Friday, February 29, 2008
But the choices that she has made in this primary season are wrecking that admiration. This "win at all costs" attitude is not something I value.
I understand that she feels desperate. But I thought that we, as Democrats, were above playing the fear card.
Her latest commercial ... vote for Hillary or your sweet sleeping children will die ... is nauseating.
Molly Ivins got there before I did, in the column, Not. backing. Hillary: "Enough. Enough triangulation, calculation and equivocation."
Yeah. What she said.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
JOHNNY LINGO'S 8-COW WIFE
By Patricia McGerr
When I sailed to Kiniwata, an island in the Pacific, I took along a notebook. After I got back it was filled with descriptions of flora and fauna, native customs and costume. But the only note that still interests me is the one that says: "Johnny Lingo gave eight cows to Sarita’s father." And I don’t need to have it in writing. I’m reminded of it every time I see a woman belittling her husband or a wife withering under her husband’s scorn. I want to say to them, "You should know why Johnny Lingo paid eight cows for his wife."
Johnny Lingo wasn’t exactly his name. But that’s what Shenkin, the manager of the guest house on Kiniwata, called him. Shenkin was from Chicago and had a habit of Americanizing the names of the islanders. But Johnny was mentioned by many people in many connections. If I wanted to spend a few days on the neighboring island of Nurabandi, Johnny Lingo would put me up. If I wanted to fish he could show me where the biting was best. If it was pearls I sought, he would bring the best buys. The people of Kiniwata all spoke highly of Johnny Lingo. Yet when they spoke they smiled, and the smiles were slightly mocking.
"Get Johnny Lingo to help you find what you want and let him do the bargaining," advised Shenkin. "Johnny knows how to make a deal." "Johnny Lingo! A boy seated nearby hooted the name and rocked with laughter. "What goes on?" I demanded. "everybody tells me to get in touch with Johnny Lingo and then breaks up. Let me in on the joke." "Oh, the people like to laugh," Shenkin said, shruggingly. "Johnny's the brightest, the strongest young man in the islands, And for his age, the richest." "But if he’s all you say, what is there to laugh about?" "Only one thing. Five months ago, at fall festival, Johnny came to Kiniwata and found himself a wife. He paid her father eight cows!
I knew enough about island customs to be impressed. Two or three cows would buy a fair-to-middling wife, four or five a highly satisfactory one. "Good Lord!" I said, "Eight cows! She must have beauty that takes your breath away." "She’s not ugly," he conceded, and smiled a little. "But the kindest could only call Sarita plain.
Sam Karoo, her father, was afraid she’d be left on his hands." "But then he got eight cows for her? Isn’t that extraordinary?" "Never been paid before." "Yet you call Johnny’s wife plain?" "I said it would be kindness to call her plain. She was skinny. She walked with her shoulders hunched and her head ducked. She was scared of her own shadow." "Well," I said, "I guess there’s just no accounting for love." "True enough," agreed the man. "And that’s why the villagers grin when they talk about Johnny. They get special satisfaction from the fact that the sharpest trader in the islands was bested by dull old Sam Karoo."
"But how?" "No one knows and everyone wonders. All the cousins were urging Sam to ask for three cows and hold out for two until he was sure Johnny’d pay only one. Then Johnny came to Sam Karoo and said, ‘Father of Sarita, I offer eight cows for your daughter.’" "Eight cows," I murmured. "I’d like to meet this Johnny Lingo." "And I wanted fish. I wanted pearls. So the next afternoon I beached my boat at Nurabandi. And I noticed as I asked directions to Johnny’s house that his name brought no sly smile to the lips of his fellow Nurabandians. And when I met the slim, serious young man, when he welcomed me with grace to his home, I was glad that from his own people he had respect unmingled with mockery. We sat in his house and talked. Then he asked, "You come here from Kiniwata?" "Yes." "They speak of me on that island?" "They say there’s nothing I might want they you can’t help me get." He smiled gently. "My wife is from Kiniwata." "Yes, I know." "They speak of her?" "A little." "What do they say?" "Why, just..." The question caught me off balance. "They told me you were married at festival time." "Nothing more?" The curve of his eyebrows told me he knew there had to be more. They also say the marriage settlement was eight cows." I paused. "They wonder why." "They ask that?" His eyes lightened with pleasure. "Everyone in Kiniwata knows about the eight cows?" I nodded. "And in Nurabandi everyone knows it too." His chest expanded with satisfaction. "Always and forever, when they speak of marriage settlements, it will be remembered that Johnny Lingo paid eight cows for Sarita." So that’s the answer, I thought: vanity.
And then I saw her. I watched her enter the room to place flowers on the table. She stood still a moment to smile at the young man beside me. Then she went swiftly out again. She was the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. The lift of her shoulders, the tilt of her chin the sparkle of her eyes all spelled a pride to which no one could deny her the right. I turned back to Johnny Lingo and found him looking at me. "You admire her?" he murmured. "She...she’s glorious. But she’s not Sarita from Kiniwata," I said.
