Exciting News!

I am so excited to finally be able to publicly announce that the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Redwood City, CA (on the peninsula, south of San Francisco) has selected me as their candidate for ministry.  I am so looking forward to meeting the entire congregation during the upcoming Candidating Week (April 26-May 4)!





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Mercy is defined as “compassion shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm”.

It is considered by many to be one of the most important attributes of God, and is lifted up as one of three things required of us by God.

While compassion can be remain contained as an emotional response of kindness toward another, mercy takes that response out of its container and makes it tangible. It is the hand of mercy that reaches out in forgiveness to those by whom one has been harmed. And whom one could justifiably punish.

How does that translate into every day life? It seems challenging enough to “let go” of grievances and “move on”. Mercy demands that we 1. return to face those who have done us wrong, and to 2. show them the mercy God shows us.

Since my theology isn’t built around divine mercy, I feel moved to limit my comments and my actions to what I know about the first part.

I spent years trying to “let go and move on” from something someone did to me, and made myself miserable in the process – became even more of a victim than I was in the first place. It was only after opening my heart in compassion (a process taking over 20 years), and then offering my hand in forgiveness, that I was able to heal and truly “move on”.

So I have experienced the challenge and the benefit of mercy. But that doesn’t mean I don’t balk at the thought of mercy shown to those who commit crimes against the flesh, against the spirit, against the earth and against future generations. It is hard enough to “let go” of anger. It is hard enough to open to compassion. Show mercy as well? How is that even possible?

The only answer I can come up with has everything to do with knowing and staying true to one’s deepest values, and holding one another accountable to them.  If I haven’t said it before (and I’m pretty sure I have) that’s the precise purpose and prize of covenanted shared ministry.

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Tears, Fears & Redemption (Who is your neighbor?)

A few months back I found myself going through a really difficult time.  And since I’ve found over the years that fresh air can help clear the mind I went to a local park – trying to focus on the beauty of the day, the dogs frolicking in the grass, the babies in strollers.  The positive things. 

 As much as all that was there, I felt overwhelmed with emotion.  It was uncontrollable.  So uncontrollable that I just gave into it and cried – right then and there. 

Cried big hot tears, that apparently really needed to come out. 

 In the middle of all that I wiped my eyes and then saw a young man in a red hoodie, a dark-skinned young man in baggy pants, heading straight toward me – walking that “street walk”, listening to music on his headphones so loud that I could hear the beat.

 And I thought: “oh no, not now – don’t hassle me, don’t ask me for money, don’t talk to me, I can’t handle this.”  And I looked away, and took a deep breath and hoped he’d just pass by. 

But he didn’t.   

The next thing I knew, he put his arm around me and pulled my head onto his shoulder!  And said:  “you’re going to be ok.”  A total stranger.

Who did I see when I looked at him coming towards me, that day?  Clearly not the compassionate, generous soul who would go out of his way to wipe away the tears of some hysterical old white lady in the park.   

I didn’t see him.   I saw what I expected to see.  Made a lot of assumptions in a fraction of a second.  Was not able to recognize him as a neighbor.  

We live in the real world.  Let me just say that.  “Bad” things do happen to “good” people, all the time.  There are those who will do unspeakable things and leave you lying in the road.  I know.

Many laws are designed to prevent such things from happening.   And part of the process of growing up is learning to take “precautions”.  Learning to “stick to your own kind”, for example, and “not talk to strangers.”  And that approach, I’m sure, has kept me safe, on quite a few occasions.

But if I am to take seriously the tenets of my faith, then I need to learn to see that everyone, everyone, is “a neighbor.”  Making assumptions, allowing  fears to cloud vision, categorizing people, dividing them into “good guys” and “bad guys”, friends and enemies, based upon external appearances – is far too simplistic. 

We travel this road together.  One people.   Fallible.  Fearful.  Short-sighted, sometimes.  But each and every one of us worthy of and capable of compassion and care. 

And if there is such a thing as redemption, I believe that this just may be a big part of it.

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How Do You Know What You Know?

There’s this thing, that happens all the time but that I notice, particularly each year in late February, she said.

