One day at a time.

One day at a time.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tornadoes and Crickets

This evening there were tornado warnings for some of the counties surrounding my new home in Charlotte.  Aside from the winds, and perhaps rain after this post is published,  all seems quiet now on my little patch of the Piedmont.  There is a lamp on the corner of my street.  In its soft glow at this late hour, I can see leaves being gently blown from the branches of a willow tree.  It looks like an autumnal snowfall.

 It's still warm.  The crickets are chirping, even at midnight.  They don't seem too worried.  The dog seems to disagree.  She's pacing.  I am weighing the promise made in their chirping against the odd glow of the sky.  Tornadoes and crickets.

It's a little like life these days.  Polls and news stories predict doom, offering ominous warnings in the sky.  And then there are those people, who just by virtue of living their lives seem to emulate hope.   Their steady words and actions give cause for believing again, and connecting with a deep love for this world.

The Rev. Mary Harrington was one such soul.  She passed away today.  I only met her once in New Orleans.  Rev. Mary was the co-founder and president of Gulf Coast Volunteers for the Long Haul.  Even in that one meeting, I was aware of the grace, inspiration and depth of spirit that Mary brought to ministry and life in general.

Mary had an incredible ability to pay attention, particularly to the natural world.  Her blog "Duck Dreams" is a testimony to this great gift she brought as she wrote about the world around her.  From the simple sights in nature, she drew an eternal wisdom.

In honor of Mary this evening, I am paying a little more attention to the world outside these walls and windows.  Tornadoes and crickets.  I think I'll side with the crickets tonight.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Spiritual Improv

I recently went to a comedy improv show.  After the show ended, I spent some time talking to one of the comedians who told me  that improv shows had nothing to do with being funny.  In fact, according to this performer, if you tried to be funny you'd likely mess the whole thing up.  The challenge was to be in the moment and listen to what the other performers were saying.  If you were trying to put together your response, then you would likely lose the humor in the moment.  You had to be willing to live in the moment and respond with anything that was on your mind at any given moment.  You also couldn't try to steal the show by working up to a big joke.  Just in the moment, be yourself, and be brave.

The dog with her "ball"

Yesterday morning when I let the dog out I threw her ball for fetch.  She returned with a very large stick, which could perhaps also be called a small branch.  Spiritual improv.  You run out looking for the ball, which maybe you can't find because it rolled underneath the deck but the important thing is you found this great stick.  A really wonderful new toy.  So, you change ideas mid-run because hey it's no big risk to drag this four foot branch across the yard.  Just in the moment, be yourself and be brave.



Theoretically, Unitarian Universalists have a great deal of room theologically to be spiritual adaptive and to find in life opportunities to transition meaning by living in the moment.  In practice, I am sure it is no easier for UUs than most.  Living in the moment is challenging to say the least.  With multitasking and time conservation veritable demigods, pausing to appreciate the slightest change in tone and tenor is not appreciated or valued.

So here is my attempt to live out my vocation for this week, a little mantra if you will: just in the moment, be myself and be brave.

Let's give it a try.  It might just lighten things up a little and help us see the world with creative spirits.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Silent No More: Standing of the Side of Love


Yesterday was National Coming Out Day.  Today is the 12th anniversary of Matthew Shepard's death, the young man whose death brought national attention to hate crimes.

Twelve years after Matthew's death, I wish we could say that hate crimes are no longer a frightening reality in this country for many LGBT citizens.  But recent news tells us otherwise.  Bullying and beatings continue.  In recent months, the country grappled with the suicides of six youths largely attributed to homophobic bullying.  Justin Aaberg.  Asher Brown.  Raymond Chase.  Tyler Clementi.  Billy Lucas.  Seth Walsh.  These are not just names.  These are young men who had dreams, friends, and families.  Our world is poorer for not having seen them into adulthood and known the gifts they would bring us as adults.

Then on Sunday, news spread quickly of two teenagers and a man who were attacked by a gang in the Bronx for being gay.  The young men were tortured for hours.  This on the heals of reports of another man being attacked at the famous Stonewall Inn.

Having served as a Partner in Peace at the recent Charlotte Pride Festival, I can assure you that the religious voice rallying against the LGBT community is still out there.  Using the right of free speech as a shield to slew hateful words and threats, these protestors demonstrate a dangerous ethos in the American public.  This is not about politics, or free speech.  This is about the insidious nature of hate to hide behind any excuse justifying violence.

Religious persons who would condemn love in any form have lost the essence of faith.  From 1 Corinthians 13:1-3,  "1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing."  Without love, we gain nothing.  Without love, sermons and prayers fail.   Without love, we've lost religion.

We have seen in recent months that hate speech is not just a few words shouted in the air but serves as emotional weapons assaulting the LGBT community.  Enough is enough.

We, the progressive people of the Piedmont and beyond, must pledge to be silent no more in the face of hate crimes.  Silent no more when politicians pander to discrimination like Carl Paladino.  Silent no more when religions hide behind misguided interpretations of scripture to support state and church sponsored bigotry.  

I am proud to be the minister of one such church who served as partners in peace at the Pride Festival, ensuring that pride attendees had safe passage into the festival past the protestors.  Yesterday evening, a vigil was held in Charlotte for the youth who committed suicide.  Faith communities were in attendance. This is a critical step toward breaking the silence.  We, progressive persons of faith, must continue to overcome the tidal wave of hatred.

