Moving at the speed of gratitude

This morning
Sitting with the grief of more painful news
I pick up my pen
And begin moving at the speed of gratitude
For a community that holds each other
in sorrow and in rage
For the light that wakes us and nourishes creation
For the dark that heals us and rests the world

Today I commit to moving at the speed of gratitude
And find my heart has grown larger
Love more possible
Grace more abundant
At this speed.


turtle by Marty Wolff

The Courage for Compassion

Even
After
All this time
The sun never says to the earth,
“You owe
Me.”
Look
What happens
With a love like that,
It lights the
Whole
Sky.
~Hafiz, 14th century Sufi poet

“It may be that we have lost sight of our mission. Primarily, the church is not for social or political pronouncements, nor for the fashioning and dissemination of erudite philosophical doctrines. It is for the generation of love. The church is the only institution in society so purposed. We strike at the heart of our very purpose for existence when we neglect that major aim.” ~ Albert Ziegler wrote, 20th century Universalist minister

Beloveds, each morning we are asked to take a moral stand on the side of love. May we find the courage and compassion to love like the sun, to generate love in abundance for a world that sorely needs it.

Each time that I facilitate conversations on systemic oppression and solidarity, I am struck anew at how programed we are to defensiveness and denial. Each time, my challenge is to love, simply love. We are not machines, broken and in need of fixing. We are wounded warriors in the struggle of life and we need, each of us, compassionate love to call us to our whole and holy selves.

May we wake each day with the mission to generate love in this world as humbly and faithfully as the sun generates light. May we trust that we can lean on each other for comfort when the struggle is relentless. May we know in the bones of our bones that we are not alone. May this knowledge give us the courage to shine the light of compassion on everyone. No exceptions.

Sun Love

When in doubt, choose the side of Compassion

Rumi--what we speak

The Thursday following the fundamentalist disruption of worship service at First Unitarian Universalist Church of New Orleans, a Pro-Woman, Pro-LBGTQ, Pro-Religious Freedom rally was planned for City Hall. It may not surprise you that the Unitarian Universalists showed up. Dozens of Standing on the Side of Love t-shirts, signs, and stoles were vividly on display. A small but exceedingly vocal counter-rally was staged on the hill above the rally by some who had apparently raced back to New Orleans from Baton Rouge for this very purpose. Even with the bullhorn, it was difficult to hear what was being said at the rally over the yelling of the anti-choice protesters.

And so a group of people, mostly UUs, turned toward the hill, forming a sound barrier between the those speaking their truth in the center of the safe circle and those screaming their truth from the hill, and began to sing (to the tune of Siyahamba, a South African freedom song,) We are standing on the side love, we are standing on the side of love. The singing continued until everyone had had a chance to speak their truth in the Pro-woman, Pro-LBGTQ, Pro-Religious Freedom space.

As the rally drew to a close, everyone not on the hill joined hands, forming a gigantic circle, and sang together: We are standing on the side love, we are standing on the side of love. Rev. Melanie Morel-Ensminger blessed us all, sending us off with the wisdom to “Go Now in Peace.”

The police were on alert and surrounded the park – subtly…We were allowed to protest injustice in peace. Our right to do so was affirmed by the community and by the powers that be.

Friends, that’s a privilege we have not extended to #Ferguson or the many communities of color protesting the extrajudicial killings of children and young adults. Please, before you say “they just need to calm down,” consider the humane and human need to protest injustice. May you tender the communities’ outrage with mercy, with compassion, perhaps even, with love and holy curiosity.

May you withhold your judgment. In times of grief, there is no room for our shoulda, woulda, coulda…. only room for compassion.

If you cannot find your compassion in this time, please still yourself until you can. And if you wonder where it went, spend some time thinking about how systems of oppression steal the humanity of the oppressor as well as the oppressed. If you cannot find compassion for the human grief of others, you may have lost touch with your own humanity. Beloveds, it is worth the work of undoing oppression to reclaim it.

The Journey is Essential

On the verge of two weeks of study leave, I offer this ancestor wisdom to the world:
The-journey-is-essential-164x300

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Journey with peace, courage, mercy, compassion, and love beloveds.  And may our dreams be realized…

Circle Round for Freedom

respect-for-history-and-mystery-300x225

The opposite of liberal religion is not conservative religion. It is fundamentalism – the deep certainty that there is only one truth and only one way of knowing that truth. As a liberal religion, Unitarian Universalism acknowledges a plurality of possibilities; lifts up that the Dominant Culture may dominate – but that it is dominating other cultures, other truths, other experiences of the world. The work of our faith is deeply grounded in this vision of a multiplicity of stories being seen, heard, and respected.

