Category Archives: unitarian universalist

reconnecting to music through a pub and my UU church


This was a post I had originally drafted in June of 2008 but didn’t quite finish. Crazy, huh… about a year after starting my wordpress blog. After my last post where I talked a little bit about my youthful aspirations of wanting to be a musician when I grew up I thought this was appropriate to pull it from the drafts and finish up.
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When I was a kid I was in the band… junior high and high school. I already had some musical genes gifted to me from my parents and others but being in the band cemented the fact that I like music. And as a lot of kids did, who grew up in the 70s and 80s, I listened to bands that would become pretty influential rock bands… KISS, Rush, Yes, Zeppelin, The Who and others despite my mother’s attempt to add country music in to the mix. On our daily ride to school she made me listen to Ronnie Milsap, Charlie Pride, Tammy Wynette, Buck Owens, George Jones and Merle Haggard. Mama tried. : )

I rebelled against country music in high school and my love for it didn’t stick until much later in college. I went to a small school in east Texas so country music started slowly but in time became a staple. However, I was also exposed to a new wave of music and embraced bands like Yaz, The Pixies, The Smiths, R.E.M. and Depeche Mode.

When I think about it, I really liked all kinds of music and knew different types quite well… everything from rock to country, Motown, jazz, classical. Hell even disco. (please don’t hate me for that) But I had never really heard or paid much attention to the lowly singer/songwriter.

So fast forward about 17 years… it was about 2002 when I heard my first “guy and his guitar”. By chance I stumbled upon a little pub on my way back from dropping off my daughter after having her for the weekend. The sign on the front said BREW PUB.  With my affection towards good beer, I thought I’d see what they had on tap. Coincidentally it just so happened to be Open Mic Night. Most people might think this would be the worst way possible to be exposed to singer/songwriters. Turns out what I thought would only be a half-hour-long detour wound up keeping me there for more like five hours.

My visits to the Brew Pub started off a little intermittent but after several months I eventually was going every other weekend as I came back from dropping off my daughter on the other end of town. What I loved about the open mic at this pub is almost all the performers were doing original music… or at least their own take on a published song.

Of course not everyone was good. In fact most were quite bad but many, if not all of the patrons on a Sunday night are musicians/open mic-ers and are very encouraging as well as very forgiving. And the host ALWAYS makes each open-micer feel like he or she is THE headlining act of the night. It’s pretty damn cool to be honest.

So after a couple of years of sitting as a spectator I bought my first guitar thinking i might try to teach myself how to play and start making music again. (sixteen years earlier I had left the music department in college thinking I was completely done with music).  So I would sit at the very front of the little stage and tried desperately to remember the shapes their hands and fingers made as they played their guitars and I would race home and attempt them on mine at home. Evidently I was trying to learn guitar a la the Phoebe Buffay school of guitar learning. : )

That isn’t exactly the best way of learning. Plus I would put the guitar down for weeks at a time and it took about a year before I really decided to give it an honest go of trying to learn. I’m proud to report I have since gotten better, which isn’t saying much because I was REALLY crappy when I first started. And wouldn’t you know it… I got my nerve up and did my first open mic about a year and half after really buckling down and consistently practicing and trying. I remember the date: Jan 23, 2005. I know because it was my birthday.

And about two years after that, some friends and I formed a band. We even play at the ol’ UU church now and again. That’s how we all met was through our UU church.
So thankful for that little pub, my friends from church and oh how I love making music again.

i believe in a better way


I’m slowly getting back into the frame of mind to start posting again at the ol’ Deist blog. Ideas come to me but unlike before where I could remember throughout the day what I wanted to write, my ideas tend to disappear slowly and without any definitive moment they vanish like mist that’s burned away from morning sun.

But I’m getting there and hope to be flexing my thoughts again in a more consistent manner. I’ve been looking at drafts that I have sitting in my WordPress cue and it seems like most of them were meant for when they were first written… a year, two, three or even four years ago. Not sure why I never pressed the publish button on some of those but needless to say they aren’t really relevant or would be out of context because… well, I don’t know how to explain but they would be out of context.