"There’s only one Sarita. Perhaps she does not look the way they say she looked in Kiniwata." "She doesn’t. I heard she was homely. They all make fun of you because you let yourself be cheated by Sam Karoo." "You think eight cows were too many?" A smile slid over his lips. "No. But how can she be so different?" "Do you ever think," he asked, "what it must mean to a woman to know that her husband has settled on the lowest price for which she can be bought? And then later, when the women talk, they boast of what their husbands paid for them. One says four cows, another maybe six. How does she feel, the woman who was sold for one or two?" This could not happen to my Sarita."
"Then you did this just to make your wife happy?" "I wanted Sarita to be happy, yes. But I wanted more than that. You say she is different This is true. Many things can change a woman. Things that happen inside, things that happen outside. But the thing that matters most is what she thinks about herself. In Kiniwata, Sarita believed she was worth nothing. Now she knows she is worth more than any other woman in the islands." "Then you wanted -" "I wanted to marry Sarita. I loved her and no other woman." "But —" I was close to understanding. "But," he finished softly, "I wanted an eight-cow wife."
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
I'm a big proponent of dinner around the kitchen table, but tonight, this is what I would have missed:
LW (now 2 1/2), going over to her big brother (11 1/2), taking his plate out of his hands, and making him dance with her to "I Just Want to Be Your Everything."
What's wrong with our UU churches? we ask. Is it our liturgy, our music, our communities?
Well, based on my observances of 2 born-and-raised UU's, who still identify as UU's (my brother and sister), the issue is not about "our." It's not about our liturgy, our music, our sermons, etc.
It's about church, period.
And there's no rejection, no big issue. They just don't see why it's necessary.
So ... Brother is 50. Extremely successful, professionally. Doesn't really read books on spirituality or philosophy.
Sister is 54. Living a blue-collar life, and is a voracious reader about spirituality, especially new-agey things, like Jane Roberts.
Me: 38. Seminary student to become a UU minister.
All raised UU. All identify as UU. BIG DIFFERENCE: I'm the only one with kids.
I'm sure you've all heard the joke about what's a UU? An atheist with children. There's a grain of truth in that. Children have a way of getting us around to doing some of the things we've always meant to do.
Anyway, before we start fussing and fretting about how we do church, we have to address Why Should You Go To Church?
I mean ... a piping hot carafe of coffee, the Sunday paper, Meet-the-News-Nation-Sunday, a flaky danish, cuddly robe ...
I'm sorry, and my point was ?
Ah yes. Why you should leave all that and come to church on Sunday.
Community? Well, I love my community, but they'd all be strangers to Brother and Sister. And as far as they know, they get their need for fellowship met elsewhere.
Sermon? As far as they know, there's no life-changing message ... they find their inspiration in other places.
Music? As far as they know, there's much better music available in their CD collection. Oooh, or maybe going to a jazz brunch.
Sunday morning is prime real estate. Any weekend hours are. So to ask them to sacrifice that time to go to church ... well, as far as they know, there's just not enough time in the weekend. There's not enough value in it. As far as they know.
Now ... I harbor the sneaky suspicion that just like so many of us who walked into church that first day "for the kids" and wound up staying, becoming a small group facilitator, joining the Men's Group, agreeing to be Board president, finding transformation ... I think that if they took that first step, odds are, they'd take a second. And a third. And if they didn't ... well, that's a topic about our.
But first, we have to convince them why church. Because as far as they know ... they don't know much about church.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Alexandra in the Little Foxes. The Baroness in The Sound of Music (hey, in the stage play, she gets two songs.) Ouisa in Six Degrees of Separation.
Oh, I was lucky. Nothing huge, small productions, mostly for high school or university ... but I was blessed to play these roles, these acting roles that have shaped me, in one way or another.
In college, while I was in Little Foxes, I had my breakthrough moment. I looked around at my classmates, my castmates and realized ... these are the kinds of people I will be around my whole life. These are the kinds of people I will be.
They were fine people, but the whole process of training for the stage was so self-focused ... it is a rare person, I believe, who manages to be an actor who is not self-involved. The training, the auditions ... it's all about you. Your instrument. Your motivation.
And it's also not you. It's about becoming something other than yourself. And convincing someone that you can be exactly what they have already envisioned. Who Do You Want Me To Be?
I decided to get an English major. And become a writer.
"You'll be back," my advisor smiled at me. "You have the talent. You have the dream."
I don't say this to brag. I say this to show that sometimes, people who think they know you ... don't.
I didn't go back. Part of it, too, was that I knew I wanted the white picket fence. I wanted children and a husband to love me. I wanted a life more ordinary.
I got my English degree, and I became a writer, of sorts, first writing corporate materials, and then national advertising, and then websites.
And now ... sermons. But that's another conversation.
I got my life more ordinary and discovered that it was far richer than anything I could ever have imagined.
But I have to admit ... each year, watching the Tony's, or the Oscars ... okay, there was a teeny-weenie-tiny part of me that looked back wistfully.
This year, for the first time ever, I am watching the Oscars, and not even feeling the teensiest bit wistful.
During my time in marketing/advertising, I had the opportunity of going to LA for a photo shoot.
I am an extremely friendly, somewhat touchy-feely person . But I'll tell ya, the first time I was kissed on the cheek by someone I barely knew ... WEIRD, I tell ya.
