Tag Archives: Unity

Are You Ready?

23 Dec

It is 3 days before Christmas, preparations are well underway. Houses are decorated, kids are out of school, and traffic around anywhere that shopping happens has become a test of patience. I hear a familiar refrain wherever I go “Are you ready?” There is, as the song goes, “parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting, and caroling out in the snow.”

I’ve always (at least in my mind) responded, well, ready or not, Christmas will come and I don’t HAVE to do anything except be present. Growing up Christmas was usually just our family. It was this way in part by design and in part because my extended family lived states away. This was normal for me and it worked. My favorite parts of Christmas was the candlelight service and our Advent ritual. The one year we had Christmas a couple days early because of weather taught me that good results can come from being flexible (after I was quite resistant to the idea.) My mom, being a super mom, did of course manage to get the message to Santa and we got an early delivery.

In my twenties I moved far away from my family and got to make new traditions. All of this to say, when someone asks me if I’m ‘ready’ for Christmas I kinda shrug.

Because to me being ready for Christmas doesn’t have much to do with buying presents, preparing food, traveling places, or the exact right kind of chocolate (I’m looking at you Christmas with the Kranks).

To me Christmas is about preparing my heart to be filled with the Joy of the remembrance of the divinity within myself. Christmas is about witnessing humanity remembering each other and reaching hands across imaginary lines used the rest of the year to divide. Christmas is about lifting my voice and my hands in song to celebrate the rebirth of the light in the darkest time of the year, and remembering that it is within each being. Christmas is about sharing love and memories with our dear ones, and making new memories.

I am not saying that Christmas can’t also be the things that make it special and fun for others. I got my picture with Santa this year and there are presents under my tree. But those things are not required for me to be ‘ready’.

A heart filled with Faith, Peace, Love, and Joy. That is all I will ever really need.

Yes, I am ready.

PS As a minister of a church being ‘ready’ does take on a few more tasks than it has in the past, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.

20151222_221103_HDR

2015 Christmas Tree

Advertisements

Where’s the window control?

30 Sep

This spring we traveled to Oregon to visit my mom. Our rental car was configured differently than our Corolla, which is always a fun adventure when you first drive an unfamiliar vehicle. I kept rolling down the back windows because when my hand reached for where was the right place to hit the button for the front window in our car, I was in the position of the back windows. Yes, when we got back home 11 days later, I overshot the window controls at first.

Measuring how many parking spots we could take up in South Dakota

Measuring how many parking spots we could take up in South Dakota

This month we drove a Uhaul across the continent (Kansas City to Anchorage). The Uhaul didn’t have power windows, and the way you sit in it feels totally different, so I didn’t have the same issue when I started driving it. But when we got to Washington we took the car off the tow dolly and drove it around for a day. What do you think I did? I reached down low for the hand crank to roll down my window. I did this more than once, and then again when we got to Anchorage and were back in the car for good.

It is amazing the things our brains fill in for us. “hey I know where the window control is, you don’t have to look” and the things the brain is slow to pick up “oops, different car”

Which leads to the next question, what other things is habit or ease filling in for us? I have seen people who just ate a filling meal go open and stare into the refrigerator because it’s the unconscious habit they have when they are bored. What about screens? Scrolling any number of websites that might be in part news or social connection, but a lot of time wasting. But it’s not just the internet, the same zone out happens with the TV, and other distractions.

I’m not saying some time to unwind and relax is a bad thing. I’m saying that it’s a choice. We don’t have to follow the pattern of the day before or, for that matter, the pattern of our upbringing. We don’t have to believe anyone else’s standards of what makes someone successful, attractive, or worthy.

An old story tells of a young woman cooking a ham. Her kid is watching and asks “hey mom, why did you cut the end off before you put it in the oven?” She replied, “that’s the way my mom always did it, and so that’s how I learned to make it.” Later she calls up her mom and asks about the ham. Her mom’s reply was similar to her own. Now curious, she calls up her grandma who replies, “whole thing wouldn’t fit in my pan.”

