some apps that might help:

Come to the Soul Matters Reflections Group ready to share how it went. Did daily pauses make a
difference? Did you have to readjust your strategy because your first plan wasn’t working? What
exactly helped you re-balance? Deep breathing? Remembering gratitude? Silence? Self-talk?

Option B:

Put Down Their Work & Pick Up Your Balance

Often our imbalance is our own doing. Frequently, we just take on too much. But sometimes it’s
not that simple. Sometimes, our imbalance is about us taking on too much that is not really ours
to do or fix. In other words, it’s often accepting responsibility for other people’s weight and
worry that tips us over. Or as organizational consultant Betsy Jacobson puts it, “balance is not
better time management, but better boundary management.”
This exercise invites us to regain our balance by letting go of that which is not ours. The
instructions are as simple as they are challenging:

Identify one way in which you are taking on something
that is not really your responsibility.

Then find a kind way to put up a boundary
and give another’s “work” back to them.

Here’s a great reflection by Rev. Meg Barnhouse to give you some motivation: Sorry, Hon, Not My Table, by Rev. Meg Barnhouse https://www.questformeaning.org/big-questions/sorry-hon-not-table/

Come to your group ready to share what you “gave back,” how you put up that boundary, and how it offered you a bit of balance. There will likely be some bumps in the road and some costs. Come ready to share those, too, along with what the exercise taught you.

Option C:

Finding Balance by Facing FOMO

FOMO is a trendy acronym that stands for the “fear of missing out.” FOMO has reached
epidemic proportions in our culture these days, throwing us and the culture itself out of balance.
We are constantly bombarded with tempting choices about what to do or who to try to be next.
We may see daily reminders that “others” have achieved the kind of life we want, while we feel
stuck or held back.
FOMO can keep us focused on ourselves, instead of on our connections to others. FOMO
can affect our self-esteem, our anxiety levels, our capacity to become our own best selves, our
ability to gather together to make a difference for good in the world … and more.
What is your experience with FOMO?
Spend some time this month noticing when and how the “fear of missing out” arises in
your mind, heart, body, and spirit. Just make a note of the feeling and its causes when they arise.
No need to judge them.
Before the Soul Matters Reflections Group on March 25, spend some time reflecting on
what you have noticed about your experiences of FOMO.
You might take a look at one or both of these resources. They are not perfect—they feel
gendered to Rev. Nancy, and they may not speak to you. Still, you may be able to translate their
messages into something useful for your own reflection.

Come to the Soul Matters Reflections Group on March 25 ready to share what you have learned
and what you’re going to do with your insight.


Sunday, March 25, 2018, 1:00 p.m.: Balance
Sunday, April 29, 2018, 1:00 p.m.: Emergence
Sunday, June 3, 2018, 1:00 p.m.: Imagination
Sunday, June 17, 2018, 1:00 p.m.: Blessing

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Feb 24 2018

March Journal: In Our Own Voices – Balance

Published by under Minister's Musings

In Our Own Voices: What does it mean to be a people of BALANCE?

“In Our Own Voices” shares congregants’ free-flowing responses to the theme of the month. We draw these responses from on-line surveys and use them in creating worship, small-group ministry content, and other opportunities for spiritual growth.

Here are just a few of the responses we received for this month’s theme of Balance. What would you want to add?


With you in the spirit of seeking and growing,

Rev. Nancy


·         To be a people of balance means being very mindful of one’s decisions and practices. I think it also means accepting the bad weather of our lives and trying to make the best of things. Seeking. We don’t stay in balance, but we can always try to find it.

·         Oh, dear me. Balance can be such a shaming concept for those of us who feel overcommitted and overwhelmed, who find ourselves dropping balls right and left. But if I sense balance to be that beautiful place of flowing inbreath and outbreath, of BOTH/AND-ness, then I feel the peace that such balance can bring. “Moderation in all things, even moderation”? I’m not sure that old quote works for the times when we need to be “all in,” passionately devoted to a cause or a person. But when it comes to my internal work, the balance of self-love-as-I-am and self-improvement-as-the-gift-of-living feels like a worthy dance.