I am so incredibly blessed, now. I get to spend time thinking about Meaning, with a capital M. I get to be around my beloved Unitarian Universalists, and though I have been known to refer to us as "freakin' Unitarians!" ... after yet another experience of the need for a financially strapped congregation to build a bathroom for blind transgender non-existent visitors ... this is my tribe. These are my people. And our hearts are so, so, so, in the right place ...
My path has been curvy. It likely will continue to be so. I had a dream last week that I was driving my car (minivan) on the freeway and the freeway suddenly went up up up and became steep steep steep until it was straight up and down. I pushed the accelerator down to the floor and realized that I was in completely the wrong vehicle to take this particular road. My car couldn't go forward. It stopped moving forward and began to free fall backwards ...
No mystery there. I am a mother of 4. How on earth am I going to do an internship?
I step out in faith. I step out in faith knowing that there are many other individuals who stepped out in faith, who possess an M.Div and a whole lot of debt, but have never been ordained ...
And still, I step out in faith.
And this year, watching the Academy Awards ... there was not an iota of envy. Of The Road Not Traveled.
Hey, I still (as this post proves) have my moments of self-involvement. But I'm in a world that says, Okay ... but now what are you going to do to win your victory for mankind?
No matter what happens, I am content with the road I am on. No, more than that.
I am happy.
I won't get into the issue of whether Joys/Sorrows should ever be in a service. People on both sides, strong opinions, absolutely convinced they're right. All I'm saying is that it wasn't working for us. Same three people standing up or occasionally one member who would hijack the service, which led to no one wanting to share.
On top of that, we had several members wanting a quiet beginning to the worship service, as opposed to a chatting, gabbing entry into the sanctuary.
Enter, "Morning Blessings."
Here's how it works:
15 minutes before the service begins, those who want to, gather in the sanctuary. There is an usher outside the doors to gently shush anyone coming in and explain the ritual. We have a small table upfront with tealight candles in holders. One "lighting" candle is lit, so that members may use a long match to catch the flame, then light a candle. The facilitator, in a modulated voice:
So far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive, of those who partake. I've had one person say she misses joys/sorrows in the service (her complaint is that she wants 'critical mass' to be present), but I've had many more say that they love morning blessings, that they normally wouldn't say anything in j/s, but since they know that the only people present are those who want to be there, they feel comfortable speaking. And several who enjoy the quiet before the service begins.
Good morning. Welcome to this time of community and contemplation, where we may share the joys and the sorrows going on in our lives.
Enjoy the experience of sitting in restorative silence until you are moved to speak. Please allow a few breaths of silence after a person speaks, so that we may focus our attention and energy on his or her concern.
(some people get up and light a candle. Some light a candle and speak. Some stay in their chair and speak.)
Let us pause to dwell inward. Spirit of Life, please meet us where we are, in our struggles and challenges, our happiness and sorrow. It is right that we pause to remember everyone, known and unknown, including ourselves, who need love and support; who are ill or in pain, either in body or in spirit; who are lonely or have been wronged. Let us open our minds and hearts to a place of quiet, to a silent prayer for the healing of pain, and the soft, gentle coming of love. Let us observe a moment of silence and let our thoughts be with those who have spoken or been spoken about, here this morning. (We wait about a minute, then close with Amen, Blessed Be, etc.)
So, it's still too early to call ... but so far, it seems good. And in general, once someone comes for Morning Blessings, they keep coming. So the challenge now is to convince members to get up 15 minutes earlier ...
*For those not familiar with the term: Joys and Sorrows or Joys and Concerns refers to the time in the worship service when members are invited to stand up and share the major events in their lives.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
So, hep me? If you had a team of dedicated, highly motivated folks who wanted to create great worship experiences, what would you have them think about? Question?
Give me your ideas. Much thanks. Mwah, mwah.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
God Wants You to Have Sex
An openly edgy Christian church in Ybor City is launching what they're calling a 30-Day Sex Challenge to help members improve their relationships and rediscover themselves.
Single folks are to abstain from sex for 30 days, even if they are in a committed relationship. Married folks, on the other hand, are supposed to have sex every day for 30 days...
"Of course, all the guys say it's genius," said Pastor Paul Wirth. "The married women think we're out of our minds."
Friday, February 15, 2008
It's not just about the issue of parenting. I mean, I am not one of those parents who thinks you must wrap everything in cotton-wool for the children, or that they must allowed to express their creativity (crayons on the walls?) in any way they see fit. But these parents are egregiously self-centered.
And I think that's more the issue. Ms. Theologian talks about the narcissistic system she sees in these parents.
Yeah. And it has me thinking about religion. Our religion. And what we are here for.
My contention is simple. I think we're here to save souls. Not from hell after death, but from that hell that was described in the NY Times article. A hell where "meaning" comes from having a Noguchi coffee table. A hell for the children wherein the punishment for not carefully holding the railing of the beautiful floating staircase is to plummet to the floor.
I know that I am idealistic. I know that it is quite possible that some of those parents mentioned go to church. Perhaps they even go to a UU church. (Inside, my heart cries, "Noooooo!")
I believe that we can save souls. I believe that if we provide dynamic religious education and worship services and covenant groups and opportunities to serve, that our children -- and adults, for that matter -- will search for meaning in books, conversation, nature, experiences...
