Blessings ~

Practice gratitude, gratitude, gratitude, gratitude, gratitude, gratitude, gratitude, gratitude, gratitude, gratitude, gratitude, gratitude, gratitude, gratitude, gratitude, gratitude ~

Sunday, April 20, 2014

I Woke Up ~
     Friday morning with stunning clarity. Clarity that I would fast for 48 hours each week until Congress moves forward on fair immigration reform. The 48 hour fast will be a repeat of the 48 Fast for Families I just had the privilege of participating in on the Mall in Washington, DC. The fast, organized by the group We Belong Together (http://www.webelongtogether.org) , was a terrifically well-planned, well-executed action to call upon Congress to bring a vote to the floor on an immigration bill that already has widespread support with the American people and bi-partisan support that should see its approval. Between March 8 and April 9, more than 1500 women fasted in 80 events in 35 states, DC and in Mexico City, and 105 of women, including me fasted for 48 hours on the National Mall in DC. Together we went without food to feed the courage of House Republicans to give us a vote on a fair reform bill now, and of the Obama administration to take immediate action to stop deportations for 11 million undocumented immigrants. While we fasted, many congressmen & women visited the tent to address the group, listen to stories from women most impacted by our current, broken and abusive system and answer questions. Among the visitors some of President Obama's top aides. First Lady Michelle Obama's office applauded the group in a tweet and Vice President Biden met with a contingent following the fast.
     The important work of this group and many others continue. We are protesting the Republican Leadership's failure to bring HR 15, a bipartisan immigration reform bill, to the House floor for a vote and President Obama's failure to stop deportations that are tearing up families now. The hope is the vote will be brought to the floor before the break in August. And the hope is that President Obama uses his executive power now to halt deportations.
     My decision to recreate the 48 hour fast each week until Congress acts is one that I did not make lightly. Fasting is not an easy task nor does it come without some risks. But it was an easy decision. I awoke Friday morning with the clarity that this was the thing I could do to keep my commitment present in my weekly life. That with each weekly fast I could write our representatives and others to plead for action. That with each weekly fast I could share more information debunking the many myths and propaganda about our immigrant communities. That with each weekly fast I could remain connected with the deep call for justice that compels me to be part of building a better tomorrow.
     Fasting is not new to people of religion. It has long been a tactic for change, utilized by Gandhi, Jr. Cesar Chavez, Nelson Mandela and other leaders and many more. It has also served as spiritual practice in religious life, providing a focused time of sacrifice that one might become closer aligned with inner spirit and the divine.
     For me, the fasting is a time of sacrifice and connection. Sacrificing food that our bodies, minds & souls can focus on listening to the call for justice/connection with spirit/God/etc. (I'm a religious humanist) and on power.  For me, the physical deprivation connects me to the oppression though it is such a small piece. I know I will eat again. I know food awaits. I know I will not be hunted and harmed or killed because of my skin color or where it looks like I'm from. I do not worry when a knock on the door occurs. I do not worry my children will be parentless or that I will be parentless or lose my partner.  For me it's not just about immigrants as the racism in this structure is rampant and ICE policies creates scapegoating and racial profiling of all people who are black and brown so the deprivation piece helps me connect with a wee piece of not having what our bodies and souls need and deserve.
     For me, fasting in this manner also keeps me connected to the 104 other women who fasted and the many who supported us. Participating with this group stands as one of the most powerful times of living faith I have experienced. It, along with my two arrests for this human rights issue, were not tests of my faith, rather they were expressions of my faith. The experience of participating across cultures and theologies for the greater good was and continues to be powerful and hopeful as we seek to build the world we profess to seek.  
     Finally, for me, this is about my commitment  to my religion and my call to religious leadership. These fasting days allows me space to hone in on soul and action. With food out of the equation I find my connection to my inner moral compass and my call to spirit-led life and the golden thread of humanity that connects us all readily accessible. Even more so than usual.  It's part intentionality and part a complete absence of energy spent on food preparation and consumption gone! Well, almost gone as I learn to quell the voice asking for food. This, in turn allows me to take advantage of whatever I bring into that space. In this case, certainly a focus on my commitment to this specific cause, but also my call to ministry in the context of my service to parish ministry with the Unitarian Universalists of Marblehead, MA.

