Category Archives: faith

healing after the ice storm


magnolia_leafSo mid week last week the temps had fallen into the mid-20s or so and with a mist of rain in the air during the night, ice formed on pretty much everything outside. Here are some pics from my backyard. My magnolia tree shouldn’t look like this in March.

On the drive to work that morning, I noticed a lot of tree branches had snapped and fallen during the night. Not sure if they were already dead branches or if the weight of the ice caused them to break or both but there was a trail of pretty big branches that started with a neighbor’s house a couple of houses down and just kept going almost all the way to work 15 miles away. It was strange. Some of those branches were pretty big and yet they snapped because of the heaviness.

magnolia_branchesSo all this happened on Tuesday and on Saturday I was finally able to help my neighbor out by cutting the really big tree limb that had fallen in her yard.

After cutting it, we talked for a while Continue reading

Exposed


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I used to take pictures.

It’s been so long ago that it almost seems like it was in a past life. When I first started, I was in the military and took pictures that were part of news and feature stories. A few years later I began to fancy myself an arteeest and began trying to create what I “thought” was art. I actually pulled some off and there were a few people who actually considered it art and paid for my prints or asked me to exhibit.

My first attempts were crude but in time my eye developed. I tended to drift toward my journalistic side and capture images that had a human element… you know, that showed where a human presence had been. I rarely did landscapes or what I referred to derogatorily as “snapshots of trees and rocks”.

The fact is “trees and rocks” are hard to shoot and shoot well and I knew it, so I tried to place myself above those Ansel-disciples and do my cutting edge Henri Cartier-Bresson impersonations.  What’s funny is I actually did a series of only trees one time AND… had it exhibited.

It’s been a long time since I’ve taken photographs like that.

But now and again, something will catch my “eye” (which surprises me that my photographer’s eye still works) that makes me think, “this says something” and I wish I had my old Mamiya loaded with some velvety Ilford Delta400.

The above image is one that did just that and all i had was my cell phone, It was taken in an instant, filters applied the way I would have liked to have seen a final print after hours in the darkroom.  It says something… at least to me. The roots are exposed. The tender part of a tree that should be covered which help it grow and mature are all out in the open.

[sigh]

I’ve been going through the some personal stuff that is really stressful. Really stressful… taxing on my soul and is one of those times when I hope with all the faith that I have that God is listening and will send angels to calm my spirit. I pray that Providence will cover my tender parts.

I have entered another dark period, one that makes me want sit with my back in a corner with my knees to my chest bracing for impact. I can’t get everything covered and I feel quite exposed.

I have a ten year old little girl in my house


Faith has lived across the street from us for not quite a year. She, her mom and her two tween sisters moved in just after the school year started. I think that’s when it was. Maybe it was just before the school year. I can’t remember. Apparently, her mom went through a divorce and I assume couldn’t afford to keep her previous home and so began renting one of the little wood frame, shotgun type houses that sit on my street.

We haven’t really met Faith’s mom although I’ve seen her on a handful of occasions getting groceries out of the car or heading off for work. Turns out those times I’ve seen her were rather miraculous because the woman works about 18 to 20 hours a day! YES… 18 to 20 hours per day. This happens about five days a week. On the other two days she may work one of those days for eight hours.

There is something fundamentally wrong with the policies and culture of a country that claims to be the best in the world, yet there are still people who have to work that many hours of a day to provide the barest of essentials for their family.

And that is the reason I have a ten-year old little girl in my house.

Faith knows The Deistette from the bus stop. Continue reading

My UU church must change


I stumbled over a post by WordPress blogger Wondertwisted yesterday.
I thought of adding this comment to her post, “Dear John letter to UUism” but it began to run so long I figured I’d just use it as a post here for my readers as well.  Her post describes her painful decision to leave UUism and why. I think she is spot on.

***

You know, Cindy I thought of your post all day and much of this morning. And like I said in an earlier comment, I agree with what you say but what I’ve thought most of is the bigger question, that is: where has Unitarian Universalism failed you and others who feel like you do.

Full disclosure: I am a lay leader in my congregation and have been one of those who have side-stepped so many issues for fear of upsetting someone’s delicate sensitivities that I have not stood up against what I believe is a wrong direction for UUism in my congregation and as a whole.

I think there is a systemic problem with UUism.  Its current incarnation is flawed.  In my opinion, it comes down to at least these three things.

1) We have no dogma.  We have nothing that we all collectively say, “we believe  (this)  . And to be part of this religion you must believe    (this)   .”  Sure we have the seven principles but it is not the same as what the Abrahamic religions have in this regard.
Our lack of dogma is what we embrace and vocalize to the mountains, yet just as much as it is a medicine; it is also a poison.  We MUST change our mindset about not having a shared, common belief that we find so sacred that we would die for it, were it trampled or defamed.  If we do not, we are not bound. I believe there will eventually be a schism or at least a significant drop in membership and this faith will fade into nothingness.