Proverbs 22:6 says that if you train a child in the way he should go, when he is old he will not turn from it. Well, thank God that isn't true, or we'd have some empty pews, wouldn't we?
Like most -- if not all -- UU's, I agree with Channing that our goal is to stir up young minds, not stamp our imprint on them. I like to believe that if we encourage a person to stir their mind, they will continue to seek meaning ... and not in buying Shantung draperies.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
I hope he took them to someone whose heart goes pitter-pat when he walks in the room.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
I got a taste of this today. Bo Peep is sweet and serene the vast majority of the time. But a few times a year, it's necessary for her to ... well, to completely lose her ever-loving-mind, as my mama used to say. Kind of like when your computer goes all wonky because it needs a reboot.
We live a half mile from the elementary school. Beautiful day, so I walked up to get them. We had barely left, when Peep began pulling back hard on the stroller. As if she wanted me to not only push the stroller home, but also drag her. This isn't unusual, so I just reminded her not to do that, as I often do.
Complete freak out.
Yanking back on the stroller, pulling on me, yelling, crying, oh, you name it. Kicking, screaming ... and refusing to walk.
I finally just plunked myself down on the sidewalk, told The Princess to take the stroller and walk on ahead, and told Bo Peep that it was fine, we'd just wait there til she was ready to be good. "Are you ready to be good?" "NO!" she hollered. I pulled out my iPod and put the buds in my ears. Stretched my face out to the warm sun.
"Are you ready to be good?" "NO!!!"
"Are you ready to be good?" "NO!!!"
Helpful Mom #1 stopped her minivan near us and leaned out to find out if I needed any help, or a ride. She was afraid perhaps I was ill or something. I thanked her for her kindness. She drove on.
"Are you ready to be good?" "NO!!!"
I like my iPod.
"Waaaah, you haaaaate me!"
I resisted the urge to explain that if I didn't love her and her siblings to the depth of my being, I would have thrown them in a volcano years ago.
We walk hand in hand a few yards. She continues wailing about how I don't love her, I haaaate her, I think she's a big dummy head, I'm going to burn her with fire, etc. I just walk, silently.
She throws herself down on the ground again. I wait. Eventually she gets up and we walk on. This repeats a few times. During one of those times, I just walk forward and go sit on the curb. A gaggle of kids come by and try to ask her what's wrong. She screams at them. Then Helpful Mom #2, walking home, stops and tries to comfort her and find out what's wrong. I call out, "Hi, I'm the mom, I'm right here."
She walks up and says, "She said her Mom is mad at her."
"Yup, pretty much," I say. She smiles sympathetically at me.
Helpful Mom #3 stops her minivan and asks if her son can walk to the corner with The Princess. Sure. (Little Warrior is sleeping in her stroller through all of this.)
I walk back over to Bo Peep. She has stopped her fit. I just want to get home. I hold her hand and we walk home. Now she is crying that she's a dumb, dumb, dummy.
During all of this, we've had Not Helpful Child #1, a classmate of The Princess, walking along beside me, offering her views on the whole situation, and that she can't understand why Bo Peep is acting like this, she never would. "What would your Mom do if you acted this way?" I ask. "She'd spank me on my BARE BOTTOM."
(We don't spank ... but I have to admit to having a little evil feeling of happiness that the girl said this where Peep could hear. Yeah, there is evil is this here mama.)
Anyway, we are home now. Bo Peep is lying in my bed, where I'm about to go have a talk about What Is Appropriate Behavior When Walking Home.
The Helpful People did nothing wrong. (Unless a Helpful Person called CPS because I just really don't have the time for it, right now ...)
But they didn't actually help in any way. So when I think about you mamas (and daddies) who have to deal with this on a regular basis, when you go out in public ... I'm sorry. And I'll try to be careful about not being helpfully unhelpful, myself.
UU Blog Awards
And I appreciate the acknowledgment -- the nominations for this blog were a thrill. Whether you vote or not, go read some of the nominated blogs and posts. These people are mad talented, I tell ya.
Monday, February 11, 2008
Am I completely wrong? This deep feeling of love in my heart that I feel connects us all, call it God ...
I was interrupted from my thoughts by a bright yellow light flashing on my right side, coming from behind. It was so bright, I jumped, and craned my neck, to find out where was the car that was pulling me over.
There was no car. But the light continued. FLASH! FLASH! FLASH!
I craned again, trying to see where the emergency vehicle was.
And then I realized .... through the dark grey evening, the bright sun had come through a small hole in the clouds, and because it had dropped, the sun was being blocked by buildings as I went past. Flash. Flash. Flash.
I had never seen anything quite like it, and I settled back in my seat, a bit in wonder.
Lighting streaked through the sky in front of , bright against the dark grey of the direction I was headed.
"Well, that's something," I said to myself. "Bright yellow light on my right, dark sky with lightning in front."
It felt like a message from ... well, from God. To come right at that time. An affirmation. I wondered, will I remember this moment? Or will it, in a few months time, just fade away ...
Lightning struck again, and then --
To the left of me, a giant, full spectrum, brilliant rainbow appeared. I turned my head slightly and saw that it was a complete half rainbow, with no break, going from one side to the other. It's been years since I've seen one of those.