Friday morning I woke up, to a new level of religious awareness and commitment. 
And I am glad.

Yours on the journey,

Rev. Wendy

For more information about the ongoing fasts and call for fair and compassionate immigration reform, and/or to support these courageous groups, visit http://www.webelongtogether.org/ andhttp://fast4families.org/
 
To join the fast, in whatever manner you choose or to support UUs fasting, join the facebook group UUs Fasting for Immigration Reform.
   

Monday, December 16, 2013


   When I sit down with my family for our traditional Christmas Day dinner, it will be with an empty plate.  Beginning just after our Solstice Service on December 22 I will be starting a 72 hour Solidarity Fast for Immigration Reform.  This effort is taking place all over the nation. Some are fasting for a single day.  Some for many more. All are adding their effort to a group Fasting in Washington, DC. The DC fast began in November with 17 fasters and continues today with groups and individuals lending their support.  The original group said they do not fast out of hate or anger but have hope that change is within reach.  They noted frustration that there has been little action and the organizers at Fast For  Families say “This fast is our way to highlight the moral crisis that this nation faces with this badly broken immigration system. “ The DC group has drawn attention from many politicians and leaders and included a visit from President and Michelle Obama.
     I thought long and hard about the timing. There was never a question that I would lend my support. For me, this is the civil rights issue of our time. It’s not about border control. It’s not about US citizens losing jobs. It’s not about undocumented people draining our system. Each one of those myths continue to be used to manipulate public opinion. The money issue is the most egregious. It’s sinful how much money, our money by the way, is being pocketed by big business incarcerating people for as long as they can get away with it and disallowing any contact. Families are being broken up. Children put at risk. And they aren’t Canadian. That we are participating in such blatant human rights violations is unconscionable. If more people knew what the facts were, how racism is at work and how the primary victims are women and children, it would stop. Given that this is a time of year that so many of us honor the birth of a child and the hope of a different tomorrow, it seemed fitting to time my fast to include Christmas.

     For those wishing to join in the effort, please consider a donation to MIRA (Massachusetts Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Coalition) at https://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/50862/p/salsa/donation/common/public/?donate_page_KEY=9403/or Centro Presente(member-driven Massachusetts Latin American org) at http://www.cpresente.org/donate or by  using the donate button on this page.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Sacred Gifts ~

      When I woke this morning, I knew I was going to write a newsletter article about gifts. What I didn’t know is that I would encounter one that brought tears and hope to my eyes.  Tomorrow, Dec 14, marks the anniversary of a death that shook our household. My 24 year-old niece, Sarah, was on her way to work.  She was a respiratory therapist. She was newly engaged to be married. She was a treasured older cousin to our school-aged children.    She was beautiful inside and out.  She was ours.
      Sarah was also grieving the death of her father, who just six weeks earlier had succumbed after a decade-long battle with Lupus. She had been a central player and angel in his care and in his peaceful passing.
On that fateful day, a drunk driver ended her life.  The entire family, still actively mourning the death of her dad, gathered. There at the same funeral home, the same church, the same group gathered, wept and tried to make sense of a world in which this could happen. 
       In the midst of the sadness stood one little blonde girl with a soulful look in her eyes and a broken heart. You see, Sarah was also a central figure in the life of her own niece, Beanie. Within 6 weeks, this little girl had lost two people who were arguably the people who held her closest in all ways. With a complicated family situation, her grandfather played a strong role in her daily life and she lived with Sarah. Of all those shedding tears, hers were perhaps the most difficult for me to witness.


And yet …. And, yet.  These were the words that greeted me this morning:

"My aunt Sarah was killed at 24 years old by a drunk driver on Route 16 in Milton NH at the 30 mile marker December 14th 2000, she was on her way to work where she was a brilliant respiratory therapist.. I do not carry anger or hate in my heart, because no matter how much you hate someone for something so horrible.. It doesn't help you heal. It just breeds hate. Don't breed hate."