·         We try to balance work and play; eating for pleasure and eating for nutrition; freedom and restriction (particularly in parenting); physical activity and rest; organization and spontaneity; indoors and outdoors; self-care and caring for others. Perhaps the more interesting and challenging thing to talk about is how to regain our balance when we have lost it.

·         This is my worst issue. I love music, adore liturgy, and care mightily about my family life. I find it hard to care about things that really might make my life easier, like discipline in spending. I find I depend on others to work those issues, and occasionally it really bites me. Balance? Maybe next year!

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Feb 23 2018

March Theme: What Does It Mean to Be a People of BALANCE?

Published by under Minister's Musings

Balance as a Springboard, Not a Still Point

by Rev. Nancy Palmer Jones, with help from the Soul Matters Sharing Circle


When we talk about balance, it’s natural for calm and rest to be the first things that come to mind. After all, so many of us are tired. We’re overworked, overcommitted, and fearful. Stress undergirds most of our days. We may be so weighed down by worry and responsibility that just one drop of something unexpected can tip us right over.

So, yes, we long for rest. Yes, we want less to manage and absorb. Yes, we need balance’s reminder that finding a place of calm is possible—even in the midst of a troubling world, even in the midst of circumstances that frighten us.

Yet pointing us to peace and calm is not all that balance is about. This month’s work on balance offers us fresh and hopeful perspectives.

Thank goodness we Unitarian Universalists draw on wisdom and inspiration from many spiritual traditions! Here’s a glimpse of the search for balance through the lens of religious holidays in March:

The Christian observance of Lent reminds us that balance is a place of reassessment, renewal, preparation, and even repentance. It honors the 40 days that Jesus spent in the desert preparing for his ministry and the life that would lead to his death on the cross. The balance he seeks in the desert is not that of restful escape but that of restorative recentering. Balance gets Jesus ready, rather than simply offering him relief.

During Passoverparticipants retell the story of the exodus of the Jews from Egypt after centuries of slavery. (Stay tuned for news of FUCSJ’s Seder, to be held in early April!) In this season, balance is a matter of remembering, of pausing to put ourselves back into a story that connects us with others and anchors us in a countercultural narrative. During Passover, the balance we find is not that of calm but that of reconnection.

Ostara, the Pagan celebration of the Vernal Equinox, honors the balance of day and night, and it celebrates the way this balance is a tipping point on the way to Spring. It’s a reminder that still points are rarely still. They are a place of turning, a space where shifts happen and new life emerges.

The Hindu holiday of Holi offers a celebration that restores our belief in the power of good over evil. It reminds us that balance and calm aren’t just found by taking a break from life, but by trusting in its goodness once again.

These March holy days remind us that balance is not simply a destination but also a place of invitation. It’s not a static space of peace, as much as a still point on which we pivot and turn to something new. It’s not just about rest, but about resting up for a journey.

Yes, balance allows us to catch our breath, but it’s also about finding our center so we can end all our aimless wandering and point ourselves in the direction we want to go.

Maybe balance, after all, isn’t the prize but the springboard. Maybe balance isn’t the goal, but the source of strength that gets us where we need to go.

So, beloveds, what kind of balance will we seek in order to get us where we are called to go?


Yours in the search for the balance that keeps us ready and connected,


Rev. Nancy

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Jan 29 2018

February Journal – Devotion: What Do We Love?

Published by under Minister's Musings

February Theme: What Does It Mean to Live a Life of Devotion?

Devotion: What Do We Love?

by Rev. Nancy Palmer Jones, with help from the Soul Matters team


Here we go again, we Unitarian Universalists, reclaiming another old-fashioned and often-freighted word! Devotion. This month we take a fresh, heart-opening look at it. What are your first associations with this word?

Most of us know the shadow side of devotion. We may have experienced a religion where we were asked to give ourselves over to a leader or a doctrine, which involved abandoning our true selves. Or maybe we have been in a relationship—in our families, at school, or at work—that demanded a dangerously self-sacrificing “devotion” from us if we wanted this relationship to last. This kind of devotion disregards our worth and integrity. It leaves no room for expressing and meeting our own needs. Such false devotion traps us instead of setting us free.

As a result of these experiences, we may be allergic to the very idea of devotion. We think it’s the opposite of freedom, and we value our freedom above all else.

