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Category Archives: Minister’s Column

Love Notes: Reflections by Rev. Kelly Dignan

Kelly April 2015smallAncestry is our theme this month, and together we will explore what it means to be a people of ancestry. American writer, Ralph Ellison, says, “Some people are your relatives but others are your ancestors, and you choose the ones you want to have as ancestors. You create yourself out of those values.”

You may have some relatives whose legacy (and dysfunction) you are choosing to end. I know that’s true for me. But which of your relatives have you chosen as ancestors? They are the ones that had values you choose to carry on. They are the ones who blessed you.

People of ancestry look at their blessings and choose to see not only a gift, but also a responsibility. Simply put, ancestors pass on obligations. To be a people of ancestry means recognizing that something of value has been entrusted to you and that there is a long line of people behind you counting on you to pass it on.

And whether that expectation feels to you like a blessing or a burden, it most surely also reminds you that you are part of something larger. Ancestors don’t simply tell you that you are obligated; they tell you that you are obligated to something larger. And not just that you are obligated to it, but that it is dependent on you. Whether the story continues to be told is up to you! Whether the family tradition continues to be done is up to you!

Whether the native language continues to be taught to the children is up to you! Whether the family cycles of health are strengthened or the family cycles of dysfunction are stopped is up to you! Whether Unitarian Universalism lives on is up to you!

Ancestors plop these incomplete and intimidating endeavors in our laps and say, “We’ve done our part and taken it as far as we can. The next step of the journey is in your hands.” That, of course, means that our hands are connected. They handed the precious gift to us. We are asked to hand it on to those who follow. And they will hopefully continue the sacred chain.

And in the end, maybe it all boils down to that: seeing ourselves as part of a sacred chain. We are not small. Our lives are not insignificant or independent. Our choices are not without consequence to others. We are part of a story, not just a set of random happenings. Our choices connect the next link. Our choices pass on that which is precious and remind us we are preciously connected. This is what choosing to be a people of ancestry means. Let’s explore it this month!

Rev. Kelly

Here are some things to ponder:

  • Have you found your favorite UU ancestor? Do you know whose shoulders you stand on? How have you decided whose legacy you want to help live on? For help see: http://uudb.org/
  • What happened to that tradition you so loved as a kid? Why did you let it go? Is there a creative way to bring it back?  How does Thanksgiving need to change this year? What ritual or tradition needs brought back? What needs to go?

Videos:

  • Seeds of Our Ancestors, Seeds of Life by Winona LaDuke – TED talk about  ancestor relationships, sustainable development, renewable energy and food systems: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHNlel72eQc

Movies

  • The Descendants – http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/films/reviews/view/21868/the-descendants. Native islander Matt King (George Clooney) lives with his family in Hawaii. Their world shatters when a tragic accident leaves his wife in a coma. Not only must Matt struggle with the stipulation in his wife’s will that she be allowed to die with dignity, but he also faces pressure from relatives to sell their family’s enormous land trust.
  • Finding Your Roots – PBS Series – http://video.pbs.org/program/finding-your-roots/ Each episode of this series “journeys deep into the ancestry of a group of remarkable individuals … bound together by an intimate, sometimes hidden link.” The show “treks through layers of ancestral history, uncovers secrets and surprises … and shares life-altering discoveries.”

Books:

  • Deep Ancestry: Inside The Genographic Project by Spencer Wells
  • The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey by Spencer Wells

Love Notes – October 2015 – Rev. Kelly Dignan

woman leapingWhat Does It Mean To Be A People of Letting Go?

When cast into the depths, to survive, we must first let go of things that will not save us. Then we must reach out for the things that can. — Rev. Forrest Church

We cling. You name it, we’ve wrapped our grasping fingers and anxious hearts around it: success, safety, society’s standards of beauty, personal desires to be accepted, perfectionism, being right, duty, fear, grudges, hurts, hopes, stuff, shame and privilege. Whether the object of our grasping is good or bad is not truly the issue. It’s the grasping itself. That’s the real problem. Holding on too long and too tightly is never good for the soul. So our faith pleads with us, “Let it go!”

But here’s the twist: Our faith follows that up quickly with “Let it in!” This spiritual dance takes a two-step. As Forrest Church puts it, letting go must be followed up by reaching out. Or maybe it’s better to say opening up. Indeed, the tragedy of grasping so tightly is not simply that we anchor ourselves to that which burdens us, but that we end up shutting out that which is trying to save and feed us. Letting go is ultimately about letting in. It’s about making room. Unitarian Universalism claims this is what “salvation” is all about. Salvation is a journey of remaining open. When we cling, there is no room for openness or wholeness.

All of which means that letting go is really an act of faith. Yes, it takes strength, resolve, discipline and courage. But mostly it requires we believe that, once we release our grips, life will not leave us empty-handed.

Do you trust that making room will be worth it? Do you have faith that letting go will be met with a life-giving coming in?  This month, let’s find out.