I ... well, I'll admit it. I burst into a bit of laughter mixed with tears, a not uncommon response from me in times of profound spiritual emotion.
I understand that this isn't just completely random ... sun and rain and a rainbow appearing are, naturally, hooked together.
But one of the things that has stayed with me, from my time in the pagan world, is that just because something is natural ... doesn't mean it's not magic.
And to God ... hey, thanks for the gift tonight.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Sex and The Sanctuary
Let’s talk about sex, Baby! Preparing for this sermon took a lot of time. No, no, no, no double entendres. A lot of brainstorming time. See, I wanted a title that stood a chance of getting a good turnout. But I wanted to talk about canvass. I knew that if I stood here and simply said, “Ha, fooled you, Bait and Switch!” the safety of my physical being would be in jeopardy. So, how the heck to do I pull together such disparate subjects.
I tried talking about it with my husband. His suggestion for the sermon title was “Paying for Sex, How to Fund the Church of Our Dreams.” So he wasn’t much help.
I spoke with my two of my friends. One pointed out that making love and giving to our beloved church are similar in that both give a gift to both the recipient and the giver. “I just can’t make that sound family friendly,” I told her.
The other friend told me the joke about the couple who wanted to fly United on their honeymoon, but Southwest wouldn't let them. Not very helpful. She did, however, provide the title for this sermon, as she’s apparently been watching Sex and the City reruns on tv. She’s pretty frisky for a septuagenarian.
It sounds like a joke, and I’m sure we could come up with many naughty answers to the question “What do sex and money have in common?” We can discuss that afterwards in Corner Forum.
But here’s the two main commonalities: Number one, both sex and money are vitally important. They are both a source of life. In order for the human species to exist, there must be sex. And in order for our church to exist, there must be money.
Of course, that’s not the start and end of it. Love is a vital component in both. Our Religious Education Chair, BFF-DRE, learned this in Catholic Sunday school, when her teacher taught that having sex just to have sex is like, rather than eating a delicious chocolate cake, just eating the raw ingredients. A bite of flour, a bite of butter...not the same thing at all.
Having sex with someone you love, but before you're married--well, that's like eating cake batter. It lacks the warmth and the texture of a real cake.
Sex once you're married, that's a rich chocolate cake, freshly baked. Mmm!
And best of all, sex for procreation, that's that rich chocolate cake, with a splendid fudge frosting.
Of course, this is where the Unitarians start thinking things like, “Actually, I like the cake batter the best,” and “Frosting is just too sweet for me,” and “Okay, now is the cake vegan?” Not to mention the “I prefer pie,” people.
But, my point and I do have one … sex with love is great, and many would argue, superior to sex without love. Well, giving to the church is a lot like that. It just flat out means more when there is love behind it. It’s not like paying the light bill. Electricity is very important to me, highly necessary, but I don’t feel warm and nurturing when I write out a check to the electric company. I do, when our church is on the recipient line. This church nurtures and sustains me and one of the ways that I nurture and sustain my beloved community is with money.
I remember the year we joined this church and hearing the word “canvass.” It was a term unfamiliar to me, as it may be for some of you new to our congregation. So, “Mommy, what is canvass?”
Well, dear, it’s like this … when a person and a church love each other very much … they both want to express that love by doing wonderful things. They want to put on interesting, informative worship services; they want to have a vibrant religious education program and they want to make the world a better place. Canvass is a time when people from the congregation go out and talk to other people from the congregation to find out what their dreams for the church are. A lot of the vision for the church comes from these conversations.
“But Mommy, I heard that people pledge when they canvass. How do you do that?”
Well, dear, a pledge is a promise of what each member and friend of the congregation is going to give to it, monetarily, during the next year. You can always change it later, if necessary, but it gives our treasurers a good idea of what we can budget for, and what dreams we can make come true.”
“Mommy, what’s a treasurer and a budget?”
Go ask your father.
Talking about Sex and Money
And that brings me to the other big thing that sex and money have in common – they’re both difficult to talk about. Now, to be fair, when talking about sex, I sometimes feel like giggling … and I never feel that way when talking about money. It would probably be more pleasant if I would. We often use euphemisms when talking about sex – getting some, getting a bite … the whole chocolate cake thing is making more sense to me. Same with money – moola, dough, cheese … I think I need to write a sermon about food.
Anyone with children … or anyone with parents for that matter, knows how challenging it can be to talk about sex. Trying to find the right words, trying to talk in generalities, purely as a hypothetical … I had to talk about this subject with my firstborn a little earlier than most. That’s one of those things that comes up when you’re pregnant four times.
So, his father and I answered our son’s questions. Then I heard about some books that were being banned up north in Northern County, books that happened to be part of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s sex ed course, Our Whole Lives. Of course, I ordered them. The books are called It’s So Amazing and It’s Perfectly Normal and they’re great and exhaustive. They talk about both heterosexuality and homosexuality, how babies are made – you may even learn something yourself. I recommend them.
Well, our little bookworm liked them, too. When we met up with my parents and my siblings for a Thanksgiving weekend, he brought them along. When it was time for bed, he said, “Okay, but let me get my ‘Sex’ books to read.” I didn’t know that my brother’s head could actually spin all the way around.