But a healthy devotion actually invites us into relationship with our own best selves. True devotion signals a choice—something to which we give a deep love, a commitment, a steadiness and loyalty that actually set us free from distractions and dithering and give us a sense of direction.

I have felt this kind of devotion to both my vocations, first as an actor and now as a minister. I love giving time to these callings; I feel a deep loyalty to the relationships that they create. Sure, in my devotion to these careers, I have to surrender part of my own ego-needs in order to serve a Something More. Such surrendering can be hard—we may lose sleep or have to make difficult choices—but ultimately it doesn’t feel like a denial of self. Devoting ourselves to a path that “has our name on it” feels like coming home. This is one kind of healthy devotion.

One Soul Matters Sharing Circle facilitator—a Unitarian Universalist exploring this same theme—writes, “I need to remind myself that devotion to a cause has brought extraordinary changes in our world.” Think about the end of slavery, the winning of the vote for women, the passage of Civil Rights laws, the gain of marriage equality. How long it takes the passionate devotees of each cause to transform those oppressions into freedom! Surely, we live in a time that asks us for this kind of healthy devotion. Wouldn’t it be great if folks could say of all of us Unitarian Universalists: “Nevertheless, they persisted!”

          Our Soul Matters Spiritual Exercises this month invite us to pay attention to the smaller, daily acts of devotion in our lives, because these reveal our deepest values and longings. They give us a sense of what calls for our loyalty and commitment.

So maybe the most important questions of this month are “How devoted are you to your core?” and “How loyal are you to that which lights you up?”

          In the end, my friends, this theme of devotion all boils down to this: What do we love? Only love can drive out hate, as Dr. King reminds us, and oh, how much we need to drive out hate. Today, this month, this year, may we devote ourselves to embodying the love that, with focus and intention, loyalty and persistence, can turn this world around.


With love and devotion to our journey together,


Rev. Nancy

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Jan 24 2018

February Journal: Soul Matters Spiritual Exercise for Devotion

Published by under Minister's Musings

What Does It Mean to Live a Life of Devotion?

Soul Matters Spiritual Exercises for February

Gathering: Sunday, February 25, 2018, 1:00 p.m., Ramsden Fireside Room

Take our theme of the month deeper by engaging in one or more of these spiritual exercises. Then join our small group to enrich the experience!


Reconnecting with and recommitting to our own deepest self is a major part of what it means to live a life of devotion. This journey happens differently for each of us. Here are two spiritual exercises that may help you reconnect with your devotion—that is, with those things to which you give your love, loyalty, faithfulness, and commitment.



Rediscover Your Devotion to Small Things


Mother Teresa wrote, “Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired. Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”

“What we need is to love without getting tired. Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.” We know this is true, yet it is so easy to lose sight of the small things that we love and that make a big difference. For example:


  • We may be devoted to having dinner with our family and making time for each person to name something that they are thankful for from that day. But when things get busy, our commitment to this practice falls to the wayside.
  • We may have made a commitment to call at least one long-distance friend each month, but somehow this past year, it’s not happened at all.
  • Maybe we think of ourselves as devoted hikers, artists, runners, choir members, you name it. These activities re-energize us and connect us to something larger than ourselves. And yet … we just haven’t gotten around to doing them in months.
  • Reading a book to our children before they go to bed; volunteering monthly to help with a cause about which we care deeply; writing a love letter to our spouse or friend; checking in on a neighbor; writing to our congressperson—these are all small, ordinary things that contain great power. But when we get tired or overwhelmed, we can lose sight of their importance in our lives and in the world.


So here is the exercise:

This month, make a list of the “small loves” that have great strength for you. Spend some time relishing what your list tells you about who you are and what you value at your core.

            Then choose one item from your list and do at least one action that reaffirms your devotion to it. Feel free to borrow or adapt from the examples of small devotions above.

Please join us on Sunday, February 25, at 1:00 p.m. at FUCSJ to share what you learn from this exercise about yourself and about the strength that lies in small things.



 Do Our Values Really Have Our Devotion?


Living a spiritually faithful life is about living in alignment with our values. We know in our hearts the values to which we are most devoted, but sometimes our lives don’t reflect this devotion as much as we would like. This exercise offers us a chance to step back, to see how well we are doing, and to consider how we might course-correct to bring our lives in alignment with our values.