But there are a handful that are meaningful to me still and I’m sure I’ll dust them off and give them the chance to be seen by someone. Kinda like this one. Not sure why I never posted this one but the first draft was written almost four years ago to the day. Weird huh.
Below is the original post:
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A friend of mine from church introduced me to this song several months ago.  I hadn’t thought about it in a while and don’t know why I remembered it today.  Just thought I’d share.

[Deist begins to stretch a little so he can properly do his best air guitar windmill and scissor kick]

So what’s happened in a year?


Well, during the last 12 months quite a bit has actually stayed the same for me. I’ve noticed as I get older, I am, if nothing else, relatively constant.

I still work at the same place (earlier this month I hit seven years there), The Deistette and I are still married and hit a milestone in September (she moved here five yrs ago the weekend Hurricane Ike made landfall ), I’m still making music with a few friends of mine (in February we’ll hit seven years) and I still live in the same house that I’ve been working on and renovating for what seems like forever (September was 16 years).

There have been a handful of changes though. My longest readers might remember a post or two about how I like to ride my bicycle… well, I still do but have become a bit obsessive about bicycles since October of last year and have since added several bikes to the herd that used to consist of just my road bike. Here’s a pic of one of my faves.

Trek-720

Years ago, it almost seems in another lifetime, I used to work in the printing industry… well, sort of. I was a print buyer for a financial company. And, because of the vast resource that is the interwebs, I’ve been able to get back to my roots (which started when I was in the military a couple of decades ago laying out the base newspaper via cut and paste). I’ve built (on the cheap) a very crude letterpress out of steel pipe. I’m not sure how practical this thing will be as I haven’t printed anything on it yet but I hope to start printing letterpress stuff soon.

Letterpress when done well is absolutely beautiful.
just my typeImage above found at this Etsy shop

Let’s see what else… Well, this is a not-so-fun fact. In August I hit the heaviest my short frame has ever been. It has however spurred me to become really aware about needing to lose weight. I’ve been going to the YMCA on a regular basis for the past few months and have become more aware about the junk I’ve been putting in my body.  I guess you have to start somewhere and my somewhere is a very, very small step. But moving my body even just twice a week and trying to be careful about what I eat has helped  me to scrape off a little weight. Key words in that sentence is “scrape” and “little”. But if I make the time and get to the gym a couple more times a week and could lose even as little as 15 pounds that would be good. Realistically though, being only 5’3″ and trying to get to a healthy weight, I really need to lose about 30 pounds. Wish me luck. I really need to make this happen.

So those are some of the minor things that are new with me after a year of being gone. But the biggest bit of change that happened is that I withdrew membership to my UU church of which I had been a member for 10 years.

It’s been six months yet it’s still very difficult to come to grips with it. It’s been a tremendous loss and I still I feel quite sad about it. I had a strong community of friends, like-minded seekers and familiar souls surrounding me that I not only saw on Sundays but throughout the week as well. I was deeply involved in my old congregation and literally put blood, sweat and tears in trying help maintain it and help it grow. It was painful to leave and for the sake of proper decorum I won’t go in to the gory details of why I left but for now let’s just say I couldn’t continue to support that congregation any longer.

I am still however…
a UU.

And I think one needs (what in Buddhism is called) a sangha… a dedicated community of spiritual seekers. The basis of my beliefs still stem from my view of the nature of God which comes from Deism. My practice, as much as I may have drifted from it, is Buddhist.

But my people… the ones who remind me to keep vigiliant as a person of faith comes from a UU church.
My sangha.

And so The Deistette and I have been attending another congregation off and on for a little while now. It doesn’t feel the same as my old congregation. I feel like I don’t fit in. But we’re getting a little more involved and are making plans to try to attend more of the events and programs. And we’ve met new people who we like. : )

I think there are three essential elements of a person’s spiritual walk.
1) you have to have a foundation for your belief system (i.e. what is your view of the nature of god, where do you get your sense of right and wrong come? from where do your ethics come?)
2) Your ethics, morality, and/or spirituality should have a practice and be exercised in the real world.
3) You should have a community of like-minded people who challenge your sense of beliefs, keep you in check as well as support your beliefs.