Even as adults, talking to each other, sex remains one of those things you can kid about, but not really talk about. And if we do, we’re often staring down at our shoes. And when someone does broach the topic, in personal terms, our instinctive response is often TMI, or “Too Much Information.” There are just things you don’t talk about, and sex is one of them.
And the other, is, of course, money. In fact, curiously, money seems to be even more of a forbidden topic than sex. Friends (usually women, my husband swears men never talk about sex with their friends) who will tell each other very intimate details about their sex lives, have no idea what the other one makes. We feel like there’s so much baggage that comes along with it. If I don’t make as much as you do, you might see me as not being as successful as you, or if I make more than you, that’s uncomfortable, too. Power is so wrapped up in money. There’s often the feeling among friends that the person with the most money is the person with the most power. And those who have more money may feel slightly ashamed – especially if you’re liberal. Both the person making $200,000 a year and the person making $30,000 a year have worked darned hard for the money.
All these feelings about money can make canvassing in a church community a tricky challenge. On one hand, that money is needed, and those who sacrifice so that they can give a little more should be appreciated. On the other hand, there shouldn’t be the impression that money is appreciated more than hard work. On the other hand, we shouldn’t act like giving money is nothing – it can represent pinching pennies, foregoing that new sofa so the church can have new curtains. On the other hand, usually those who are able to give more money don’t want it to be known that the money came from them.
Here’s a bit of shocking information: there are some UU churches that are completely open about their canvass … the amount pledged by each member is actually posted. I know, I know … what next, I get every couple to turn in a monthly report of how many times they’ve made love and how? And, inconceivable to most of us, there are churches such as the one my Mormon friend goes to, where you actually turn in your income tax statement, so as to prove that you’ve given your full tithe – 10% -- to the church. YIKES.
I’m not going to request that you announce publicly what you pledge, but there is a place you need to talk about it – in the home. A question that parents deal with is how much you should talk about sex with your children and at what age. Giving to the church is just like this. You need to be open with your children about canvass, otherwise they’re going to pick up information about it on the streets. “I heard that $5 a week is what the other guys are giving.” “I heard that you can’t get pregnant the first time you pledge.” Kids really mix things up.
It is said that you can tell what a person’s values are by peeking into their checkbook. Mine would definitely show a fondness for coffee and chocolate, but hopefully it also indicates a love for liberal religion in the form of this, my beloved church.
I said that power is so wrapped up in money … well, obviously power is all wrapped up in sex or maybe it’s the other way around. It hasn’t even been two years since the Supreme Court ruled that what happens between two consenting adults in the privacy of their own bedroom is their business, not the state’s. In writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said, "The petitioners are entitled to respect for their private lives. The state cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime."
That’s great and I cheered when the decision came down, but really, doesn’t it seem ridiculous that we had to wait until 2003 for the government to be told it can’t be a part of something so basic? Deciding who you will share your body with … your body … there’s only one person who should ever be able to make that decision and it is you. The state should have no stake in that. Of course, before 1873 you could get capital punishment for certain types of sex acts – even between married couples. Now, I’m not saying that the Religious Right wants to bring that back …
Sex, Money and Religion
Sex has always been a part of religion. From the Church of England’s “Book of Common Prayer” come the wedding vows, “With this ring, I thee wed, with my body, I thee worship.” It is interesting to note that the Puritans in England petitioned to have that one phrase removed … with my body, I thee worship. And indeed, it is no longer a part of the American Lutheran or Episcopal services.
In a sermon given at Pathways UU Church, Rev. Anthony David wrote:
Hindu and Christian traditions both emphasize that if we do not know the gospel in our bodies, we will never know it. They both talk about how God takes on human form and all that it means to be human, and the implication here is revolutionary: that the world of nature and the body is a form in which the highest values can be known and loved: beauty, compassion, justice, forgiveness, peace. Even when things are painful, or difficult, or confusing, we can know that Creation is worthy of our trust and that our bodies are worthy of trust. They aren’t distractions from all things spiritual but ordinary places where we might make amazing discoveries about the Holy and the Sacred.
So, that gives a pretty good answer to “Why Have Sex?”
So, “Why Pledge Generously to this church?”
In the words of John B. Wolf, Minister Emeritus, All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, OK:
"There is only one reason for being part of a Unitarian Universalist Church and that is to support it. You want to support it because it stands against superstition and fear. Because this church points to what is noblest and best in human life. Because it is open to men and women of whatever race, creed, color, place of origin or sexual orientation.
You want to support a UU church because it has a free pulpit. Because you can hear ideas there that would cost any other minister his or her job. You want to support it because it is a place where your children are not saddled with guilt or terrified of some celestial peeping Tom, where they can learn that religion for joy, for comfort, for gratitude and love.
You want to support it because it is a place where walls between people are torn down rather than built-up. Because it is a place for the religious displaced persons of our time, the refugees from mixed marriages, the unwanted free thinkers and those who insist against orthodoxy that they must work out their own beliefs.
You want to support a UU church because it is more concerned with human beings than with dogmas. Because it searches for the holy rather than seeking out the depraved. Because it calls no one a sinner, yet knows how deep is the struggle in each person's breast and how great is the hunger for what is good.