       Sometimes we receive gifts that aren’t necessarily intended for us specifically. They aren’t wrapped. They don’t have tags. They are offered into the universe for those who might see their value. 
Thank you, dear one for passing this one along to me. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Road Trip for the Soul!!!

       
 
Tomorrow I will be heading up to Ferry Beach in Saco, Maine.  The actual departure will be no doubt harried. On a ‘regular day’ I seem incapable of leaving the house without running back in at least once for something I’ve forgotten.  Planning for an entire weekend increases the odds of it being at least two ‘run-back-ins’ if not more.  To be fair, it’s a lot to think about.  Sleeping bag? Air mattress? Bathing suit? (Yes, you read that correctly!) Glow sticks for the late night youth sharing circle on the beach? Bananagrams? Toll money? Singing bowl?  Robe & stole? Graham crackers+chocolate+marshmellows? As I said, a lot to think about!  All important ingredients to help make our annual UUCM retreat, an actual treat for our souls.

Road trips for the souls can take time and effort but they are so well worth the effort.  They needn’t be trips to Maine, however.  They needn’t even involve a car.  They only require the delivery of yourself to ‘that place,’ even if it’s in your own backyard!
 I love the outdoors but I can count on one hand ‘those places’ that own a piece of who I am.  One is Lighthouse Beach in Annisquam (Gloucester, MA).  My soul takes over my body as soon as my feet hit the path and suddenly I find myself on the rocks, my shoes somehow shed and my feet moving me effortlessly to the sand and sea.  My soul humming its way into song and then flight! Another is our property in Michigan.  My soul begins a slow hum as we turn onto Zue Road.  As we pull into the driveway it begins to sing.  As I my feet land upon the dirt driveway and head in any direction – orchard, forest, corn field, garden, yard or grape arbor, my soul soars.   There are other places, each engaging my soul in different ways.  Familiarity inviting newness. Newness tickling an already happy soul.  Each place claiming me as much as I claim my spot within that special, sacred slice of the universe.  Special because we’ve claimed one another as home. Sacred because there my soul leads, letting my body and mind tag along.

And so, tomorrow I will scurry about, running in for ‘last’ things.  I’ll head north. Somewhere on Route 95, after the tolls & after the rest stop, my soul will take notice.  I will relax a bit into knowing that whatever I’ve brought I’ve brought and whatever I’ve forgotten, I can do without.  Worry about logistics won’t leave entirely but will fade. And the hum will begin, becoming louder as we exit into Saco.  When we turn the corner by the shuffleboard court and glimpse the ocean, the hum will turn into soul song.  As we pass the marsh grass and channels that wind out to the shore the song will grow strong.  As the door opens and the sound of the powerful waves reaches my soul, I will let go.  Moments later I’ll find myself on the beach, shoes left far behind. My feet will be in the water. My arms will hang loosely by my sides.  The wind will push at my opened hands. My face will lean into the sun and sea spray. And my soul will soar. And I will be glad.

~May your days include many trips for your soul ~

Friday, October 11, 2013

If We Mean What We Say ~ UU Principle #1

If We Mean What We Say ~ (An excerpt from a sermon series exploring the 7 principles of Unitarian Universalism http://www.uua.org/beliefs/principles/ )