Sometimes the things we’re thinking and doing really are working, other times there are things that could be so much better with some conscious decisions. I’m guessing most of us are somewhere in the middle, and unless you are a Bodhisattva there are still progress to make. The good news is we are amazingly adaptable and intelligent beings, after all my habituized location of the window control did change over a foot in 3 days. It’s up to us to use that intelligence to realize when the controls have moved or the pan has gotten bigger or the goals have shifted.

Once your realize this, it may take a while to get the ducks (in your brain) marching in the direction you want, but keep at it, you are on an amazing journey!

I believe in you!

PS Karen Taylor-Good has a great little song about just this. 

Handle with Care

15 Aug

20150812_133737I’ve been shipping orders at the warehouse and slap one of these on every poster I send out. While it may seem obvious that a shipping tube or box containing glass is fragile and needs to be handled with care, looking at these stickers every day got me thinking.

Some days I wish I could just slap one of these stickers on myself, or give one to a friend who is in need of some tender care. I suppose many years ago, more people lived in smaller communities where people did know when a person was going through a rough time and they could respond with that knowledge and compassion in their heart.

But the fact is that most of us don’t go through our day interacting with folks who know the history of our lives. So how do we balance out this need to be gentle with people with our simply not knowing? The easiest way would be to treat each person you come across with a loving heart and kind smile. But let’s not pretend that all of us have reached that level of presence at all times.

Any kind of change can be difficult to traverse, and I can tell you from my own experience and the shared experience of those near to me that the most well meaning people can say the most insensitive things.

Recently I shared on Facebook that I was traveling to Anchorage to interview at the church there. This was a big deal for me, I had not shared publicly any of there other interviews I had done. In part this was because I didn’t know if I could deal with the onslaught of questions about it if I didn’t get the offer. Since before I graduated 2 years ago I’ve had well meaning people ask me how the search is going. I know in my head that each time this was an expression of caring, however I was fielding these kinds of questions a lot. It could be really disappointing and discouraging to say the same thing over and over. But I decided with Anchorage to go ahead and share it, and also ask people to give their encouragement but please refrain from asking about it until I share whatever I had to share. This was my Handle with Care sticker.

Unfortunately, it only half worked. Some folks were amazing and didn’t mention it or said I’m thinking about you, or holding you in my prayers, etc. Others seemed to not notice my request. Because when your brain is having a debate between trusting the process and oh shoot I messed up in these ways (followed by bullet points), you don’t really need anyone asking about it and adding to the times you get to hash it out. It’s my very human response to my being in the ‘in between’ place on the journey of my calling that I’ve been on since I was a child.

And what about grief? I have heard way too many stories of people being ‘should-ed’ about their grief process. Just as every person and every relationship is different, our process of grieving each relationship will be different. Who am I (or anyone else) to judge how fast or slow or intense someone experiences their grief?

What does all come down to? Awareness. I can be aware of the times I need to be handled with care and ask for that from those around me. I can notice when those around me seem tender and ask how I can support them. I can apologize if I realize I did not handle someone with care. As a community we can continue to shift our culture to one where having feelings and supporting another is the accepted norm instead of putting up walls to protect and look good.

Let’s not be afraid to say hey I’m feeling fragile right now. It doesn’t make us weak, it is a show of strength and wisdom. Let’s give others the space to work their process in the time it takes. Let’s listen more.

With love,

Ra

Seeing the Beauty

3 Aug

Two weeks ago I was in beautiful Anchorage Alaska. It is stunningly beautiful there, before you’ve even landed there is this out the window:

20150717_115944

Drive down the road and you might see this:20150718_105713

Take a tram up to a ski area and you can see this:20150718_123034

Or hike another ski area for this:20150720_182914_Pano

I loved it there.

This weekend I drove up to Woodstock Illinois. Farming country. I drove through Missouri, Iowa, and Illinois and it mostly looked like this:

20150801_14201620150801_183630_HDR

Two weeks apart, very different worlds. I got to thinking how beautiful this is also. Rolling fields, corn and other crops in rows, farms where people work hard, little towns where folks know each others families.

The beauty and preciousness of this experience of life is everywhere if we’re looking for it. And nowhere if we’re not.

Same with abundance, love, joy, wisdom, etc. It’s not simply what you see is what you get, choice matters, what you choose to see is what you get. If you are looking for proof that you’re broke, well I’m sure that proof exists. Even for someone much much more financially wealthy than I. If you are looking for evidence that you live in abundance, that exists as well.

