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Archive for the ‘Love’ Category

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?

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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.

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Exciting news!

A very short but exciting blog tonight. My youngest daughter just had her second daughter late last night. The baby was born at home into her father’s arms, all 8 lbs 9 oz of her. This little one joins her 5-year-old sister. Everyone is doing just fine!

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 Since pretty much giving up the nomadic RV life several months ago and returning to San Diego to live, I’ve become more and more involved in homeless advocacy and assistance projects. At a training meeting with other volunteers for the Point-In-Time Count nationwide count of the homeless this week, I began wondering why I’m so passionate about these activities and decided to try to find a beginning point, something that got me started. However, my memory is a little fuzzy about many years ago, most likely when Reagan was president, so I won’t use that as a starting point. But, that time is indeed a beginning.

While going to seminary in Seattle from 1999 to 2003, I began noticing more and more people on street corners and freeway on and off ramps, holding signs offering to work for food or requesting money. In a field work class, one of my classmates, a rather quiet, unassuming young man, spent much time walking around downtown Seattle, stopping to talk with homeless individuals. I was impressed that he could do that. It tugged at me in ways almost nothing else had for a long time. However, at the time I was not prepared to do it myself.

After graduation, I returned to San Diego to do a year-long CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) residency with the Center for Urban Ministry, hoping to be assigned an internship with one of the homeless shelters downtown. At that time, San Diego County had just experienced several of the worst wildfires in history. Seventeen people had died, and many, many were left with no place to live. The head of the CPE program asked if I would be interested in being a chaplain-intern with those fire survivors, so I did. It was one of the most challenging and rewarding things I had ever done. My office was my small Nissan Sentra and my cell phone. I visited people wherever they were; in tiny motor homes, in tents, in half-burned buildings, in motels, in the homes or relatives or friends. I tried to give them hope. Possibly I succeeded. Little did I realize at the time that I would soon be in a similar situation.

Because of a well-paid job that just didn’t work out, I found myself without enough money to pay rent on the rather-overpriced apartments in the county. It wasn’t as serious as it could have been as I could have possibly lived with a relative or even returned to Portland. However, I was newly divorced and really needed to “stand on my own two feet.” So, I bought a very small motor home, 23-feet, traded the Sentra for a Ford pickup I could tow behind the RV, sold or gave away almost everything I owned, joined workamper.com, and found a job in Kanab, Utah, working as a breakfast buffet server for Parry Lodge. It was my first workamping job, one that provided not only an RV site, but also full hookups of water, electricity, and sewer, as well as pay for all hours worked. But, I was technically homeless, though not in an ordinary sense.

 Living in that very small space of one room with no separate bedroom, helped me understand a little better how the people I had tried to help in San Diego after the fires might have felt. Some of them had the same size motorhomes for their families of two or more people. I had a hard enough time taking what one person called “hokey-pokey showers,” you know, “put your right foot in, put your right foot out…” I couldn’t imagine two, three, or more family members doing it.

I was a full-time workamper for four years, working at various places during spring, summer, and fall. However, winters were difficult as there were very few jobs. Most workamping jobs were seasonal. So, I struggled to find places to live during the winter without having to pay an outrageous amount for space rent. Sometimes I parked in casino and Walmart parking lots for several nights. I volunteered one or more days a week at the Desert View Tower overlooking the desert in return for a spot to park that included electricity, water, and a fantastic view. Although not living on the street or in a shelter, I was technically homeless.

However, it was time to find a more permanent place so I returned to San Diego to live with my mother. It is working out well for both of us.

Two months ago I saw a request for volunteers for “Homeless Connect,” a one-day event downtown that provided resources for the homeless population of the county; clothing, medical and dental attention, food, pet care, legal advice, spiritual assistance, haircuts, and many more. I worked as an escort, helping a 60-something woman find her way around the large room to get the services she needed. We talked a lot and got well-acquainted. Yes, I most likely knew in my mind that homeless individuals were people just like you and me, but it never really sank in until then.

