In many Unitarian Universalist churches and fellowships, we share Joys and Concerns (sometimes called Joys and Sorrows) each Sunday morning. The usual caveat is to not bring our political concerns and activities into that time, which I usually agree with because of the possibility of disagreement and destruction of a worshipful time. But, sometimes, as now, there are situations that threaten to affect everyone. Those situations and threats make it too difficult to keep silent.

As UUs, we are sometimes criticized for being too individualistic. One of our treasured UUA principles is “A free and responsible search for truth and meaning.”  Yet, according to Michael Durall in The Almost Church Revitalized, [that principle] “is of questionable value, and may be detrimental to future growth. This is because the search for truth is the quintessential private spirituality.”

Our own private spirituality is very important and necessary. However, I feel there are times when a strong  public witness in a church service is needed. I am in no way belittling the sharing of individual concerns and joys, our hopes and fears for ourselves and our friends and families, our deaths, our hospitalizations, our birthdays, our graduations, and all of the other private  feelings and concerns about our daily lives. That is so important. If done in a spirit of respect and reverence, that time can be thoughtful and important.

But, most of us have strong beliefs and feelings when things are just plain wrong and dangerous, and we work to make a difference in peoples’  lives, both individually and in groups. I am extremely concerned and very frightened about the current Republican attacks on women’s freedoms. Many of us worked so hard in the 1960s and 1970s to help guarantee the right of contraception, the right of abortion, the right to have control over our own bodies. I see the future of those rights being eroded daily and cannot be silent.

Perhaps those concerns do not belong in sharing personal Joys and Concerns. But to me, a situation that threatens to affect the lives of everyone, both women and men, so negatively by taking away the rights of women over their own bodies has to be shared openly so that we can make a concerted effort to collectively do what is necessary to preserve and enhance those rights.

How can we share that in a reverent fashion?

Coloring page

I’ve been fighting a cold this week, with the cold probably winning. Yesterday I wasn’t feeling very wonderful, but went out to breakfast with friends anyway, needing to get out of the house.  One man met me in the restaurant with a children’s coloring page in one hand, a small box of three crayons in the other, and a huge grin on his face. How could I refuse?

Of course, being extremely creative in coloring a picture of a pirate chest of buried treasure, a ship, and lots of palm trees on an island is a bit tricky with only the colors red, yellow, and green. So, I asked the server if she had a blue crayon as well. She brought it to me and I began coloring. We had to leave before I finished my masterpiece, so my friend offered to have it taped up on the restaurant wall, along with the other kids’ pictures. But, for some reason I decided to take it home.

Although I can create wonderful things with fabrics, I’ve never been known for my extreme artistic talent, and didn’t even have any crayons around. Then I remembered the tray of watercolor pencils that someone left in the shed several years ago. I’d saved them under the assumption that I might learn how to use them someday. However, that never happened and I’d relegated them to the large plastic bag of other things for the next Goodwill donation.

I dug them out and set to work. Hey, this was fun! It was so easy to use a sharp pencil as a watercolor brush.  And so many colors!!! There were four shades of gold, perfect for pieces of eight.

I entertained myself for about an hour, forgetting how horrible I felt, and by the end of that time, I felt quite satisfied with the completed picture.

I took it to coffee this morning and everyone ooh-ed and aah-ed. That felt good. I gave the picture to the artistic instigator and he promised to put it up on his refrigerator. I asked him to be sure to use the fancy magnets.

Now, I wonder if I could use those pencils to paint away this cold?

“You’re so sensitive. You’re so emotional. You’re defensive. You’re overreacting. Calm down. Relax. Stop freaking out! You’re crazy! I was just joking, don’t you have a sense of humor? You’re so dramatic. Just get over it already!”