2), We have placed social justice / political liberal activism above religion, worship and salvation. The tail is wagging the dog!
Because a person believes gay people should marry doesn’t mean they should be a UU. Because you believe people should earn a fair wage doesn’t mean you should be a UU.  The list could go on.
It should be the other way around. It should be I am a UU and because of that I believe   (this)   about   (this)   social/political issue.

3) We have no identity.  We don’t know what UUism or being a UU is. We have drifted so far from our roots and painted with such a broad stroke the idea of inclusiveness that we have muddied our identity to the point we can’t see who we should or used to be.
Calling the goddess, Buddhist singing bowls, washing of feet.
Really?  [insert eye roll here]
If that’s a personal practice and you feel it is important… that’s awesome. That’s great if it makes you a better person. Leave it at home though.
Spinning dradles or painting ourselves for Diwali is not a UU thing.  Fasting during Ramadan… not a UU thing.  Pick your favorite other-religion-ritual and place it here → [  ___  ]  It isn’t a UU thing.
Let’s be UUs in our sanctuary and leave the snake handling for home practice.

A life changed in 30 days


I’ve been meaning to write about this for awhile but kept feeling like I needed more time to grasp any meaning or to analyze what happened but I don’t know if there really is enough time to comprehend entirely the how and the why.  So a little more than a year later here’s my take on what happened to my dad and his wife and how their lives were upended.

You know… it can happen so quickly.   Your life as you know it completely changed; unmistakenly different from it was just the day before.  In the case of my dad and stepmother… 30 days.  It took  exactly 30 days for the transformation of their lives to be different to a point that it will never be what it was before.

In December of 2008, my dad’s wife of 30 years went to visit her brother near Dallas.  An important fact I should note is she has a disease that suppresses her immune system.  As a result she needs to be as careful she can about getting near any one who is sick or should cut herself.

Well she wasn’t as careful as she usually is and something got hold of her in December of ’08 that made her very sick.   The bacteria that attacked her body was strong and Continue reading

Reflecting on the need of so many in Haiti


My blog friend Amuirin wrote a very poignant and beautiful post about how she feels (and I suspect many of us feel as we get pounded with stories of  ills of the world) that she cannot take another heartbreak on humanity.   I really encourage you to read her short post on this.  It’s quite wonderful.

I was going to leave a comment there but I knew it would go long so I decided to post here.  About seven years ago I worked for a small non-profit group whose mission was (well, still is) to help people.

As the public relations guy, part of my job was to get info out to the media about our programs. At the time, the Enron debacle was in full swing and we saw a spike in the number of people who were needing financial help.

I was writing a news release and for part of it I interviewed our director of the family assistance program to get her perspective.  She said that people who had lost all their life savings and were on the verge of losing everything else due to the demise of Enron were coming in seeking help. She had seen a significant rise in the number of families seeking financial assistance with utility bills, mortgage notes or groceries from our small food bank. This was on top of the normal flow of desperate, low-income families we tried to help every month.

Working in the department that wrote the grant requests, sent out letters to donors asking for more contributions and whose job it was to get more money for the non-profit group, I knew how rationed our finances were. I knew we didn’t have enough to help everyone who was in such dire circumstances.

And so I asked this person, “how do you… well, you know… how do you reconcile the idea that we have so many families coming in asking for help but knowing only a few will get it?”

She said when she first started with the non-profit about 20 years earlier she would literally cry herself to sleep as she thought of the families that were being turned away. But she came to grip with fact that she or the non-profit couldn’t help everyone… but she could help some and to those families she had made a difference.

It reminds me of this wonderful story that speaks to that idea as well.

The Boy and the Starfish

A man was walking along a deserted beach at sunset. As he walked he could see a young boy in the distance, as he drew nearer he noticed that the boy kept bending down, picking something up and throwing it into the water. Time and again he kept hurling things into the ocean.

As the man approached even closer, he was able to see that the boy was picking up starfish that had been washed up on the beach and, one at a time he was throwing them back into the water.

The man asked the boy what he was doing, the boy replied,”I am throwing these washed up starfish back into the ocean, or else they will die through lack of oxygen. “But”, the man said, “You can’t possibly save them all, there are thousands on this beach, and this must be happening on hundreds of beaches along the coast. You can’t possibly make a difference.” The boy smiled, bent down and picked up another starfish, and as he threw it back into the sea, he replied.

“I made a huge difference to that one!”

~Author Unknown~

poking at believers and non-believers


I was listening to the Pacifica Station here in Houston yesterday. I normally don’t.  But as I was changing from FM1 down to AM, I had to punch through FM2 where 90.1 KPFT was playing. The DJ caught my attention by saying the next song was brand new. So I paused for just a second to hear what it would be.