I talked with representatives of some of the many advocacy and aid groups in the county and learned about the Point-In-Time Count (PITC) this coming weekend. It is a national program that counts the homeless population each year at the same time in all areas. The tallies are entered into a large database and used to help get more funding for homeless work. So I will be among more than 550 other volunteers getting out there very early Friday morning, counting homeless individuals.

What comes next? I have no idea. However, I am making lots of connections with groups in the area such as the Interfaith Shelter Network, and will be doing a little volunteer work with them through my Unitarian Universalist church in the next few months.

Yes, I am passionate about this work and hopefully compassionate towards the many homeless people in this county. There are too many. And, the economic and unemployment situation now just makes everything worse. We all need one another, regardless of political or religious beliefs, and I really hope I’m doing my part to at least help with some basic needs. It’s the least I can do.

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I’m looking at an expanse of red mud in what used to be a pretty good looking garden here in the high desert of Utah. A big thunderstorm with heavy rain last night did a better job of dirt removal and moving than even the best heavy machinery. It did a pretty good job here, making it necessary for two of us to spend quite a while cleaning things up, using, of all things in the desert, a snow shovel to clear the mud off cement patios. However, the results three miles away in Kanab itself were even worse. Streets, parking lots, and yards were covered with thick red mud. Motel swimming pools resembled the red sea. Workers were out in force trying to clean up all the mess, in some places bringing in large tanker trucks full of water for the cleanup job. Water and mud oozed its way under doors in apartments, houses, motel rooms, and stores. Not pleasant.

Here are some pictures Fran Meadows took early this morning on her way to work.

 Yesterday I bought a book by Craig Childs called The Secret Knowledge of Water. Looking through it this morning, I discovered a chapter entitled “Flood at Kanab.” I’ve always been quite a believer in synchronicity but that was just a little too much.

While looking out at the red mountains behind us tonight, I also thought of friends and former colleagues who have spent two to three days in Phoenix, Arizona demonstrating and participating in actions against Senate Bill 1070. Many of them were Unitarian Universalist ministers and lay people, and a large number were arrested for standing up for their beliefs and for the people who will be most affected by this insane Arizona law. I’m so glad that Federal Judge Bolton rescinded the worst parts of it. However, it still took affect yesterday. One friend emailed me tonight with her experiences overnight in jail. Although I’m still not entirely convinced I’d be brave enough to get arrested, I’m leaning more and more in that direction, realizing it’s more important to stand up for something I believe in than just pretend it will go away or that someone else will do something about it. I feel so proud of everyone who participated and know that if at all possible I will count myself among them next time. 
Lee Marie Sanchez, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Anaheim, California, wrote this letter to her congregation about her experience in Phoenix.

Dear UUCA’ers ~


Dawn Usher and I were released from jail today
after spending about 30 hours in Joe Arapaio’s
dungeon… otherwise named the Maricopa County
Jail. We were arrested after taking part in a
Civil Disobedience action at a huge intersection
outside of Arapaio’s office at Cesar Chavez Park.

This experience is beyond words to describe it.
We began the morning by getting up at 2 am to
be at a prayer vigil with people who had been
praying and fasting for 104 days. We marched
to Trinity Episcopal Church for an huge interfaith
and very inspirational bilingual worship service.

Then we walked a couple more miles where we joined
with about 30 other protesters from Puente and
other local organizations but of which about half
who were Unitarian Universalists. Dawn and I had
taken hours of training the night before but nothing
could compare with what happened. We marched
in a solid square of human beings into the intersection
where we were met with police in riot gear. The
scene was like something out of a movie, with literally
thousands of supporters massed down the boulevard 
and hundreds of Phoenix police surrounding us, asking
us to move. We did not comply. The sound was really
deafening as after about a half hour of our peaceful,
but loud, chanting, singing and speaking, the police
moved in to tell us that we would be arrested.

I have to give the Phoenix police credit as they made
every effort to be polite and helpful as they unlinked
our arms and handcuffed us, taking all our valuables
and putting us into police vans.

We were taken to the the Maricopa Sheriff Jail and,
while I was given what I felt was some special attention
as I was wearing my clergy shirt and collar, I am an
older woman and I am white, not everyone was treated
this way. Some experienced rough and rude handling.