And if you should be a LGBT youth reading these words, please know that you are not alone.  Please hold onto the knowledge that there are communities outside the bullies and religious rhetoric; communities who love and support you.  Please, hold on for the world will change for the better.  

May love be the legacy left in the wake of these recent deaths.  May love spur us to speak in the tremor of silence.  May love call our hearts beyond fear and into the vision of diversity, straight to the heart of the prophetic promise held in each rainbow.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Take a Deep Breath...

If you are in Charlotte, North Carolina then you just breathed in air from the country's 10th smoggiest city, according to the American Lung Association accounting of our ozone.  Yikes!

Most of us have read the news about the effects of the climate crisis in terms of large scale natural disasters as well as changes in icebergs and polar conditions.  We've read about the destruction of our oceans and extinction of vital species.

Yet, the truth is that the climate crisis is already affecting our families and children here in our homes.  You don't need to seek out large scale natural disasters but rather look to the insidious effects of pollutants impacting our daily air quality.   In Charlotte, for example we have 56,000 pediatric cases of asthma.  The cause, you might ask.  In part, because of our hot summers but also attributed to the fact that so many Charlotteans commute to work with cars, which contribute to our air pollution.  And then there is the problem of our energy source--the coal fired power plants.  While our own Duke Energy is considering closing seven power plants (likely in part because of the cost to adhere to new environmental standards, see Article on Duke Energy), they still are nearing the end of construction for the Cliffside plant in Rutherford County which promises to increase our demand on coal energy.

So, climate change is already in our own backyard as pollutants threaten the safety of the air we all breathe.  It's not only a question of cinematic images of tidal waves, but also a much-less-media-captivating image of diminished air quality.

Fortunately, North Carolina is blessed with community activists and faith leaders who have not only protested the Duke coal plant but also continue applying pressure on Washington to end mountaintop mining (another way pollutants can be released, not to mention the immediate ecosystem impact).  For more information see the Washington Post article on Mountaintop protest in D.C.  We are blessed in North Carolina with some excellent organizations that help combat the air crisis as well as mountaintop removal.  I encourage you to check out Clean Air Carolina and Repower North Carolina as well as Appalachia Rising(not local to North Carolina, but a critical group in this work).  None of us has to reinvent the wheel to have impact.

We are fast approaching 10/10/2010 the "Global Work Party" created by 350.org, an organization begun by Bill McKibben (author of the 1989 global warming book The End of Nature).  350.org is creating a global movement seeking solutions for the climate crisis.  The number 350 signifies the safest limit, 350 parts per million, for CO2 in the atmosphere.  We're currently at about 390.  The "Global Work Party" is a chance to join millions around the world in seeking solutions for climate change.  I encourage you to check out 350.org and find an event near you to join.  No matter how small, you can have an impact.  The world is changed by the transformation of one heart at a time into one action at a time.  It's possible to preserve this earth for our generation as well as the next.

This really isn't just about air particles, coal plants, and mountaintops, though any one of those would suffice for a global movement.  It's about living a life of faith grounded in the belief that we are connected to this earth from the air we breathe, the ground we walk upon and the water we drink. We are pieces of a much larger communion of life: the interdependent web of existence.  We each play a salvific role in that web when we become conscious of our connection and decide to act in accord with all that is our life.

Amen, and Happy Global Work Party Day.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Belief, Reconsidered

Could you live without explaining your beliefs?  Really, in a world of constant tug and pull on your moral compass, would it be possible to not concern yourself with getting the beliefs straight and still be religious?

I sure hope so.

In a recent submission for Quest entitled "Religion Beyond Belief" Peter Morales, President of the Unitarian Universalist Association, contends that "belief is the enemy of religion."  Given that I've spent quite a good portion of my life studying belief, I was intrigued.  Morales argues that conversations about what we believe generally move us away from the heart of religion, which he defines as "faithfulness to what we love."

"Faithfulness to what I love" helps me get closer to the transformative religion I seek.  Instead of debating with people, suddenly sharing what I love helps me move toward people and toward transformation.

But how are we faithful to what we love?  It's easy to feel overwhelmed by the shear mass of commitments, calls, and cascade of news.  There is so much to do sometimes.  I've been feeling a little overwhelmed lately watching the news about the economy, immigration rights controversy, poverty rates, wars, hurricanes, floods,... do I really need to go on here? I would bet you've felt overwhelmed at times too.

Jon Stewart surprised me recently by offering the most powerful salve to those feelings of powerlessness.  Well, actually it was Arianna Huffington.  During her interview on the Daily Show, she explained that she is astounded by all that average Americans are doing in the midst of the unemployment crisis.  It's not just the elections and big rallies, but also the daily steps, Huffington reminded the audience.  Like creating networking sites for unemployed Americans to barter services or how neighbors are trading skills in the absence of money.

It's not just the big leaders and big events that make changes, but it is the daily acts that compose a life well-lived.  It is the daily acts that ultimately bring about the shift in consciousness we need.  It's those little acts, which give us the courage and resolve to take the big steps, sign the petitions, and stand in the public square.  In the words of Forrest Church, "Begin small. Dream possible dreams. Set out to climb a single hill, not every mountain. Soul work needn’t be strenuous to be high impact. You can begin transforming your life with a single phone call. Or by writing a kind letter. Or by opening your blinds to let the sun flood in. Don’t say it’s nothing. It’s everything. For you have now begun."

So when you wake up tomorrow, sit up tomorrow, and step with your feet on that floor for what will you stand?  What is the one step you will take to be faithful to what you love?