Step One: Name Your Values

Fill in the blanks:

Two values to which I am deeply devoted to are _______________ and ________________.


Step Two: Examples of Living Your Values

Fill in the blanks:

You can see my devotion to these values by looking at these parts of my life:







As you fill in these blanks, think about how you interact with your family or friends, what you have chosen to do as your employment, how you spend your free time, how you handle conflict, how you use your money, where you volunteer, what you do for fun and/or self-care, and so on.


Step Three: Ways to More Deeply Reflect Your Values

Fill in the blanks:

Here are three ways in which my life can more deeply reflect my devotion to these values:





Step Four: What Have You Learned?

Reflect on what this exercise shows you about the way your life lines up with your most deeply cherished values. Has anything surprised you? How will you carry these lessons forward in your life in the days and weeks to come? Please join us on Sunday, February 25, at 1:00 p.m. at FUCSJ to share what you learn.



Sunday, February 25, 2018, 1:00 p.m.: Devotion

Sunday, March 25, 2018, 1:00 p.m.: Balance

Sunday, April 29, 2018, 1:00 p.m.: Emergence

Sunday, June 3, 2018, 1:00 p.m.: Imagination

Sunday, June 17, 2018, 1:00 p.m.: Blessing

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Jan 24 2018

February Theme: What does it mean to live a life of DEVOTION?

Published by under Minister's Musings

 In Our Own Voices: What does it mean to live a life of DEVOTION?

“In Our Own Voices” shares congregants’ free-flowing responses to the theme of the month. We draw these responses from on-line surveys and use them in creating worship, small-group ministry content, and other opportunities for spiritual growth.

When our theme of the month involves reclaiming a traditionally “religious” term, we get the widest range of responses. For “What does it mean to be a people of Devotion?” or “What does it mean to live a life of devotion?” we get contradictory answers. From “I love this old-fashioned word” to “this concept doesn’t excite my interest”; from devotion to God, to devotion to people and relationships; from open-ended “rituals done with lots of smiling” to the well-scripted Episcopalian daily office—this theme lifts up our theological diversity in all its splendor! I hope you will join us in worship and small groups this month as we celebrate our diversity and reclaim a word that can enrich our lives … no matter where we place ourselves on the religious spectrum!  


With real devotion to you and to this faith we love,

Rev. Nancy


  • I think of consistency and daily practice, rituals done with lots of smiling—this is what I see when I think of being a part of a people of devotion.
  • I love this old-fashioned word devotion! It signals a deep love, a commitment, a steadiness and loyalty that are of great value to me. It means I allow something or someone to be larger than my own ego, so that I surrender some part of my own ego-needs to serve this Something More. More and more, I want to live from a place of devotion to my core self, my deepest loves and values, my evolving understanding of what helps make us all more whole.
  • In some religious contexts, devotion is seen as being toward abstractions like God. In our Unitarian Universalist context, I am more interested in being devoted to people and relationships, or being devoted to actions for social justice, or being devoted to a regular practice. At first blush, this concept doesn’t excite my interest very much.
  • We are devoted to something or someone that is of value. The highest devotion ought to be for the Divine, who is above earthly calamity.
  • Since many of the church members don’t believe in God or are agnostic, I suppose devotion raises the question of devotion to what? Truth, justice, service, community? And to which community or communities?
  • To be aware of spiritual forces within my life and outside of it. Devotion is an odd word. I looked it up and found these: love, loyalty, or enthusiasm for a person, activity, or cause: “Eleanor’s devotion to her husband.” Synonyms: loyalty, faithfulness, fidelity, constancy, commitment, adherence, allegiance, dedication. More religious worship or observance: “the order’s aim was to live a life of devotion.” Synonyms: devoutness, piety, religiousness, spirituality, godliness, holiness, sanctity: “a life of devotion.” As an Episcopalian, I understand the value of the daily office (prayer and scripture as found in the prayer book) and the importance of being an active part of a community of faith. These things, when practiced faithfully, provide an external focus that helps me to become centered.