In some instances, two out of three wouldn’t be bad but I think in the case of a spiritual walk… two out of three ain’t gonna cut it.

Here’s to adding my third back in to the mix and to change.

what DO we UUs believe


They’re coming in oneseis and twoseis… tweets and posts and articles from different people putting their two cents into the cart before the horse debate of doing good works (i.e. social justice) vs faith/religion (theology).

The question makes one run in circles as Lo Williams pointed out as she responded to a post Kinsi had put on his blog last week.

It’s hard.

It’s a hard question for UUs to answer, even those who have been lifelong UUs or those who wear the cleric’s collar of our clergy. And I think part of the reason it’s such a hard question to answer is because we’ve become so damn afraid of actually saying “We believe ______ and if you don’t believe ______ then you’re probably not a UU.”

We have drifted so far away from a belief system toward inclusivity that we have no idea any longer what we believe. We are desperate not to diminish any individual’s belief system and so our mantra of “we will support your search for truth and meaning” has become the demise of a central religious belief.

If you ask most UUs to describe their religion, it will come off sounding as though members of this tradition define their own theology, that UUism pretty much lets you believe whatever you want and that UUs love coffee on Sunday mornings after they meet for service. That would be about it.

I think it is a common misconception that Unitarian Universalism is one big stew pot of all the world religions lumped together. I can see how people might think that but I simply don’t believe that idea of UUism to be true… at least not anymore. If I am being honest, I’m sure there was a time where I did think that of UUism.

But now… not so much. In fact, not at all.

I think Unitarian Universalism should be a religion based on two ideas. Ideas that stem from our religious roots of Unitarianism and Universalism.

1) that there is but only one God… Only one Higher Power in the universe.  One Truth. But there is the caveat that people view that Higher Power by way of different lenses. So for some this Higher Power or Truth is Brahma, one of the gods of the Hindu trinity. For some their view of the Higher Power is the teachings of the Buddha. For some it is a goddess that moves the wind. For some their Higher Power is sacred community, more powerful and forgiving than the individual can be. And for some their Higher Power is their concept of God.

and 2): That salvation is universal. Transformation is universal. And this salvation/transformation can be had by anyone. Again there is the caveat that this salvation is viewed from different lenses. Salvation can be had from Sacred Community when someone says, “hi my name is John Doe and I’m an alcoholic.” And the salvific response is “Hi John.”  Salvation/Transformation can be had when you say to yourself, “I forgive myself for my shortcomings. I am after all only human. And I will do better” Or perhaps one’s salvation comes from the teachings of the son of carpenter who died 2000 years ago.

My friends THIS is what we UUs believe and should get back to preaching from our pulpits. THIS is the salvation message we have. THIS is our Good News and when we get this in our hearts, our heart will lead us to transform injustice in this world into right… not the other way around.

challenge to the UUA – reinvent UU ministry


There was a tweet I saw come across my time line last week from @Rev_Mother who stated to fellow UU blogger and tweeter @mattkinsi that she wanted to be put in charge of Faith Development. Kins was appointed to the UUA committee on appointments. Or the committee on creating appointments to appointing committees. I don’t know… irony and name aside, Kins has been noticed by some higher-ups in the UUA and it’s pretty cool that I can say I knew him when. In fact, Kinsi is the only one of my blog peeps who I have actually met in person.

Anyway… so a few days ago I woke up with a fuzz of ideas swimming through my head as I meandered from almost awake to drifting back into a dream state. I began thinking about her statement about a ministry on faith development.