You want to support a UU church because it can laugh. Because it stands for something in a day when religion is still more concerned with platitudes than with prejudice and war. You want to support it not because it buys you some insurance policy towards your funeral service, but because it insults neither your intelligence nor your conscience and because it calls you to what is truly worthy of your sacrifice. There is only one real reason to be part of a UU church: to support it to the fullest extent with your time, talent and treasure..."
Sex and money … complicated things.
There are, I am told, sex therapists. Coincidentally, there are also canvass therapists. At General Assembly two years ago, I met with one of those canvass therapists and learned many things, the main item being “people don’t pledge to pay the light bill, they pledge to fund dreams.”
So, during this canvass time, think about your dreams. Dream big, knowing that together, we can change the world, and definitely our little corner of it.
Just as it is for sex, sometimes canvass can have unexpected consequences. In our church, we’ve had at least one case where canvassing someone ultimately led to marriage. So, you can just never tell what surprises canvass might have in store for you. Especially now that connected in your brain are canvass and sex.
Lastly, I leave you with the words of theologian Tina Turner:
There's a name for it
There's a phrase that fits
But whatever the reason
You do it for me
What's love got to do, got to do with it
What's love but a sweet old fashioned notion
Love has everything to do with it. Whether you’re talking sex or canvass. And after the service, please join us in the fellowship area for three different kinds of chocolate cake. That’s not a euphemism, there’s real chocolate cake out there.
If they're conservative, they preach about when, why and who ... should not be having sex. Abstinence, gays, and youth, oh my.
If they're liberal, they preach about orientation diversity.
But who is preaching about making love?
As usual, I have more questions than answers. Let me state unequivocally that I don't advocate a service of interpretive dance based on the Kama Sutra for your March intergenerational service.
First of all, is there a need to speak about healthy lovemaking?
I contend, yes. Heck, even Newsweek is running cover articles about the dearth of sex in married life. And from talking to friends, this epidemic doesn't seem to be limited to heterosexual couples.
Sex is a gift. It's our way to connect, to show love, to seek comfort, to affirm your coupleness. To "know" each other in a way that others don't. It is life-affirming and life-giving. It is simultaneously our most animal and our most transcendental act.
"But there's kids in our services!"
Yup. And I think it's fine -- nay, good -- for kids to get little hints about healthy lovin'.
Our children are over-sexualized at an early age by tv/movies/videos/ads/etc. But this has nothing to do with healthy, adult, committed, physical love.
Seeing Dad pat Mom on the butt every now and then or catching sight of Mom planting a big old kiss on Dad is setting up the framework for "this is what love is."
So, what's the preaching equivalent of a pop on the butt?
Treating sex as something that is not Voldemort is a start. "The thing which must not be named." "Making love." We can say it. Drop it in, in appropriate places. "We're so busy today ... time with family, time meditating, time making love, all of these take a backseat to ..."
We are sexual beings. Sexuality is a huge part of romantic relationships. I don't think we should hold off speaking about until it's in the confines of couples counseling.
Friday, February 08, 2008
You don't have to adjust your blog categories to list this as an Obama fan site. Just wanted to post these words. I don't care who said them, they're a breath of fresh air. And good advice for many of us. Emphasis on the "me" part of "us."
"So let me end with just one other interaction I had during my campaign. A few days after I won the Democratic nomination in my U.S. Senate race, I received an email from a doctor at the University of Chicago Medical School that said the following:
"Congratulations on your overwhelming and inspiring primary win. I was happy to vote for you, and I will tell you that I am seriously considering voting for you in the general election. I write to express my concerns that may, in the end, prevent me from supporting you."
The doctor described himself as a Christian who understood his commitments to be "totalizing." His faith led him to a strong opposition to abortion and gay marriage, although he said that his faith also led him to question the idolatry of the free market and quick resort to militarism that seemed to characterize much of the Republican agenda.
But the reason the doctor was considering not voting for me was not simply my position on abortion. Rather, he had read an entry that my campaign had posted on my website, which suggested that I would fight "right-wing ideologues who want to take away a woman's right to choose." The doctor went on to write:
"I sense that you have a strong sense of justice...and I also sense that you are a fair minded person with a high regard for reason...Whatever your convictions, if you truly believe that those who oppose abortion are all ideologues driven by perverse desires to inflict suffering on women, then you, in my judgment, are not fair-minded....You know that we enter times that are fraught with possibilities for good and for harm, times when we are struggling to make sense of a common polity in the context of plurality, when we are unsure of what grounds we have for making any claims that involve others...I do not ask at this point that you oppose abortion, only that you speak about this issue in fair-minded words."
So I looked at my website and found the offending words. In fairness to them, my staff had written them using standard Democratic boilerplate language to summarize my pro-choice position during the Democratic primary, at a time when some of my opponents were questioning my commitment to protect Roe v. Wade.
Re-reading the doctor's letter, though, I felt a pang of shame. It is people like him who are looking for a deeper, fuller conversation about religion in this country. They may not change their positions, but they are willing to listen and learn from those who are willing to speak in fair-minded words. Those who know of the central and awesome place that God holds in the lives of so many, and who refuse to treat faith as simply another political issue with which to score points.