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Dec 20 2017

January Journal: “Hear Our Vote”: Women’s March 2018

Published by under Minister's Musings

“Hear Our Vote”: Women’s March 2018

January 20, 2018, 11 am – 2 pm, Downtown San Jose (exact location not yet announced)

Unitarian Universalists, LET’S SHOW UP!! Once again this year, there will be many women’s marches on January 20, including one in downtown San José. The march and rally will reaffirm our commitments to building a positive and just future for all, and will celebrate the spirit of resistance over the past year. This event is designed to engage and empower all people to support women’s rights, human rights, and social and environmental justice, and to encourage participation in 2018 midterm elections. HEAR OUR VOTE! For more information or to register: https://womensmarchbayarea.org/events/  Additional details and events for the “week of action” to be announced.

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Dec 20 2017

January Theme: What does it mean to be a People of INTENTION?

Published by under Minister's Musings

Resolutions or Intentions? A Difference in Direction

by Rev. Nancy Palmer Jones, with help from the Soul Matters team


“Here’s what I discover,” Katie Covey begins. Katie is on staff with our Unitarian Universalist Soul Matters Sharing Circle—a circle of congregations with whom we share monthly themes and spiritual growth. After brainstorming with colleagues about this month’s theme—“What does it mean to be a People of Intention?”—Katie comes to understand that “intention is different from setting goals or resolutions. Intention ‘pulls us into’ who we truly are. Goals and resolutions ‘push us out’ into future possibilities. To set intentions, we listen to our inner voice, which tells us who we truly are.”

Some of us find it hard not to buy into the familiar January ritual of setting “resolutions.” Aren’t we all always trying to “become better”? Even our Unitarian ancestor, Ralph Waldo Emerson, wrote a passionate essay about the value of “self-culture,” which was his word for self-improvement. Our society has been entranced with the lures and promises of self-improvement ever since.

But more and more, I wonder if such “self-improvement” is what we really want. Wouldn’t I rather be “pulled in” to my deeper self this year, than “pushed out” into another round of striving for accomplishments? I don’t know about you, but I have spent far too many years caught up in societal expectations around looks, gender, sexual orientation, abilities, intelligence (including the gender-coded message to hide our intelligence). My own internalized oppression about striving for some kind of “perfection” in order to be lovable flies in the face of all I believe as a Unitarian Universalist: that we are inherently lovable just as we are. And that we are always growing.

Instead of taking this New Year as another opportunity to leap into “self-improvement,” measured by some external standard, let’s pause. Let’s ask, “What hunger really has my heart?”

          There is a big difference between becoming “better” and becoming ourselves. Self-improvement is not the same as self-alignment. Wanting to get from point A to point B is quite different from longing to find our inner anchor.

So this month, our most important work is to make room. May we, as a people of intention, keep our attention close to the present, on who we already are at our center. May we make space for listening before we leap into striving.

Intention, for me, is about setting a “good holy direction” for ourselves—holy, because it comes from our authentic core. With that grounding in our human being, we’ll know what we want to do.


With love and faith in our journey together,

 Rev. Nancy

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Nov 22 2017

December Journal: Why Do We Unitarian Universalists Do Christmas?