It’s by Regina Spektor (who I’ve never heard of) and was released about a month ago.  The lyrics made my ears perk up immediately so I listened to hear what this song was about.

I think she’s making fun of those who don’t believe in God (perhaps a UU or two?) but when shit hits the fan… well, as she said, “no one laughs…” And I think she’s poking fun at those who believe God grants wishes like a genie.

I’m curious about your thoughts.

some thoughts from my 2009 MS150 ride


I’ve been meaning to add this post since I finished this year’s abbreviated MS150 bicycle ride back in April but as is the story of my life… things have gotten in the way.

Better late than never though and so here are some thoughts and pictures from my ride. By the way, (a quick commercial break) I still need a few more bucks to meet my fundraising goal. If you could spare a fiver or two it would be super, muchly appreciated. To donate to my ride click the link with the cycling picture and Texas flag. Thank you. Now on with the show.

So as I sat at the starting line this year it kinda came to me that this ride has parallels to our journey in life (at least for me it does, particularly for my Deist, Buddhist, angels-around-us, i-love-reincarnation view of spirituality that I have) and so it got me to thinking and I came up with an analogy.

I mean we all begin at the starting line, a little confused and somewhat nervous. But we see others just like us… and in the midst of these fellow travelers of this journey, we find a little comfort.

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For the most part we all have the same gear. You know… we have Continue reading

That’s more than the number of UU’s


So The Deistette takes the quiz over at BeliefNet.com and I think, “what the heck… I’ll try it again.”

Hm. Imagine that… 100% UU.

But I was surprised there was no Deist category.

There was no place for us lowly, uncounted, blip of believers who count as our kindred spirits the founding fathers of this great country. (ok, so we count ‘em as our own but according to Steven Waldmen, it ain’t true. What the hell does he know, the damn heathen) : )

So in that second link above, what I saw in the title of that article was “12% of Americans [blah blah blah] Deists”

Hooray!!! I’m not alone. Take that suckahs!

Well as I looked into his attribution, the research and the stats, I realized I failed to see that the title of the article actually said, “12% of Americans MAY be Deists”

:|

The stats come from the website The Pew Forum on Religious Life. It’s pretty interesting to take a peek at… well, at least to me it’s interesting.

This is interesting, too. According to this USA Today article many denominations are losing ground.

I would think in tough times people would be looking for solace anywhere they could get it… even in the pews. Apparently I’m wrong.

Although, a few weeks ago President Obama said our country is not specifically a Christian, Jewish, Muslim, etc. nation… the fact is, a HUGE majority of people in the U.S. if asked would say they are Christian. My own personal opinion is most people probably mean they are Theists and don’t necessarily believe Jesus is God but a redemptive tool of God.

Anyway, in conversations I’ve had with family, co-workers and acquaintances most, if not all, believe in a God that has a plan for us lowly scabs of humans and believe in a God who can and does make things happen either as reward or punishment.

Doesn’t surprise me a whole lot. I mean we hear it all the time… “everything happens for a reason.” Whether it’s characters on tv shows, movies, books, articles, music or in conversations, we hear that statement implied or verbatim… “everything happens for a reason.” I imagine it’s comforting to believe there is some Grand Designer who intervenes on our behalf and when something shitty or out of control happens it’s nice to be distanced by believing that God’s grand design was at work.

It’s just as comforting for me to think that He/She/It is somewhere just watching… letting me call all the shots, cheering me on, applauding my efforts, getting pissed when I screw up, on the verge of tears when something awful happens to me or being very disappointed when I miss the mark.

It is comforting to me to be a Deist.  It meshes well with my Buddhist tendencies and my yoga-loving, bible-passage-using, season-observing, prayer-bead-wearing, talk-to-God-every-morning spiritual path.

claiming a faithful language


Lizard Eater is a blogger I stumble on now and again via the UU blog aggregator and she has a cool post about UUs claiming religious language. I was gonna leave a comment but it began running a little long and I’ve had this post brewing in my head for several weeks anyway. It’s as good a time as any to put it out there.

When I was in the military, the gunnery sergeant I worked for paid me a dubious compliment by nominating me for Marine of the Quarter. In doing so I had to go before a panel of senior Marines and let them grill me for a couple of days on various things.

There was a physical fitness test, room inspection, uniform inspection, drill command evaluation, Marine Corps history test and a leadership evaluation.

I remember one of the questions was on the 14 traits of Marine Corps leadership and which one I thought was the most important. I said I thought “initiative” was the most important because through initiative you put yourself in situations to exercise the other traits. Not sure if it was my hours of hand-polishing my old “chocolate bars” leather shoes or my answer to that question but I’m proud to say I won that board.

Anyway… in response to LE’s list of words she used in her sermon Continue reading