It’s a kind of “stirring” under the earth that I feel in my heart; in  that space between one beat and another.                        

At night it finds its way into my dreams like a spotlight, illuminating dusty corners of memory.

 And during the day I hear it walking, right behind me, trying to catch up – and sometimes I can even feel its hand on my shoulder!

It’s a strange thing!, she said, when knowing rises wordlessly from the earth.  

When truth finds its way into your dreams and puts its hand, warm and comforting, on your shoulder – as if you were old friends!  Reminding you of all you’ve ever learned about who you really are and where you come from.  About what’s necessary.  

And what’s possible.

It’s a strange and wonderful thing, she said, when that which is most true about life holds you close.  And at the same time – sets you free!”

And all of this makes me wonder, how do you come to know what you you know, about why you are here?

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Stewardship: Cherish the Flame

Anyone who has ever been drawn to a campfire knows to cherish the experience.  For millennia fire has been valued for its many practical benefits, as much as for the ways in which it inspires and draws people together.  Fire building and tending has long been considered a sacred honor, requiring focused intention and spiritual purity.
Unitarian Universalists also gather around fire:   flame brought to the chalice – symbolizing this religious tradition’s history of and continued commitment to freedom and responsibility, justice and equity, peace and compassion.
Drawn to that flame, Unitarian Universalists share the responsibility to tend it carefully so that it can continue to illuminate paths of wisdom, courage and joy.  They bring to that cherished flame their questions, passion and commitment, feeding it with visionary funding and labors of love.
Doing so is recognized as a spiritual necessity and sacred honor – a claiming of Unitarian Universalist values, of this faith tradition, and of this community.
Contributions of time and talent, of treasure and intent are what keep the cherished light of liberal religion burning brightly.
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It is often said that keeping focus on the past or the future makes it impossible to see what’s right in front of you. That keeping your eyes fixed upon the distance, puts you in danger of tripping over whatever obstacle may be in your immediate path.  Or, in danger of falling into whatever chasm may be at your feet.

The reverse can also be true.

Focusing only on the present, whether it be marked by joy or sorrow, can be so all consuming – that it’s hard to see other possibilities.  It’s hard to truly honor what was, or to remember that paths can indeed change; that new paths can appear or be carved into the landscapes that lie ahead.

It can be hard to take in the fact that you have, and never will, walk alone.

And so, we do the best we can – shifting focus from past to present to future and back again, most often without even being conscious of that fact – except for a vague sense that there’s always more to be seen!

Even so, there are many ways to bring intentionality to the process of focus and refocus.  To try to see “the what is” with greater clarity and depth.

Meditation is one such way, in which we encourage our eyes, ears or minds to “rest” on an object, a sound, an idea.  And notice, without judgment, what that feels like. That’s not nearly as easy as it sounds.  It takes a great deal of practice and patience.

Another way to bring intentionality to the process of focus and refocus, is to put words to whatever it is we see – to articulate our memories, our thoughts and feelings, and our visions for the future.

Those words can be written down, they can be sung or spoken.  They can be played with, moved around, and replaced, as way to discover nuances of meaning to the “what is”.  Sharing them with people we trust, opens up the possibility of even greater vision.

If ever there was a reason for beloved community, it is this:  to help one another bring intentionality to the process of focus and refocus, to help one another see with clarity and depth the “what is”, and, the landscape of the “what could yet be”.

We do not walk alone.

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Clothed In Flesh

Excerpt from this Sunday’s sermon:  “Clothed in Flesh”.  Worship service starts at 10:30 am, and is followed by a Chilli Cook-Off!

It is a complicated relationship that we have with our bodies and with our spirits.  Even without the direct, consciously chosen influence of theology.

Millions of people are gearing up at this very moment to celebrate the glories of physical strength and skill on display at the Winter Olympics. Most of which, any true athlete will tell you, depends heavily on spiritual strengths.  Not just a proclivity for the cold.  Or for the gold.