I did not know when I drafted these words, an early Sunday morning handwritten addition to the printed text, that they would be radically embodied that day by events in a congregation I serve as a community minister. In the midst of our prayer and meditation, fundamentalist disruptors began spewing hate and vitriol into our holy, sacred space.  http://uptownmessenger.com/2014/07/mayors-office-issues-certificate-recognizing-abortion-protest-group-for-service-to-city/

Beloveds, I have never been prouder of my faith community. The youth led the way in circling the congregation together, forming a ring around the sanctuary and singing sustaining songs. Soon it became clear who was choosing to be beloved community and who was trying to destroy it. Even in this distinction, all were notified that they were welcome to remain in worship if they could do so respectfully. If not, they were respectfully invited out the front door, to protest outside.

The congregation met the challenge of religious terrorism with courage and a commitment to the values of our faith, standing on the side of love without surrendering to hate.

Now is the time to stand together, beloveds.  Now is the time to remember that we are not alone and that we are called forward to live lives of radical hospitality grounded in courage and compassion.

Whatever your faith tradition, I invite you to stand with Unitarian Universalists and other liberal religions besieged by hate-filled rhetoric that can trip so easily from violent words to violent deeds. Stand with us against those who would destroy the concept of religious freedom, those who invade and desecrate sacred worship space, who terrorize children and adults with their malice.

Stand with us on the side of love.

Keep the Faith

source-of-life1

This morning I tended to my garden and that of an elder neighbor. Walking back into my home for a second cup of coffee, I realized that I felt more like a grounded, alive human being than I have in a while. In the past few weeks, the phone has rung repeatedly, bearing news of grief and sorrow or rage at yet another systemic injustice personally harming a beloved. So many people and so many places suffering all at once… And so I have remembered to return to the garden, to keep faith with the source of life, as I continue to live and minister in this beautiful, wounded world.

I hold this sustaining wisdom from Rebecca Parker (Blessing the World: What Can Save Us Now) in my heart and I share it with you today.

To keep faith with the source of life, knowing that we are not our own and that Earth made us; to keep faith with the community of resistance, never forgetting that life can be saved from that which threatens it by even small bands of people choosing to put into practice an alternative way of life; and to seek and even deeper awareness of that which springs up inwardly in us. Even when are our hearts are broken by our own failure or the failure of others, even when we have done all we can and life is still broken, there is a universal love that has never broken faith with us and never will.

 

Love is the Boss of Me

Recently an organizer asked for a meeting and I went to pull out my phone to check my calendar. “My calendar is the boss of me,” I joked. She looked at me oddly, but said nothing. And in that nothing I heard the strangeness, the madness of what I had just said.

I am not sure what she was thinking, but here is what I have been thinking since that awkward moment. A calendar serves as the representation of and reminder about the commitments I have made for and with my life energy, with my love. Just as a glance at your checkbook or credit card statement can give you insight into where you commit your financial energy, a calendar can be a window of insight into life values.

What a calendar probably should not be, and should not be thought of as, is the boss. Just as my checkbook and my credit card – while requiring true mindfulness – should not be the boss of me. I do not serve as a minister in the name of a calendar or a bank account. Those are important tools for sustaining my ministry, no doubt. They cannot be the source of my call.

I serve in the name of love. Love for the world that is and the world that can be. Love for the wonder of creation and respect of destruction. Love for a faith community that meets us where we are and doesn’t leave us there. Love for you. Love for me.

It is easy in the days of overloaded calendars and underloaded bank accounts to forget. And it absolutely matters that we remember.

In 1951, Universalist mister Albert Ziegler wrote: “It may be that we have lost sight of our mission. Primarily, the church is not for social or political pronouncements, nor for the fashioning and dissemination of erudite philosophical doctrines. It is for the generation of love. The church is the only institution in society so purposed. We strike at the heart of our very purpose for existence when we neglect that major aim.”

Clearly, it is time for me to remember that love, not a calendar, is the boss of me.

Our Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations will be gathering in Providence, Rhode Island beginning June 25th for General Assembly, the annual meeting of UUs from around the world, with the theme “Love Reaches Out,” inviting congregations to reach out beyond their walls and to engage in new ways of sharing faith.

In the free church tradition of Unitarian Universalism, “we do not just go to church, we are the church.” Beloved, this faith is called to live in the name of love. Let us commit ourselves anew to this call. In the immortal words of poet Maya Angelou, “I know for sure that love saves me and that it is here to save us all.”

hands-with-heart

 

Disappear or Die: Southern Black Trans-Experience

Today we bless Tela La’Raine Love as she prepares for her gender reassignment surgery.  Every day, Tela blesses this world with her courage, her determination, and her clear vision of a world where transwomen of color live safe, fulfilling, and long lives. Only in her 30’s, Tela serves as an elder, a mother, and a mentor to many young transwomen of color, struggling to survive in a culture that tells them to disappear or die.