RESOURCES:

 

Our UU Role Model: The Iowa Sisterhood

One challenge for Unitarian Universalists is to let go of knowing and instead embrace learning. The women of the Iowa Sisterhood did that.  They let go of the traditional Unitarian ways of doing ministry, pleasing the powers that be, and the need to know.  They led with the heart, not just the head.  The risks they took were criticized by the men in Boston, but they dared greatly and helped spread Unitarianism in the west.

http://www.uua.org/re/tapestry/adults/river/workshop9/178592.shtml

Our Spiritual Practice: Mindfulness

Videos & Online

The Parable of the Trapeze

by Danaan Parry https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HWvV5N4hOGc

RadioLab with Oliver Sacks: “Memory and Forgetting”

http://www.radiolab.org/story/91569-memory-and-forgetting/

We let go of Oliver Sacks as he died this summer, but his wisdom about letting go lives on.

SLIP | @PhillipChbeeb & Renee Kester https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qk00gbDwGqM

What happens when the most beautiful memories from our past end up doing the most damage to our future?

“Letting Go of God” by Julia Sweeney

http://www.ted.com/talks/julia_sweeney_on_letting_go_of_god?language=en  

The Parable of Mussa and Nagib

http://www.uua.org/re/tapestry/children/tales/session5/123298.shtml

Letting Go of the Pressure to Produce & Letting in a Little Useless Play

Try one of these sites:

http://weavesilk.com/ — create interactive generative art

http://thisissand.com/ — make virtual sand sculptures

http://myshards.com/ — design sharp textures and patterns

Songs

“Weightless” by The Becca Stevens Band

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qk_qfA9YIxg

Throw It Away” by “Abbey Lincoln

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2OO3vuk3r4

Lyrics:http://www.metrolyrics.com/throw-it-away-lyrics-abbey-lincoln.html

Letting Go – Steffany Gretzinger

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_7XIKVgRGY

A beautiful theist expression of surrender and letting go

A Frozen Father (A bit of fun)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Ud6B_NXoNc

Articles

Letting go of shame to embrace joy: an article engaging Brene Brown’s wonderful book, The Gifts of Imperfection.

http://www.yourtango.com/2015278444/dont-let-people-shame-your-goofy-open-hearted-happiness

Letting go of who one used to be

http://www.npr.org/2015/07/25/425655861/in-wondering-who-you-are-a-man-wakes-up-and-doesnt-know-his-wife

Letting go of fears

http://thespiritscience.net/2015/04/10/how-to-release-your-fears-before-they-manifest/

Fall as a season of letting go

http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/practices/naming-the-days/view/10950/autumn-reflections-on-the-season

Are we letting go of capitalism?

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jul/17/postcapitalism-end-of-capitalism-begun?CMP=share_btn_fb

White Privilege Weariness

http://austinchanning.com/blog/2014/3/weariness

Movies

Griefwalker

A documentary about the leader of a palliative care team who has been at the deathbed of hundreds of people.

http://www.nfb.ca/film/griefwalker

Amish Grace

A drama about forgiveness and faith after the 2006 shooting at an Amish schoolhouse.

http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/films/reviews/view/20229/amish-grace

Wild

Based on the book by Cheryl Strayed.

http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/films/reviews/view/27459/wild

127 Hours

A man lives in self-imposed isolation from the people who love him in order to seek out his own individualistic adventures. An accident and the loss of a piece of himself allows him to embrace connection.

Toy Story 3

Growing up, letting go and holding on to the blessings of our childhoods.

Books

Life Lines: Holding On (And Letting Go)

by Forrest Church

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

by Marie Kondo

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

After the Sucker Punch: a Novel

by Lorraine Devon Wilke

Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss

by Pat Schwiebert & Chuck DeKlyen (written for children, but helpful for all ages)

A listing of books for children and families about letting go: https://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/2TTP2FRYCZNKA/ref=cm_wl_sortbar_v_page_2?ie=UTF8&page=2

Love Notes – Rev. Kelly Dignan

Kelly April 2015smallIt is a joy and blessing to be your settled minister!  Thank you for welcoming me on August 16th with ice cream and a worship service that was bursting with energy.  “We will walk together hand in hand” are the lyrics that opened the worship.  And that is exactly what our Unitarian Universalist ancestors asked us to do. Our faith tradition is built upon a promise, a covenant, to walk together and practice the many and complex ways of loving. Each of us has a set of beliefs that help guide us, but we are not asked to espouse a common creed. Instead, we companion each other as we refine and deepen our individual beliefs.  

We also practice living the values that our Unitarian Universalist faith has historically honored and emphasized.  When we practice at church, we can take those behaviors into our homes, schools, workplaces, neighborhoods, and all areas of life. This year, we will be intentional about this practice. Each month, one Unitarian Universalist value will be our theme. Here is the lineup:

  • September:  Invitation
  • October:  Letting Go
  • November:  Ancestry
  • December:  Expectation
  • January:   Resistance
  • February:  Desire
  • March:  Liberation
  • April:  Creation
  • May:  Blessing
  • June:  Simplicity

Dozens of other Unitarian Universalist congregations will be exploring the same themes, so we will be part of a larger movement to live intentionally.  To get us started on the September theme, I invite you to consider this poem by Rumi:

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

What unexpected visitor has arrived in your life? Are you welcoming, entertaining and honoring it?  How is it clearing you out for some new delight? When you get a chance, share your reflections with someone at church.

I look forward to walking with you this month to practice the many and complex ways of loving.

Rev. Kelly

Come in were open

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