Archive for November, 2009

Nov 25 2009

Living the Questions: Exploring Jesus’ Teachings

At some point in a worship service during this month of December, hundreds of Unitarian and Universalist congregations, all around the world and in many languages, will share a common reading as part of the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists’ Global Chalice Lighting Project.[1] Just imagine: from Norway to South Africa, from New Zealand to Japan, in India and Indonesia, Pakistan and Poland, the Philippines and Finland, Burundi and Brazil, Canada and the Congo, the United Kingdom and the United States, people who share our multifaceted faith will be pondering the same words at just about the same time.

Here at FUCSJ, we are just now catching the crest of this wave. Looking back, I see that November’s words came from Canada, joyfully welcoming “visitor, friend, or long-time member, believer or doubter, joiner or loner, full of energy or plain tired, seeking a vision or a rest. You are welcome to join us as you are.”[2] The spirit of radical inclusion is universal in our faith, as this shared reading captures. Welcome home, everyone!

This month’s Global Chalice Lighting reading is a bit more somber, perhaps honoring the “dying of the sun” with the solstice or the “dying” of the year. But they are good words for describing why we come together in community at any time of year. Submitted by our own Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, the words are by the Rev. Dr. Forrest Church. Imagine them echoing around the world, from congregation to congregation: “Knowing we must die, we question what life means. Final answers may elude us, but by living the questions, we create and discover meaning where we can.”

I think these words offer a good introduction to this month’s worship theme at FUCSJ: “What Can Jesus Teach Us UUs?” “Final answers may elude us” as we ask the question in this theme, but this month we will “live the questions” and discover meaning in new places. What will we discover from wrestling with and relishing Jesus’ central teachings? When we strip away centuries of interpretation of these teachings, when we quiet the external voices that claim to tell us about Jesus and listen instead to our own internal wisdom, what surprises might we find? What can Jesus teach us about love? About radical inclusion? About the problems and the possibilities of being “in a body”? About the relationship between power and wholeness, between healing and community? About ways of relating to others that can create “heaven on earth”? How will this holiday season grow richer when we live these questions?

Join us for this month’s explorations and meditations, for its stories, songs, simple pleasures, and sudden intuitions. “Visitor, friend, or long-time member, believer or doubter, joiner or loner, full of energy or plain tired, seeking a vision or a rest”—you are welcome here, just as you are. Welcome home!


With warmth and hope for a holiday season rich in meaning making,




[1]You can read more about the ICUU and see a map of all the member groups, emerging groups, and associates at To find the Global Chalice Lighting readings, just click on “Resources.”

[2] Phrases extracted from the full welcome by Rev. Ray Drennan, Canadian Unitarian Council, available at

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Nov 12 2009

Simplicity: A Few More Steps on the Journey

In the last edition of the newsletter, I began to ponder this month’s theme of “Simplicity.” My blog,, holds both the poem and the essay that I offered then; look for “Simplicity: The Complex Task of Living a Balanced Life.” Will you walk with me now as we continue this journey?

Here is what we have been exploring: What happens when we develop the spiritual practice of sitting still—sitting still long enough and often enough to begin to notice how we are spending our resources? Not just our money resources but also the resources of our thoughts, emotions, time, and physicality—our energy. How are we spending each of these resources each day? Each week? How we are replenishing them each day? Each week?

Are we living within our means? Are we living a sustainably? Are we replenishing our resources at a “richer” rate than we are spending them? Do our thoughts, for example, bring us more energy, more insight, more joy or depth—or do they deplete us? We have a choice about how we “spend” our thoughts. And what resources have we discovered for replenishing our thoughts? A well-written book; a piece of art; a loving conversation; active engagement for the good of others; the practice of centering meditation when we take a break from “thinking”? Our thoughts are a resource that can be spent wisely or poorly, and that need replenishing. Isn’t this a mind-boggling idea?

The same is true of our feelings: On which feelings do we dwell; which ones do we encourage? How do we “replenish” our feelings?

So, too, with our time: Which uses of our time bring us closer to our authentic self? Which ways do we spend our time that distance us from what we value most? How do we replenish a sense of spaciousness in the time we are given each day?

And which uses of our body, of our physical energies, actually give us more energy? Which uses deplete us? How are we restoring these energies?

Earlier this month, I chose to spend part of my time cleaning out my e-mail in-box. My in-box was like a room in the house where we toss all our clutter until finally we dread opening the door. There are valuable treasures in that room—we know there are—so we can’t just haul everything away. Just so, my e-mail in-box was stacked high with messages that were no longer “new” but that I couldn’t simply delete. Most of them had been skimmed and responded to, but some of them had arrived on days when I couldn’t even get into that room; they were still bright bold, “unread.” Some of those e-mails were being temporarily stored, waiting to be filed—except that “temporarily” had now stretched into months. Many messages needed to be deleted, but I had never formed the habit of getting rid of them right away. My in-box once again held thousands of e-mails.

So, for several hours a day over the course of several days, I entered into a Zen-like mode of selecting, deleting, responding, and filing. My energy rose as the numbers fell. The old messages reminded me of some beautiful ways I had spent my resources in the past year—events and experiences shared with you or with our wider movement that were treasures, but that I had almost forgotten because I had allowed less important preoccupations to pile on top. I discovered a few messages from old friends who were still waiting for a response, and I reached out to restore those lifelines. I saw how busy we are here at FUCSJ—too busy and sometimes swamped by petty concerns—but I also saw the power for good that we have when we let our mission guide us. I wondered in which ways we most want to spend our resources so that our deepest values and highest purpose can be sustained. And I began to free up my own resources so that I could be responsive to what matters most.

This spiritual practice was time well spent. Already I have new and tender habits for how I manage this aspect of my life.

How about you? What steps have you taken on this journey toward a balanced and sustainable life?


With love and encouragement,









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