Her statement was a tangent off a bigger discussion that had occurred (actually it’s still happening) which was debating the idea of the UUA focusing on it’s cause de jour coupled with the recent Social Justice General Assembly vice focusing on our salvific message. (i learned that word from Rev Mother. I use it all the time now. :) )

I’m assuming this is what brought on this subconscious/dreamlike thinking the other day. So I began thinking what if there was a ministry on Marriage and Family so that we could not only focus on pushing for legalizing same-sex marriage but also from the pulpit deliver a message that strengthened families and those who are married AFTER they have walked down the aisle whether they are gay or straight.  It may seem like semantics but the thing is we work pretty diligently at getting gay people to the alter but do NOTHING for them or other UUs who are married for that matter, AFTER they are married.

I challenge the UUA to develop a broad set of ministries, such as a  Ministry on Marriage and Family, Ministry on the Holy and Sacred, Ministry on Human Dignity, Ministry on the Holistic Human, Ministry on Stewardship  of the Earth. I challenge the UUA to reinvigorate the move Rev. Sinkford had in reclaiming our religious language and pull away from living by-gone days of being a hippy in the 60s.

These are just ideas for names but the concept is to create a small number of core of ministries where our actions and witnessing are sacred, holy work.  And the culture of our congregations would view it as such because that’s what we would hear and learn while sitting in the pews.  Those who are concerned with inhumane conditions at Joe Arpaio’s tent city would be doing holy work… UNDER the auspices of church/religious inspired language such as “ministry” “dignity” “sacred” instead of simply attending a protest to bring attention to a cause of injustice.

There are a million injustices in the world that should be righted simply because we know as a species what is right and wrong. The thing is when we as a religious people take up that cause to right a wrong it should be because we believe in our heart of hearts, it to be a sacred calling. UUism is a religion with a message of salvation… NOT a social club that meets on Sundays for coffee after protesting inhumane conditions the night before.

Five year blogiversary!


The activity has slowed but there’s still some movement here at the blog o’ Jules. That’s weird sounds Irish huh.

Anyway, I drafted the title the day of my blogiversary (June 22) as a reminder but then got caught up with other things and here I am two days late. Story of my life.

So what was I caught up with? Still working on house stuff. Had to cut the jungle that is (was) my backyard. And I was watching all the GA stuff.

I mentioned the UU General Assembly in my last post and I’ve been following the association’s Livestream channel to watch the worship services and other activities that have been videoed. Couple that with a bunch of UU ministers, attendees and off-site UUs who have been Tweeting on the #UUAGA hashtag and it’s been a pretty cool experience.

Nothing like actually being there. General Assembly was held in Fort Worth back in 2005 and with it being a mere four hours away from Houston, a couple of friends of mine and I went. It was a pretty amazing experience. So I know what it’s like to actually be there. The video, tweeting and live blogging is pretty cool but not quite like being there.

So back to the blogiversary… I’ve been working on going self hosted. I had actually hoped to be there by the time June 22 hit. Oh well, maybe in a month or two. Sept 11 anniversary? In time for the election? The Mayan prophecy?

Meh. Soon.

Cart before the horse


I can’t remember the last time I posted anything UU (unitarian universalist) related. Maybe a year or so ago when I wrote something titled my UU church must change?  I don’t know but I feel compelled as our national conference, known to UUs as General Assembly or GA, is underway in Phoenix.

So GA started yesterday and with Twitter, Facebook and blogging platforms being used in official and unofficial capacities, it’s almost as if I’m there. Almost.

One of the biggest problems I’ve had with UUism since I attended my first service 10 years ago has been the fact there is always some cause du jour and for the most part, those causes usually feeds the caricature that the Everyday Joe has of left-leaning, liberal-minded people.

  • Please help the eight toed children of Burma have free-trade coffee!
  • We must be the voice of the disenfranchised in equatorial Guinea who don’t have access to clean sinks and toilets!
  • Save the three-legged, blue-spotted ninny muggins of Gila Island!
  • What would a world with dignity and a fair wage for food chain workers look like?!??!!!