When we arrived we were taken out of the vans but
then placed back in as our UU Presient Peter Morales
and Susan Frederick-Gray, minister of the UU Church
of Phoenix, along with Puente people and other UU
ministers moved in to blocked the jail entrance. We
watched in horror as the sheriffs inside the belly of
the beast prepared in riot gear, shields at the ready,
and tear gas canisters in hand, scrambled to counter.
Everything broke loose, it was angry, crazy, chaos,
controlled by the overwhelming police force. Drums
were beating, people yelling…like a movie scene.

I will tell you more about the actual jail experience
later. For now, let me tell you it was horrendous.
We occupied several cells, mostly UU’s by this time,
with men in some and women in about three. We had
the lights on for 24 hours, were watched by men and
women guards constantly, no clocks, not enough of
the cinder block seating for all of us. When we tried
to sleep it was without blankets or pillows right down
on the very hard, cold floor! Yes, on the floor, but
not everyone could even lay down, some stood. 

We were joined by several women from the general
jail population, as well as Puente women. We sang,
chanted, tried to share the cramped space, used an
open-to-view toilet and were constantly moved about
from cell to cell to disorient us. Our only food was
peanut butter, oranges, packaged cookies and a little
bottle of sugary drink.. NO cups for the water in
the sink. The 2 phones usually did not work and we
had no idea what time it was or what was happening.
We were “awoken” (those few who slept) at approx
2 am for our cells to be cleaned & we moved again.

That night the UU’s and Puente and others held a
prayer vigil outside the jail and we could hear the
drum beats outside the thick walls. The next day
after hours more of “processing” we were released.

I hope never to experience such an inhumane and
humiliating experience again. Dawn and I now have
a police record, we have pleaded not guilty and have
an August court date to return to AZ. More later…

I thank you all for supporting this action and the
two of us and I hope our church action was a success.
Apparently, we had lots of press, CNN, local AZ and
even the OC Register. More pictures and YouTubes will
be available soon and I’ll send some of them along.

Tomorrow we need to keep collecting our gear which
was all over as we were not allowed to have ANYTHING
in the jail. There are more actions planned. Right now
as I type this Dawn & I are completely exhausted after
2 days with no sleep and a terrible jail experience, 
but our feelings of deep commitment along with the
friends we made with women of many colors & faiths
has left us with a feeling that nothing will ever again…

~ Standing on the Side of Love, feeling an overwhelming
sense of gratitude, & with more stories to tell about our
shared experiences, with love & !Si se puede! Lee Marie

Go here for all the late-breaking stuff happening now!

and here for what was in the OC Register!


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For the past few days, I’ve been reading an excellent book by Paul Rogat Loeb,  Soul of a Citizen: Living with Conviction in a Cynical Time. It looks like I have an older copy because in searching for the Amazon webpage, I found the subtitle is now “Living with Conviction in Challenging Times.” Interesting.

Several years ago my youngest daughter gave me one of Loeb’s other books, The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen’s Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear. The title was more prophetic than I believe she knew at the time.

 

However, this blog entry won’t be any kind of book review. No, I found two very meaningful quotes in Soul of a Citizen that I’d like to share. The first is from one of my favorite authors, Catholic theologian Henri Nouwen: “To forgive another person from the heart is an act of liberation. We set that person free from the negative bonds that exist between us. We say, ‘I no longer hold offense against you.’ But there is more. We also free ourselves from the burden of being the ‘offended one.’ The great temptation is to cling in anger to our enemies and then define ourselves as being offended and wounded by them. Forgiveness, therefore, liberates not only the other but also ourselves. It is the way to freedom of the children of God.”

 

The second quote is from Doris Donnelly: “Without forgiveness, hurts grow unchecked and we recycle failures, resentments, bitterness, and mistrust in our lives. With forgiveness, hurts are acknowledged and healed, and we are able to break a mindless cycle of retaliation by saying that the decisions of human life, even when they turn out badly are not beyond repair.”

 

Strong stuff – and particularly meaningful for me at this time.

 

 

 

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