Millions of people are starving their bodies at this very moment,  injecting them or subjecting them to surgical intervention – in order to conform to popular standards of health, beauty and competency.  Standards created by what?  Created by whom?  By an airbrush.   By someone hoping to get rich off of our self-loathing.

All of that, while millions (right beside us) lack the most basic, fundamental access to nutritional food, to clean water, to facts about how their bodies function, to the choices they should be able to make about their own bodies and to the healthcare they should be able to receive.

The bodies of millions are being fouled by addictions, bruised and bloodied by ignorance, and poisoned by the greed of corporations  claiming personhood!

What is wrong with this picture?

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Religious authority has to do with how you know WHAT you know to be true and just; what source informs your actions.  

Depending upon the religious context in which you find yourself, the answer could be as simple as “tradition is my guide – I do this because this is what we have always done.”  

Religious contexts built upon the tradition of “hierarchical authority” would have you navigate the world according to the dictates of its current governing body – in which case you might point to your Priest, Guru, Rabbi or Council as the ultimate source of truth and meaning in your life.  

Those contexts built upon “sacred texts” would have you find the answers to all of life’s quandries within words (including related commentaries) passed down through the generations.  

Generally one source of religious authority is stressed over the others, proclaimed universally applicable and infallible – yet these three sources are often interwoven, reinforcing one another.

Unitarian Universalist history was and continues to be shaped by the insistence that human beings should be free ALSO to draw upon:

1.  their own life experiences (including their ability to apply reason to what is experienced or learned),  and

2. to question authority (its source, its ability to withstand rational scrutiny, as well as its use or abuse of power).

Another critical source for Unitarian Universalists, one that should not be underestimated, is that of the covenanted beloved community:  committed to encouraging the spiritual growth of its members through shared exploration of life’s mysteries and truths, and governed via democratic principles.  

How often, after reading sacred texts and commentaries, after exploring tradition and perspectives on truth passed down by “authorities”, after having my own mystical experiences and insights, have I found myself pivot toward an entirely different perspective by virtue of conversation with a fellow UU (colleague or congregant).

We have much to learn from one another and to offer one another, as we seek to know what is true and just, and to live accordingly!


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A Co-Creation Story

The first man, Adam, made of the dust of the earth and placed within a garden of earthly delights (so the story goes), was free to wander beneath the starry skies and among all God’s creatures, wild and wonderful.  

He was free to explore, to fill his belly, to sleep, to marvel and wonder.  And so he did.  Until there arose within him, and his helpmate, a yearning for more.  

The time came, when it was not enough to exist.  It was not enough, to have been given eyes to see the gold of morning,  and ears with which to hear the song of dusk.  It was not enough, to trace with outstretched hand the dance of  falling rain, or smell the musk of the earth.

The time came, when it was not enough to glorify that which had been created by another.

For within him, created of the dust of the earth, something stirred, singing songs, pure, bitter and so sweet; painting stories on the wind.

Straining to hear, straining to see, every muscle taut like the strings of a harp, he reached out and took in his hands the future.  The future, in the shape of an apple.

He and she both. 

And so began the story of  “co-creation”.

(excerpt from sermon presented at Uuofscv 01/05/14)




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Solstice Poem – 2013

We’ve woken from the darkest night

To seek within this day – delight!

Be welcomed, you, who’ve journeyed here,

Lending now, your eye and ear!


The paths you’ve walked, and trails you’ve blazed!

Here, they cannot be – but praised!

The landscapes crossed along the way,

They live within you – they’re here, today!


The stars above, that “seem” so still

They journey too!  Their paths fulfill!

Ever moving through the skies

Their patterns and their paths – surprise!


So discovered, long ago,

the ancestors, who sought to know –

The answers to life’s mysteries,

The secrets of the flowers and trees!


The reason, both, for love and pain,

the call of sacred and mundane!

Was found upon life’s turning wheel,

The seasons, and the stars’ ordeal!


“As above then, so below”

Said the ancients, long ago!

The stars, they travel – so must we!

That is plain enough to see!


From day to night, and night to day,

We wander on, and make our way –

Pilgrims on a stardust trail,

The gift we bring?  Our journey’s tale!

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