If We Mean What We Say ~
(An excerpt from a sermon series exploring the 7 principles of Unitarian Universalism http://www.uua.org/beliefs/principles/. Image by fabulous UU Tim Atkins!)
“Inherent worth and dignity of every person.”  We tend to always read this principle as being about how we view and treat other people. We use it to fuel our efforts to impact change for ‘other’ communities. It is the subtext of all of our justice work.  Using that principle as an anchor we have made great strides in making more of our spaces accessible. We have journeyed further in understanding how racism is embedded in our system, benefitting some and harming others. We have learned to value multi-generational community, and in particular, our youth. This principle is at the heart of our efforts around securing equal rights for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning. All of these are good, honorable. Important.
But there is a more powerful way we are called to let this principle change us and through us, our world.  It requires enormous intentionality. It requires that we first apply the principle to ourselves.  That we embody the respect in a manner that alters us.  That we look in the mirror and say “There I am. Flawed. Beautiful. Worthy.”
“ There I am. Flawed. Beautiful. Worthy.  There I am. Flawed. Beautiful. Worthy. I will make mistakes today. I will blunder. I will take responsibility for my mistakes. There I am, flawed, beautiful, worthy. I will do good deeds today. I will show up. I will try to add goodness and beauty to our  world.  There I am. Flawed. Beautiful. Worthy. I will say the right thing today. I will say the wrong thing today. Either way, I will speak up.  There I am. Flawed. Beautiful. Worthy. This day is a gift and out into the world I go. Flawed. Beautiful. Worthy.”
And if we can do that…. Here’s step 2.  Before you leave that mirror say “I will encounter others. They are flawed. They are beautiful, they are worthy. They will make mistakes today. They will blunder. They may or may not take responsibility for their mistakes.  There they are.  Flawed. Beautiful. Worthy. Some will do good deeds today.  They will show up.  Some will try to add goodness and beauty to our  world.  There they are. Flawed. Beautiful. Worthy. Some will say the right thing today.  Some will say the wrong thing today. There they are. Flawed. Beautiful. Worthy.  Mine
This day is a gift to all of us and out into the world we go. Flawed. Beautiful. Worthy. All.
And then ….. at THAT moment, you know THAT moment, when someone has just said the absolute WRONG thing and you knew it was coming, because you know them so well OR someone has disappointed you in a large way OR someone just slammed into your car in the parking lot ------ instead of reaching for time-worn habits that involve harsh words or gestures, reach instead for three words: Flawed. Beautiful.  Worthy.  And if you can, stretch for the fourth ~ Mine.
       If…..if we mean what we say, we need look no further than the mirror each day.


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Whisper from a Hummingbird (aka Another Reason to Join a UU Congregation!)

Today a hummingbird whispered in my ear and in that instant, my soul was renewed. I am ever grateful for this brave little bird. She whizzed by my ear and then flit from feeder to feeder, dancing on air, in front of me, in between each sip of the sugary nectar.
Most of the pictures I captured were out of focus because her wings moved so fast! But then she rested at just the right time and this picture was born, providing me a glimpse of her beautiful, powerful wings.  How could the hummer have known this was just what I needed today? 
             
       I'd just love to think that this magical little creature gazed down from her perch in the cherry tree, at me and thought "Hmm- Wendy looks a bit sad today, I think I'll buzz by. I know! I'll flutter by her ear and whisper 'look at life.'"  Now, I know that is anthropomorphic and, of course, all about me! Yet, the thought was just the boost I needed to keep me rooted in the life side of the creation equation.
      In times when sadness, loss and tragedy seem too present,  it is good to remember to 'look at life' rather than focus on death.  In a month where I’ve bid goodbye to several fabulous souls, one who left this earth far too young, it may seem presumptuous to make such a statement.  But choosing to 'look at life' is a perspective of choice that does not deny death, rather it focuses on each day of living. Even when we are in relationship with people nearing the end of their living.  Even when we are that person.
      When I was a young person, death and dying were things done at the hospital and rarely discussed.  Even serious illness seemed at best vaguely referenced.  Today, with the increased usage of hospice, advances in palliative care and an attitudinal shift towards end of life 'living' we are more able to live all of our days in the company of friends and family.  It is such a gift that our last days of living can be less about mechanical devices and more about our human interactions with people.  It is also a gift to be able to be part of a community of care in which we can help one another learn to be with sadness AND embrace living at the same time.   The focus on living is akin to the glass half empty/half full analogy.  Death and loss are never easy, but we get to choose how we arrive in their presence.   I'm of the belief that if we root ourselves firmly in living, even while in the presence of dying we serve each other and ourselves well.
        Reflecting back on recent weeks leading up to the recent losses in my community & the many difficult diagnoses among us, I am inspired by how well our community lives this philosophy.  I may have imagined the humming bird's whisper but the message from our community is loud and clear. Here, we live.  We live with one another.  Even when it gets difficult.  Even when it includes pain and loss. And so, we will live this day.
        File this under – 'Another reason to join a Unitarian Universalist congregation!'