Published by under Minister's Musings

Why Do We Unitarian Universalists Do Christmas?
by Rev. Nancy Palmer Jones
On October 22, during our Diwali celebration this year, Sundar Mudupalli begins his reflection with these beautiful words:
“In preparing for this service, we members of the worship team have a robust discussion about why we celebrate Diwali in our church. Are we being cultural voyeurs? Is this another aspect of white supremacy benevolently accommodating other cultures when convenient?”
Then he answers: “What I see is not voyeurism, but a wholeness that comes from incorporating aspects from other cultures that speak better to me than my own. For example, in the spiritual practice of my birth, I don’t have a way of honoring the dead. I find that the Day of the Dead celebration incorporates my desire to respect and honor my ancestors. So, too, from Diwali, we can incorporate the long view presented in the Ramayana into our spiritual practice.”
Just a couple of weeks later, a Worship Associate asks a similar question: Why do we at the First Unitarian Church of San José make such a big deal about Christmas? We light the Advent candles every Sunday of the season. We offer a candlelight Christmas Eve service.
It’s a great question, and I hope it sparks a robust discussion among us!
We are a purposely diverse group. Some folks feel oppressed, overwhelmed, or disconnected by the wider culture’s focus on this radically commercialized holiday. They wish that we would offer relief from the Christmas onslaught during this time of year.
Others among us would be devastated if we dropped any of our Christmas rituals. And still others would feel better about the Christmas acknowledgments if we would just give equal time to the other festivals of light and darkness at this season, like Chanukah and the Solstice.
This is what it means to be a Unitarian Universalist!
Sure, our faith’s tendency to question absolutely everything can be frustrating, but it can also lead to depth. It can shake us out of sleepy habits. It can awaken us to systemic injustices and oppressions. As a spiritual practice, such questioning is a lot of work. But it can also show us how to build Beloved Community—if we hold our questions and our diverse answers in a curious, compassionate, and openhearted spirit, ready to learn from each other even as we clarify our own beliefs.
So: Why do we do Christmas? Here are few of my own answers. I would love to hear yours.
·        Our religious roots lie in Christianity. The earliest understandings of “unitarianism” and “universalism” lie in interpretations of Jesus’ life and messages from thinkers in the first centuries of the Common Era. These understandings were declared heretical, but they stayed alive counterculturally, because—like the best seekings of any religion—they continue to ring true to some of us. They crack open ideas about what we humans are called to be and do on this earth. I like mining Jesus’ teachings and even the myths around his birth in order to incorporate those core ideas—core ideas about the inherent belovedness and beauty of everyone, and about our human agency to create heaven or hell here on earth through our actions.
·        Our religious ancestors in this country were religious rebels, trying to get back to those core messages from Jesus’ life. Honoring the Christian holidays of Christmas and Easter guarantees that I will spend some part of each year deepening my own understanding of this heritage. Our Living Tradition draws on wisdom from six rich sources, including “wisdom from the world’s religions” and “Jewish and Christian teachings,” and I want to explore them all!
·        In general, we Unitarian Universalists are ritual-poor. Ritual speaks to mind, heart, body, and spirit; it offers experiences beyond a long string of interesting words, and opens a window on wonder. Lighting the candles at Christmastime, building our Día de los Muertos altar, celebrating Flower and Water Communions, lighting the diyas for Diwali, kindling candles or dropping stones for our Joys and Sorrows—these rituals connect us through time to those who come before us and who will come after. They remind us that we are embodied, whole-bodied beings. That feels important in our information-overloaded world.
·        The best spirit of Christmas offers delight to many. The light in our children’s eyes; the toddlers rolling about on the labyrinth in the candlelight on Christmas Eve; the tears as we listen to Crystal Isola sing “O Holy Night”; the sound of our youth’s voices reading new or ancient texts—these bring me home to hope, love, joy, and peace (the themes of this holiday season). And that, my friends, is priceless.
I don’t identify as Christian, though I love Jesus’ witness for love and justice. Every year, the work it takes to find our Unitarian Universalist way into Christmas leads to some new discovery. I hope we can have a robust and openhearted conversation about why we do Christmas, how we can make our reasons ring loud and clear, how we can invite the Christians in our own community to help us lead these services, and what all of us might incorporate from these traditions, even if they are not part of our own culture or theology.
This year, we will lift up Chanukah on December 10 and 17 in worship. We will celebrate Solstice twice—through the Holiday Play on December 17 at 11:00 a.m. and the Solstice service on December 21 at 8:00 p.m. And on Christmas Eve, Sunday, December 24, we offer two different services: one in the morning at 11:00 a.m., and our Christmas Eve Candlelight Service at 7:00 p.m.
May these celebrations feed your spirit! May we experience a “wholeness that comes from incorporating aspects from other cultures that speak better to me than my own.” May we continue to grow together!
Yours in the searching,
Rev. Nancy

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Nov 20 2017

December Journal: What does it mean to be a People of WONDER?