This is not magical thinking or a surface level feel-good hippy delusion. It’s real. Or, it is as real as you are willing to commit to. It’s true that somewhere with big mountains will likely always be my preference, but I am also committed to seeing the blessing where I am at. I can hold both of those things simultaneously. I can’t imagine how miserable the last 10+ years of my life would have been if I hadn’t reconciled with the no mountains midwest and found something to appreciate!

That’s that. Find that good where you’re at. Appreciate the wisdom, joy, love, abundance, beauty that is present right now. It is the fastest way to happiness and to get more.

Speaking of more, this is from Sunday evening on the way home:

20150802_190238

Oh yes, the world is a amazing place.

Travel on!

PS After a 4 hour Alaska mountain hike, my feet enjoyed this COLD mountain stream.

20150720_195320

Positive (all the time?)

19 Jun

The other day I was chatting with someone I hadn’t seen in a while who I know casually. We were catching up and I was telling her about the interesting possibilities I’m nurturing. She looked at me quizzically:

“Are you always this positive?”

Hmmm. Good question. My first response, “I have practiced” my second response, “I have a good friend who is very sick and other things like that on my mind, but it cannot be the story I’m always telling.”

I have heard criticism of Unity for being a happy feel-good religion. Which I think is a laugh, as I feel it’s far far from it, though I have heard the feel-good sermons cover-it-over affirmations. Unity to me is about personal responsibility. About acknowledging the shadowy parts, taking them out and making friends with the hidden depths. Honestly seeing your part in your world and life and taking action to heal, improve, reconcile, and make amends.

This kind of authenticity is not the norm for our society. Numbing out feelings so fear, unworthiness, sadness etc so they don’t have to be experienced also numbs joy, love, and connection. This according to the research of social researcher Brene Brown and my own observation. She also says that “in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen.” And to do this we must allow ourselves to be venerable.

I was so happy when I came upon her TED talks (see below) because it made so much sense to me and her she had real data!

You see, I live in this world of fullness that she describes. So when someone asks me if I’m always this positive, the answer is usually yes. I can live in the place of sadness about the imminent demise someone I care deeply about and still be very excited about the interesting opportunities unfolding before me. I strive to be present to the people and feelings that are here now. I don’t have a positive spin to place on this loved ones death, except that there is no more pain or suffering.

While it can mean these things, being positive or optimistic doesn’t mean you are faking it, inauthentic, or clueless. Being optimistic means that with the cards I have, I am doing the best I know and also knowing through faith that the cards I need will show up.

It means loving deeply knowing that people and relationships are not permanent. Boldly following dreams when the path is not clear. It means saying yes when your heart says yes even if your head says no. Garth Brooks sings in The Dance:

“Our life, is better left to chance, I could have missed the pain, but I’d a had to miss, the Dance.”

So I will dive in, knowing I’ll get hurt sometimes. I will be stubbornly optimistic, I will love, I will dance, I will follow dreams and cheer you in following yours.

And yes, I will cry. My tears will keep my heart soft, ready to love again.

It Starts with Me

22 May

I get frustrated when I feel like people that matter to me are being attacked or that there is unwillingness to explore various perspectives. So I wrote this blog, mostly to remind myself where I stand, but to also tease out some of my reasoning so that maybe it might encourage another.

the light within

I am for love

I am for compassion

I am for voicing concerns with an open heart and mind so that real understanding can come forth.

I am for finding workable solutions

I am for taking action that brings forth justice, clarity, peace, compassion, and understanding.

I believe a solution doesn’t come from the consciousness that created it. (Albert Einstein thought so too)

I believe that people are inherently good.

I believe that people make decisions based on the information they have. Sometimes it’s not accurate information, sometimes the decision is not life-affirming, and sometimes the decision comes from an illusion of not enough.

I believe that disagreeing doesn’t have to create conflict or violence.

I believe that there is enough.

I think that as a society, at least in the United States, are in a big turning point phase. I have talked about this numerous times with people one-on-one, and events have called me to take a bigger stage.

