Archive for January, 2018

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.

 

OPTION A:

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.

 

OPTION B:

 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:

 

1._________________________________

2._________________________________

3._________________________________

4._________________________________

 

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:

1._________________________________

2._________________________________

3._________________________________

 

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.

 

~ SOUL MATTERS REFLECTIONS GROUP MEETING DATES ~

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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