So I wrote back to the doctor, and I thanked him for his advice. The next day, I circulated the email to my staff and changed the language on my website to state in clear but simple terms my pro-choice position. And that night, before I went to bed, I said a prayer of my own - a prayer that I might extend the same presumption of good faith to others that the doctor had extended to me."Full Speech
Thursday, February 07, 2008
This promise came to us via Sesame Street and Free to Be You and Me and Dr. Seuss. It came to us through the writings of Judy Blume and Madeleine L'Engle. It was in our music.
It said that we are all one. And there is something loveable in all of us. And that if we just work together, we can accomplish anything. And that responding with love works. And we might not there yet ... but there's a dream. And we can make it real.
Our hearts have been broken, over the years. Disillusionment -- that's just life. Slowly, like all the generations before us, we became bitter. And cynical. Our first political memory was hearing our parents talk about something called Watergate. We read Alas Babylon in high school and wondered when it would be, that someone pressed The Big Red Button.
We got excited -- so excited -- about Clinton. Only to be mocked, later, as he, too, had feet of clay. We were made fools of.
And there was an election. And it was looking good. We were hopeful. And then the "grownups" stepped in and seemingly said, no, we get to decide.
And things got bad. Really bad. So much fear, misplaced anger ... we wanted out, we wanted to find our way back to Sesame Street, where people are treated with respect, and kindness. Surely, we could all band together and find our way ...
And we sat, in shock, as half the country said, We Prefer Meanness.
Well ... that's how it felt.
And we sat, confused, broken and said, "Really? Really, there's more of them than us?"
"So it was all just a fairytale? Goodness and mercy and love and kindness? It was all just a silly story told to children?"
And someone spoke up. Someone who had also grown up with The Promise. And he said that he didn't see a black America and a white America, he saw America. And he spoke about kindness to others and fairness for all. And dreams. And hope. And all of us working together. All of Us Working Together. And taking that promise and making it really, truly happen.
And to our broken, disillusioned hearts, he found that tiny bit of hope that we had squirreled away.
And he says, Yes. We can.
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
And I've watched all of my children. By about 3, they begin noticing everything. This person has curly hair, this person has red hair, this person has brown skin. And they have an appreciation for the differences, as anyone who has seen a toddler stroke the soft hair of another can attest.
But yesterday, I got my a-ha moment.
Color-blind and race-blind are two different things.
First, an earlier anecdote: The Princess (age 8) has a boyfriend, "Stan." I had been hearing about Stan for about a month. Apparently he thinks The Princess created the sun, so, hey, good man in my book. So this one day, I'm picking her up from school, and she points out the car window and says, "See, see, the boy in the green jacket??? That's Stan! That's my boyfriend."
Stan is a handsome little black boy, at that moment in a sea of white faces.
But the way she identified him was "the boy in the green jacket."
Well, about a month after that, she comes home, a little sad. Kids are teasing her and Stan. Eh, she's in 3rd grade, and that's when they tease you about having boyfriends and girlfriends. She shakes her head. "It's because he's," (she strokes the skin of her arm), "brown. And I'm ..."
"White?" I prompt.
She looks at me, a bit confused.
"Um, pink?" I ask.
"Peach," she says with the confidence of one who is arty and familiar with crayons.
Which brings us to last night ...
I was showing her the will.i.am "Yes We Can" video, and telling her a little about Obama, and why I like him. I mention that he's brown, too, like Stan.
She looks dubious. It's a black and white video. "He doesn't look brown."
"Well, we're all different shades of different colors," I say. "But people call him 'black' even though his skin isn't literally black ..."
She still looks confused, her forehead puckered. Suddenly, she sorts it out in her mind. A big smile appears. "Oh, you mean, he's like Pops!"
My dad is "white" but because he's spent 75% of his life outside, he's pretty dark.
Race-blind. Not color-blind.
Monday, February 04, 2008
They visited us back in the fall. They got home to discover a tiny stowaway ... a small green tree frog.
They are in the land of snow, and they knew it couldn't survive outside, so they brought it in and placed it in a houseplant.
4 months later, "Fwog" is doing well. They provide it with water and once a week, they drive into Albuquerque to purchase live crickets.
I don't know who these cute people are, but I assure you, they are not the people who raised me.
They will return here in March, and bring Fwog with them, to return him to his natural habitat. I will not be surprised if at that point, he velcroes himself to my mother. I mean, he's been hand-fed crickets.
I think it's time for my parents to get another dog.
Friday, February 01, 2008
Today, another mother is in the hospital, with her 7 week old daughter, who was just diagnosed with cancer. She is shattered. She is dizzy with it all, and with trying to figure out how she and her husband will deal with this. Who will be with the older children. Dad's work.
And the baby. Their precious, darling baby. Who just became a little warrior.
I know all this, because her friend found my post about breastfeeding a baby with cancer and contacted me.
And in a twist, the friend is UU, too. And then, even though we're across the country from each other, she knows friends of mine.
Total strangers. Connected via the internet. Connected via cancer. The interdependent web.
Whatever your spiritual practice ... prayer, holding in your thoughts, sending energy ... please do it, tonight. For "Baby Darling." And her family and friends.