Although we hope that “it gets better,” 2012 saw the 4th highest murder rate of LGBTQ and HIV-affected people (LGBTQH) in recorded history, according to the Hate Violence Report released annually by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP-http://www.avp.org/about-avp/coalitions-a-collaborations/82-national-coalition-of-anti-violence-programs ).

People of color, transgender people, and gender non-conforming people continue to experience disproportionately higher rates of homicide. Black and African-American people “were particularly overrepresented in the homicide rates: over half of reported hate murders had Black or African-American victims, even though Black and African American people made up only 15% of total survivors and victims of hate crimes overall.” In 2012, LGBTQH people of color represented 53% of total reported survivors and victims of all hate crimes, but 73.1% of homicide victims.  Living at the intersections of racial, gender, economic, and sexual oppression, trans-women of color are told to disappear or die.

In the midst of a dominant cultural narrative of oppression and repression, Tela Love is living into her journey towards wholeness with a spirit fully grounded in her inherent worth and dignity.  She is the co-founder of New Legacy Ministries (http://www.newlegacystartstoday.com/), a grassroots organization striving to raise the voices of marginalized communities, especially transgender women of color, and create a spiritually welcoming and sustaining community.

Disappear or Die: A Southern Black Trans-Experience, will be a documentary of her experience as a openly HIV Positive trans-women of color in the south undergoing gender reassignment surgery June 18,2014.  In sharing this personal window into her life, she understands that she is taking a risk. Traditionally trans-women have disappeared into the constructs of a patriarchal society after their surgery, rather than remain targets for hate and fear.  

Tela realizes that she is allowing herself to be a target for greater judgment and persecution than that of which she already endures.  However, inspired by the wisdom of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail that “silence is betrayal,” she has determined that she can be silent no more.  She cannot be silent when waking from her nightmares of another young transgender woman being murdered or dying because she’s too ashamed to follow through with her HIV treatment after being diagnosed out of fear of being further alienated.  Tela cannot be silent while there are little or no job opportunities for trans-women, while there are little or no housing opportunities (unless HIV infected), while black trans-women walk the streets in order to survive. 

And neither, beloveds, can we.  Our silence, too, is betrayal.  Let us speak into the space of fear and hatred, ignorance and oppression.  Let us bless Tela and every one of her sisters with the welcoming arms of beloved community. (https://www.facebook.com/Blacktranswomenarepowerful)

Please support the creation, production, and distribution of the documentary Disappear or Die: A Southern Black Trans-Experience.  Together, let’s re-write the narrative of oppression into thriving, joyful beloved community.

Donations to support the creation of this documentary can be made via PayPal or sent to the Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal marked “Designated Donation: New Legacy Ministries” 2903 Jefferson Ave, 2nd FL, New Orleans, LA  70115.)

 

We’ve Come This Far…

with Granny  by the Mississippi River

 

 

 

 

 

For her 75th birthday, my Granny talked my dad, her 4th born son, into driving her and my Great Aunt Dot out the see the Grand Canyon “before I die.”

Once they had made the long journey from North Georgia to the Grand Canyon, Granny turned to my dad and said “you know what else I want to see before I die? The giant redwood trees! We’ve come this far. We might as well go.” What else could my dad do but get everyone back into the car and go see those amazing trees. What’s another 2000 miles roundtrip with the trickster Granny in your car and in your heart?

Granny was a born again Christian who would speak of her salvation from cigarettes as a miracle worked in her life by Jesus Christ. When she died in 2007, two ministers preached her funeral and they began the service by saying “Granny wanted us to preach a full service today, complete with alter call, because she knew this was the last time she could make y’all all come to church.” I sat in that pew laughing through my tears of grief…and prayed that one day, I would have her courage, her ability to live faithfully into the mystery, even unto death.

My granny taught me to trust the mystery of the world, to delight in the many colorful stories that sustain our days, to ask for what I need to survive, to figure out how to thrive. She taught me to believe that I am loved and can love, no matter what. To believe that you are loved and can love, no matter what.

No matter what.

How Granny learned to live so bravely and unapologetically may always be a mystery to me. But I am ever so grateful for the lessons of her life, of her faithfulness, of her creativity.

Whenever we start to flag, to judge, to doubt, to tire, may we remember and be encouraged by the trickster energy of Granny.

We’ve come this far. We might as well go see the giant redwoods – host General Assembly in New Orleans in 2017, grow our faith in the Deep South, bend the arc of the universe toward justice – whatever faithful longing we carry in our hearts.

Let’s be brave, beloveds, and live into the mystery together.