There are heart-breaking events making the news all the time, and there are plenty of folks who are happy to tell you what new indignity you should be mad enough to sign a petition about. It can easily become overwhelming. It could be easy to start down the road of hopelessness, victimhood, or apathy.  It could be easy to rage about every single thing, letting the anger build with each new revelation.

I currently live in Missouri, one of the handful of states where a bunch of my friends still can’t get married, it’s also the home of the city of Ferguson, and just down the road from the headquarters of Westboro Baptist Church. To say it’s an interesting time is an understatement.

I have heard interviews with several movie experts and they pointed out something I had already been wondering about. In the 50’s there was a cultural obsession with the ramifications of the nuclear age, think Godzilla, and there were the outbreak of disease or bio-weapon themed movies of the ‘90’s.  Now I find it interesting that there are so many books/movies/TV shows about a post-apocalyptic or dystopian world. It’s like there is this feeling of big changes ahead but no way to put it into something that makes sense. Zombies and the Hunger Games is the best popular culture can do to explain this feeling of impending change. There also seems to be a rise in superhero movies and it’s not just because Marvel is on a good run or that CGI is taking us to the next level of reality.

So what, in my opinion, is the big change that for some means zombies? In the ‘spiritual’ crowd, many are talking about a shift in consciousness, you may recall the end of 2012 and how that was going to transform everything.

I think the answer is partly in all of the above. I think that as a society, and many of our organizations that are sub –sets of our society, are experiencing growing pains. Think about an adolescent, which, on a global scale, the US is. The struggle between who that adolescent is becoming and its roots is tough. The decisions of where that adolescent’s alliances are shift as better offers are made. It’s an often confusing and chaotic time and there are strong allegiances within that are struggling with one another. The wise adult sees the bigger picture and strives to support, console, and gently nudge toward wise choices. So here we are, a country (and many organizations and companies) that are trying to figure out who we are, what we stand for, and what we want.

Then we add that we as a world seem to be heading toward some kind of critical mass moment that the scientists say is coming. Some say it’s an enlightenment, others say it’s zombies. Probably both are possible, and maybe the both are already happening. I think most of us have zombie moments. Where we do something unkind, we hurt instead of heal, we choose fear instead of compassion.  We have enlightenment too: we help, share love, lift up, seek understanding, use wisdom, and consider the big picture of our choices.

Finally, with all the adolescent in-fighting, the finger pointing, the blame slinging, and fear mongering, many are looking for a hero. When said hero isn’t perfect they get trampled for not being everything everyone needed. What if instead of following the one finger pointing out, we paid more attention to the three pointing back at us. What if we realized that WE are the heroes we’ve been waiting for? What if Margaret Mead is right?

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.~Margaret Mead

I have often said that there are several ways to go about trying to make the change you wish to see. You can stand on the outside and throw rocks at the big boat going by- which brands you a nuisance and doesn’t typically change to course of the boat. You can go elsewhere and find another boat- which also doesn’t change the course of the original boat, but you have decided to peacefully move along and make your way. Or you can get on the boat and become part of the organism that is steering. That may be the hardest route, and it may take more effort, but it is the best chance of effecting change.

It starts with me. Each day, each moment I am making choices. I choose compassion and love. I choose to be understanding even when someone around me is having a zombie moment. I choose to make amends when I have a zombie moment. I choose to see the bigger picture of the events in the world and seek understanding and wisdom about what parts I am called to take action on. I choose to be my own hero and help those who aren’t yet able to. I choose to see others who have different opinions from me as fellow beings and not the enemy. I choose to see a deeper consciousness and understanding coming forth to form solutions.

It is not always easy, no one ever said that it was. Sometimes it will feel like you are swimming upstream, that’s ok.