Published by under Minister's Musings

In Our Own Voices: What does it mean to be a People of WONDER?
“In Our Own Voices” shares congregants’ free-flowing responses to the theme of the month. We draw these responses from on-line surveys and use them in creating worship, small-group ministry content, and other opportunities for spiritual growth. Look for news of the latest survey in this edition of the newsletter!
When we mention the word wonder, our spirits rise. Respondents’ words lift off the page. We get a physical sensation—a “sense memory,” we call such moments in the acting world—of an opening in the chest, a gasp of breath, a widening of the eyes, a release of endorphins and peace that floods through our body. We stop in our tracks. The corners of our mouths turn up into a gentle smile. Our minds spark with curiosity and eagerness to learn. We feel connected to something larger than ourselves.
Yes, we have to slow down in our hectic, sometimes overwhelming lives in order to notice the moments that bring wonder into our lives. We have to be looking for those moments, open and available to them. But they are there, moments large and small, waiting for our mindful attention. Once noticed, these moments of wonder can change how we move into the next moment—with our broken-open hearts, Love spilling out, and a calm assurance that we are part of an interconnected web of all existence.
May we deepen our practices that lead us to wonder this month! What a great way to enter into the New Year!
With love and wonder in our resilience and strength,
Rev. Nancy
Curiosity as a Path to Wonder
·        Approaching the unknown with an attitude of gentle curiosity
·        Curiosity and deep exploration
·        The mere word WONDER opens up a space in my chest and makes me realize that sometimes I live too tightly bound—in my heart, mind, and body. To be a People of Wonder, or a Person of Wonder, I will ask more questions, be more curious, not jump to conclusions or offer advice and my own opinions, instead of seeking to understand others more deeply first. “I notice …, and I wonder …” is a great formula for getting at difficult conversations. Yes, yes, of course this theme crops up in December when the world’s religious holidays encourage us to experience awe and wonder. But I hope we figure out wider ways to apply this invitation to transformation.
·        The world is a fascinating place, with ever more things to discover. To lose our curiosity and our sense of wonder at the evolving universe would be a terrible thing. What new thing can you see or learn today?
The Opposite of Limitations
·        Instead of thinking in terms of limitations, think: What would my life be like if I learned to identify and to question my self-limiting thoughts?
·        We remind ourselves and each other to wake up and perceive (see, hear, touch) with Awe all the amazingly diverse manifestations of existence. We struggle to understand, and when we arrive at the edge of our limited ability to explain, we step back, gasp a breath, and are struck with a spiritual “Wow!” Without that awareness (Awe-wareness?), our lives would be flat.
Spiritual Practices of Wonder
·        Make time for the natural world, for poetry, music, animals, babies, stories, laughter, and connection.
·        Showing appreciation for things beyond our understanding, like children do—not trying always to appear Cool
·        We notice works that seem beyond the ordinary, casual, and mundane. And we thank or acknowledge the people who are responsible.
·        Ah. We are such a busy society and we seem to be proud of our inability to slow down. How can we find what to wonder about, if we can’t slow down? And now we’re so busy with the political news that it’s tough to remember why we are alive. I love the way friends post pictures of flowers to Facebook; it encourages me to look for those places in my life that renew my spirit.
Staying Open to the “Something More”
·        Wonder, I believe, keeps us grounded in miracles. To be a people of wonder is to be a people that count blessings and see silver linings. A people of wonder may or may not believe in capital-G God, but they often have a connection with a higher power, a sense of universal goodness and creation. In my book, scientists are a people of wonder and appreciation for the wonders of the world. Lastly, wonder keeps us open to welcoming the next person, the next example of creation and life.
·        To me a moment of wonder is when we release our attachments to all we think is real and allow the presence of the NOW to fill our mind and heart. It creates an instant when all is perfect within us, individually and as a whole in Oneness. We really cannot create that moment of wonder by ourselves. It comes when we release ourselves to the Oneness we are in joining, in unity, leaving ALL separation behind. I call this a holy instant.
·        It means to see the world through the eyes of a beginner, a child, or anyone who casts aside their normal way of thinking to view everything anew. It means to hold all life, life forms, and creation as miracles of nature/divine and to treat them as such.
·        There is much to wonder at in the material world, human relationships, and human achievements. But we need to be open to the ineffable, the divine, as well.
·        Of course all things are related. Wonder and Appreciation (November’s theme) can easily be connected. But wonder feels more introspective. There is Wonder in complexity. Wonder in simplicity. Wonder goes beyond noticing to joy and awe.

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