Yashar Ali is a Los Angeles-based columnist, commentator, and political veteran whose writing is showcased on The Current Conscience. On Sept. 12, 2011, he wrote about gaslighting,  a term “to describe manipulative behavior used to confuse people into thinking their reactions are so far off base that they’re crazy.” That blog, A Message To Women From A Man: You Are Not “Crazy”  helped me think about the number of times I’ve experienced comments like those above and seen other women try to deal with them, knowing those comments were a form of emotional manipulation yet still unsure if they were valid or not. I’d never heard the term “gaslighting” before, but think it’s a helpful one.

Please read the blog and, if you’d like, let me know what you think.

I’m parked at the Rest Area in Seeley, Ca, near El Centro, eating lunch and catching up on email,  but wanted to write a little about making this RV mine.

Ever since I’ve had this little motorhome, five years now, I’ve been bugged by one of the propane sensors. That’s right, ONE of them. For some reason, someone installed not one but two of them. I’m pretty sure the original is the one in the correct place: about six inches off the floor in the kitchen area. That makes sense because propane gas is fairly heavy and doesn’t really rise. But the second one was (catch that word?) located about a foot from the ceiling in the living area, about as far away from any propane as it could possibly be. I have no idea why they stuck it up there, right above a window.

Anyway, that one regularly beeped for no particular reason. It was just a fault and I was always able to stop the beep by pressing the fault button. But what a pain.  I turned off the propane at the tank when leaving Tucson yesterday, so when the thing beeped again at 2:30 this morning, awakening me from a sound sleep, I decided to get tough. I pulled the special automotive screwdriver, you know, the one with the square tip, out of the drawer and flipped the levers on the circuit breaker. After removing the two screws and pulling the sensor away from the wall, I disconnected all the wires, taped the plastic caps back on the ends, and stuffed them into the hole in the wall. And now that hole is now covered with a small picture.  I turned the propane back on and everything is just fine with no more beeping in the middle of the night.

My next project to make this rig mine will be to replace the panel on the front of the refrigerator. I thought I could just reverse it but in their infinite wisdom the company didn’t make it reversible. However, it will be an easy fix to replace it with something other than brown. I’m plotting what it will be.

Last year I probably wouldn’t have removed the malfunctioning sensor and tossed it in the trash, thinking perhaps that the company probably installed it for some good reason. But, I’m now discovering that my own knowledge and experience usually is correct. Feels good, too.

Just when I started questioning myself, wondering if my need to help change the world in a compassionate way was somehow wrong, not normal, misguided, whatever words people have used, someone I care about very much let me know my craziness has helped her and her husband communicate better. “Although I don’t always agree with what you say, I’ve found that instead of just watching TV, we are now able to talk about what we’ve seen.”  She added that they now even allow themselves to question some of their long-held ideas and beliefs and be a little more open about disagreements.

To me, that was worth all the self-questioning in the world.

It was way too hot to stay inside tonight because 275 miles of heat from driving through the desert today refuses to leave this little RV. So, I ate dinner outside under the stars. After munching carrots, celery, peanut butter, cream cheese, a plum, and half a bagel, I brought out a couple of pillows for my head and an afghan to pad the top of the picnic table a bit. The moon hasn’t risen yet and the Milky Way is beautifully clear. It always amazes me to realize that we’re all part of it. I saw quite a few planes, I assume from Tucson International Airport, as well as a satellite gliding smoothly across the sky from south to north. Then, out of the corner of my eye, a bright meteor streaked from north to south. I assume it might be a remnant of the peak of the Orionids yesterday and the day before. It’s so quiet out here, eleven miles from the highway, that chewing even seemed too noisy. It’s still too hot inside, so I think I’ll put the narrow memory foam topper from the bed on the top of the picnic table, add the pillows, sheets, and a blanket, and sleep out there tonight. The temperature is supposed to drop from a high of 98 today down to a balmy 66 overnight. Perfect for sleeping outside.

I just found this on Facebook and loved it so much I wanted to share it widely. I wonder how many of us see ourselves in the words? I sure do. Enjoy.