I choose grace

Rachel

Giving up Facebook for Lent (mostly)

12 Apr

February 18th, Ash Wednesday I posted this on facebook:

Dear everybody.
I have been here, scrolling facebook though I haven’t been posting much. But here’s the thing, it can so easily be a vortex for my time and energy. So, for my Lenten practice, I’m spending 10 minutes or less on facebook a day. If you have a birthday between now and Easter, I might miss it, if something exciting happens, I might miss it too. If I take a cool picture I might post it. But I still love you and hope that if there is anything you really want to share with me that you’ll reach out in a non-facebook way.
I intend to spend my time more intentionally and to have the space to discover what the things to spend my time on truly are. I’m open to where the path takes me.
Happy journey and much love,
Ra

Now it’s a week after Easter and though I have plenty of other things to put my attention on, I felt the need to share something on my experience. Let me start by saying that I like Facebook. I like that I can keep up with and cheer on my friends and their kids from afar. I appreciate that I know when important things are going on in the lives of people I care about and I have to opportunity to offer congratulations or support.

There are some things I don’t like about it too. That just as it’s all too easy to share information, it’s just as easy to share mis-information and say things our filters might catch if we were in person. It’s easy to pick up the phone/tablet/computer and endlessly scroll to tune out of whatever is going on around us. I tire of the cartoon pics with sarcastic sayings on it them, post this to prove you really care about ___, and to a lesser extent the inspirational quotes.

So I decided to just get on facebook to check my notifications and some top stories each day. Finally I found the top stories algorithm doing something useful! And you know what? I liked it. I took back my time, and not only that, I feel like I took back part of my mind too. That’s not to say that I spent all my time doing something heroic. I did a bunch of math refreshing on Khan Academy. I read some books, I got ready for and did some preaching, I traveled to Oregon and California with my sister and husband. But there was no urgency to post the great pics I just took to facebook, or see what others were up to. I just was. I was present in the moment. I didn’t post my vacation pics til Easter, which was 5 days after we got back. Something in me wanted to keep it precious and sacred, a shared experience of the people who were there. When I did share the pics, that was great too. But I did it on my schedule, not some socially expected norm that I have in the past accepted as required.

Now when I mentioned how great it was to free myself from the facebook habit to several folks of an older generation than mine, they kind of poo pooed it, saying oh yes, you young people and your technology, like we are the only ones throwing our time and energy down a black hole. Later my mind flashed to the living rooms of countless parent and grandparent (to me) aged folks that I had visited in my lifetime. A large percentage had a television on, a large percentage of the time. Maybe no one was watching it, maybe they were glued to it. Just saying we’re not the only ones.

Robert Brumet, beloved Unity Institute and Seminary professor and unofficial pastoral/spiritual guru for Unity, gave a keynote at the annual Lyceum this weekend. He said that we are in a culture of distraction. That we often don’t take the time to see or notice what is happening around us. I completely agree. It is so easy now to use screens to keep us from being present where and when we are. I’m not saying some level of escape to relax is a bad thing, if scrolling facebook helps you decompress the day, scroll on. But where is the balance point, where facebook or videos or whatever become the thing we’re putting more time on than the things we say actually matter to us. Our relationships, our health, our community.

It is not new that I am particular about what shows and movies I watch and what music I listen to. I know that my ability to be present, loving, and compassionate is related to my environmental inputs. My personal belief is that this is true for everyone, but some have much higher tolerance to crappy input because of a lifetime of exposure (and probably have crappy output, but that’s another blog).

Many of my friends would say that they are part of the movement to raise the consciousness of the planet. So I challenge you, dear reader, to consider what that means to you. Consider the inputs in your world. Consider where you place your time and energy. Consider if what you are doing is raising up yourself, someone else, and/or the world or doing the opposite. If we truly believe that we can change the world through how we show up and who we are, let’s think about what thoughts and beliefs are spending time in our noggins.

That’s not to say you can’t sing the blues, listen to an angsty country song, or watch a chick flick/action movie now and then, I certainly do, but for me, I just can’t hang out there anymore. I am honored to stand with you in the realness of your pain and sorrow, but I am taking back my emotional state from the media. I do not turn a blind eye to the real issues and trials facing our society, but I’m interested in productive solutions.

I’m not quitting facebook, I think that it still serves a purpose in my world. However I’m drawing a line in the sand. It’s what works for me, I write because maybe what I am getting clear on will be helpful to you. The answers are within you, therefore I encourage you to give your mind spaciousness to hear them.

Hugs,

Ra

PS, Here’s a sunset that I enjoyed with my husband with no posting in real time while in Oregon

Simpson Reef Sunset

Simpson Reef Sunset