A Community living with intention | January 2022

In a meditation piece found on the UUA website, Rev. Barbara Merritt reflects on the spiritual tension that exists in the idea of New Year’s resolutions. These annual goals, she says, begin with the premise “that thinking of an ideal self will increase the likelihood that you will be transformed.” 

The tension lies between the resolve it requires (the effort, the striding) to better ourselves and to thereby prove ourselves as worthy and good, and the lessons of the spirit, which would have us lean into our inherent worth…to know that we are loved, and to receive the grace of the world. And the pain lies in thinking that one depends on the other…that is, that our beloved-ness depends on our efforts… because of course, by our own measures, we always fall short.

So what if both are true? What if the intentions we set, and how we strive to meet those intentions, really matters…AND, no matter what, we are held in the embrace of a love that will not let us go? What if real transformation is found in holding these two realities, not in tension, but as collaborative partners?

Perhaps you might resolve, this year, to receive love, and to know yourself as worthy.  Because you are. Truly.

Here if you need me, 
Rev. Julie 

Past Stone Soup Columns

A holiday message | 2021

Dear ones, 

It’s Christmas Eve, and I’m making final preparations for our candle-lighting service this evening. As I write, I imagine us gathering in our beautiful sanctuary, with the smell of evergreens and apple cider in the air. I greet you as you fall through the doors…rosy-cheeked, family in tow, dressed for the holidays…with songs and laughter on your lips. What a great evening!

It will not be quite like that this year. Again. Sigh.
Still, it’s my fondest hope that we will be together tonight, bundled up in a magical zoomy embrace, connecting our spirits in hopes of receiving a little holiday cheer. In fact, a whole ‘heavenly host’ has been preparing the evening for you. 

This evening’s service is titled “Tidings of Great Joy”… something we’re all looking for, especially in these times, right?  Just a little joy. The Christian Testament tells us a choir of angels brought such tidings of joy to a bunch of shepherds tending their sheep. The angels told them to go, to run, and to find signs of that joy in the most humble of places. And I believe that same message speaks to us today. Go. Run. Look. You will be surprised by what you’ll find. Even now. 

And let’s not forget the rest of the message…which says that this joy shall be for all people. So, wherever and however we search for peace and joy, don’t let if be for yourself alone. Nor should we go about looking for ways to save or liberate someone else. As James Baldwin said, we come together in order to do something for each other, to save this rather frightening world. 

Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be for ALL people. Together. May joy be yours, and ours, and everyone’s, tonight and always. 

I’m wishing you each a very merry holiday time. May the whole world be blessed with good health and peace in 2022. 

December 24, 2021

PS. Don’t expect to find your UFP staff (me included) in the office until after Jan 3. We’ll be out tending to our bodies and spirits. If there’s something urgent. please text me. 705-933-3746

A Community that Holds history: November 2021

In a TedTalk about vulnerability, Brené Brown tells of an exercise she has done with many audiences.
She starts off by setting up a scene as if in a movie…of a family driving through a light snowfall on Christmas Eve, listening to the radio, kids in the backseat, singing along to Jingle Bells. Brown asks the audience to imagine closeups of the family’s faces… happy, carefree… and then she asks, “What happens next?”

Consistently, she says, 60% of people say ‘car crash’, and another 10-15% have more fantastic, but equally deadly, answers…serial killers, cancer diagnoses, a dead grandmother…one guy even imagines a shark attack. Why do we imagine the worst?

We carry into the future what we’ve experienced in the past…or maybe more importantly, what we’ve LEARNED in the past. And we have learned, in countless ways, that there is never enough, that we are not good enough, or safe enough. These messages create fear, numbing, and uncertainty, which tragically reduce our ability to live into new possibilities, let alone joy.

This beloved faith would have us learn different lessons…that we are not just enough, but valuable and worthy…that if we are faithful stewards of the earth, there is abundance in the world…that we are not alone, and that we are always held in love. 

Perhaps the good news is that what happens today is tomorrow’s history, which means that even day we are creating what we will carry into the future. 

So, I ask you, what happens next?

Here if you need me, 
Rev. Julie 

A Community that Cultivates Relationship | October 2021

Unsuspectingly, I made a phone call in 1975 that would be critical to how my life would unfold. After spending a summer wandering Europe, I arrived back in NYC and called my mother. She said, “Concordia’s holding a place for you. Do you want to go?”
“What and where is Concordia?” I asked. (It is a small liberal arts college in northern Minnesota.)  After exploring how this had come about, I asked when they had to know. My mother told me that classes had already started and they needed to know now. I decided to sleep on it. The next morning, I called home and said I would go.

A lot of factors contributed to this decision. I had no plans for what would come next in my life. The relationship I had with my summer traveling companion had left me feeling disconnected and alone. I had some fuzzy idea that I wanted to study theatre, and it turned out it was my home community theatre director who had negotiated with the college to hold a spot for me. Any other choice in that moment would have taken my life in a completely different direction.

I’m a student of, though not a scholar of, process theology. I won’t burden you here with its philosophical roots (though they’re fascinating). There are many lenses through which to view process theology, but I offer this simple way to understand its basic tenets.
1. All-that-is is in a constant state of change, so much so that nothing is ever in a state of permanence.
2. How something changes is affected by its journey through time and space.
3. An entity is affected by both its own past and everything that it encounters in the current moment.
4. An entity is also affected, even guided, by what it determines to be of utmost worth. Some describe it as the ‘lure’ of god, or love, or beauty.

We are changed by our relationships, chosen or unchosen…to our dreams, to our mentors, to our friends, to this moment in time. What shall we make of that?

Here if you need me, 
Rev. Julie 

A Community who embraces possibility – September 2021

As we begin another ‘church year’, we are surrounded by crises. All over the globe, extreme weather events are wreaking havoc and the recent U.N. climate change report sounds a ‘code red for humanity’. The Taliban is taking over multiple districts in Afghanistan. A 4th wave of the COVID pandemic is rolling across many countries. Haiti has suffered another devastating earthquake. And our increasing focus on racial justice is opening wounds and unveiling painful histories that the dominate culture had long swept under the proverbial rug.

What does it mean to embrace possibility in the face of all of this?
The following words from our friends at Soul Matters focus on the hopeful. Step into the hard places, they say, but don’t do it alone. Together, they suggest, we can sing out ‘why not’!

As for me, right now I want to acknowledge our exhaustion…our pain…our sense of being lost somewhere between what we thought to be ‘normal’ and what is ‘now.’ I don’t disagree with the advice that Soul Matters offers in our theme packet, but it’s also not helpful to ignore the pain. We might need to wallow there until we are all worn out.

There was a beautiful story told in the Sunday service during General Assembly in June. It was about a child who wailed after hearing the “On Top of Spaghetti” song…you know, where the meatball gets lost, and rolls off into the dangerous unknown. That little boy wanted to hear the song again and again, and cried again and again, until he was all cried out.

I think sometimes possibilities can’t become apparent, and we can’t embrace them, until we are all cried out. And you know what? Among and between us, we have as many shoulders to cry on as we have eyes to cry out. Don’t be afraid to lean into one another until you’re all cried out. Then…then…we can embrace possibilities. Beloved community is a whole that has life-giving properties that each person does not have alone.

Here if you need me, 
Rev. Julie 

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