Believe it or not… that last one is a real cause the UUA is pushing at General Assembly this year. Some of the other causes I’ve seen are something about ethical eating and voicing the unfairness of server wages. I wish I knew who to talk to about trying to raise awareness about pushing for laws that raise the wage of waiters and waitresses because the UUA is going to embarrass itself if it goes full tilt on this. By law, food servers make at least minimum wage. It is federal law. Just because a food server is making $2.13 an hour… you know what, I’m not gonna get into it. But I work for a payroll company. I do it every single day. They are NOT being short changed. No pun intended. : )

Back to the social justice thing though… I mean, history is replete with examples of religious people taking up the banner of justice and heading to the front lines to make a wrong a right. Often times that is how change happens. But the UUA and my church I believe have it wrong.

It seems as though they are moving further and further in the direction of social activism as the means toward spiritual fulfillment when it should be the other way around. It’s the cart before the horse.

I delivered a sermon at  my congregation on Easter that touched on the point. I acknowledged it being a holy day for Christians and that although it is their holiday, we can learn from this narrative. I ended by emphasizing the idea that it is from spiritual transformation and the UU Good News of universal salvation that we are moved beyond the walls of our church and into the larger community to do good works. NOT the other way around.

It is apparent that the trendy missional theology bandwagon has its horse trailing the back end and many UUs are hopping on board, including my own congregation.  I am afraid there is only a nail or two left before the coffin is sealed for me and I am no longer willing to call any UU church my sangha.

it’s on the verge of flat lining


Last week The Deistette and I were winding down from the day and she came to my blog and said, “I think it’s dead.”
I’m starting to concede that idea.

I mean I’ve only put up two posts in five months not including this one.

I think part of the trouble I have is a lack of time but also this blog is more of a personal blog, vice being about a cause or product. I think the title insinuates religion and/or politics but I don’t really have the desire to enter the UU blogging community again… it’s become too… I don’t know. Too… silly. There is a contingency who have taken the Red Pill and I have other things I need to tend to right now rather than argue an unarguable debate.  And politics is more of a hobby which is basically me yelling at the AM radio hate-mongers of right-wing talk shows.

                                                    (part of why I have little time. I’m taking baby steps replacing all the siding on my house.)

And although this is pretty much a personal blog, I don’t really like the idea of posting stuff about my daughter, stepsons or wife. I have now and again posted about them and offered a picture here and there but it’s been few and far between. So not wanting to post things about the people who are most involved with my personal life, kinda turns the ol’ blog a little stagnant.

                                        a pic of the wife waaayyyy off in the distance watering some of our veggies in the elevated bed I built.

Not sure what I’m afraid of in that regard. I mean, I’m not a celebrity. I don’t have any stalkers. Hell, I barely have any active readers of this blog any longer. Amazing what happens when you stop writing how far the stat numbers go done huh.

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(I guess I could have kept my numbers up by writing about the super cool garden we have going on.)

Near the end of June, I’ll be at the five-year mark of this blog. To be honest, it feels like I’ve been at this so much longer. It feels like a lifetime since I first started writing down my thoughts and “met” some of my favorite people in the blogosphere. They’re not around much anymore and I miss them.

I bring up the time frame because five years is kind of a marker of sorts I guess and I’ve been thinking of starting over and letting go of this one. I don’t know.  If I do (which I’m really leaning to) I’ll be pulling away from WP.com and doing the self-hosted thing. I’m still looking into it. The thing is, blogging here on WP doesn’t feel the same as it did four or five years ago but it has been so important to me that I don’t want to just abandon it.

I guess we’ll see.
For now, know I’m still alive and kicking despite having posted anything in a while.

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.

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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.

Amen to what the Preacher Man said


My UU congregation has gone through a few ministers in its 15 year history.  I can think of four right off the top of my head but I think there has been seven including our current minister.

We share him with another congregation in San Antonio because we only had enough money to hire him part time.  Rough gig for the preacher man as he drives the three hours from San Antone to us once a month… sometimes twice. Don’t tell his boss though cuz he’s only supposed to come over once.  He likes us.

Anyway, apparently my powers of sway and persuasion Continue reading