I've been trying to find more such times in my life. The combined duties of church ministry, hospital chaplaincy, and running multiple ecommerce businesses results in my working "all the time." If I'm not working on one thing then I'm attending to another, or another.
I can't wait around hoping for a gift day to appear. I have to create one, aka, a day off from work, aka, a day of rest.
Now don't think I'm a workaholic by nature. I enjoy kicking back as much as the next person. It's just that I'm pulled in so many different ways that I find it difficult to set boundaries on my time. Yet, I must.
Maybe, just maybe, if I can readjust my thinking to consider a day off as a "gift day" then I'll appreciate it more and really - I mean REALLY - take some time to relax and recharge. (I know - purposefully planning a gift day runs counter to the idea of them being unexpected, but hey, it's worth a try.)
May you, the reader, experience a gift day soon.
Of course, a memorial service is a time for sharing stories of the newly departed. It is a time when we honor a life by taking joy in having been a part of that person's story. To have known a life that touched others, a life that leaves behind friends and family who were enriched by that soul's presence on earth, to understand that the deceased has left in his or her wake a changed world, to recognize how we've been touched by love that does not end when a body ceases to function - these are the causes for celebration even when sorrow lurks around the edges.
And then, to go from a story just closed to one just writing its first chapter is to see the deep connections Love creates between us all. A wedding - a uniting of two individuals into a formally committed couple - celebrates hope that life will be long, that families will grow, while also observing that our time together is unknown but when it is rended it will be too soon. We joyfully celebrate this new shared life, and wish for the pair to create a good story together.
One day. A moment in time to pause and reflect on all life has to offer us.
What matters is not how many people fill the pews each Sunday, but what they do beyond the worship service. What matters is not how many pledge units are on our rolls, but how many are served by the very existence of our church.
Item one - we contribute to the Community Kitchen, which serves a free meal to about 125 people each Friday.
Item two - we provide meeting space for the Orleans County Genealogical Society. Besides their own members, the society assists a large number of individuals each year with queries about ancestral trees. Count? In the hundreds.
Item three - we open our doors for meetings of the Concerned Citizens of Orleans County, an organization devoted to saving the county nursing home from privatization. This is a big one! People impacted include the residents of the nursing home plus their families, the current employees, and all potential future residents. The number impacted - easily in the thousands.
Item four - a variety of social justice actions by our members, including advocating against fracking, raising funds for cancer, diabetes, and alzheimer's research; promoting awareness of mental health; demonstrating against the war; clothing drives for children and migrant workers; and more. Number affected? Hundreds of thousands.
Am I implying that size doesn't matter? Of course not. I dream of how much more we could be doing with more members, and more organizations using our facility. Still, I'm super impressed with all that my church accomplishes, and all those who are impacted by our work. We may seem like a small fish in a big pond, but we make big waves.
This statement does not hold true for Pullman Memorial Universalist Church. Our total collected income (pledges and offering plate cash) in 2012-13 was within $250 of our pre-crash 2007-08 income (virtually even). In the intervening years collections fell by almost 1/3, due in part to the economic recession and also due, in part, to several members birthing a new fellowship nearby (and choosing to financially support that new startup).
Today, our members are pledging at higher levels than ever before. It is not because they personally have more revenue available to throw around but because they recognize the value of supporting our church's mission - to shine the light of Love into the darkest corners of humankind.
This outward focus has also benefitted our denomination. This past year we committed to paying our full fair share of dues to both the UUA and also to our district. We have new members who have joined, replacing those who left for the new startup, and their energy is amazing! We've been making our voices heard in our town, our county, and our state on matters of social justice. Our website gets an astounding number of visits, too, so that our Unitarian Universalist message has been seen by visitors from over 110 countries to date.
Perhaps Mr. Brennan is right for many individuals and congregations when he says charitable giving is down but he does not speak for PMUC. I am so very proud of my parishioners for their generosity, and for bucking that trend.
*reported in UU World at http://www.uuworld.org/news/articles/285331.shtml
As a cat lover, I've lived my entire life with one or more cats in the house (with the noted exception of about one lonely year). I've always tried to take care of them as best I could. Maybe I didn't buy the most expensive dry cat food around, but I certainly avoided the cheap stuff.
Yet one of my two current pets has been a real pain in the butt with her food. She would wolf it down, and then take long drinks of water, which would then bloat the food in her tummy and it would all come back up within a half hour. What a waste. What a mess.
So I went online in search of an answer and after considerable research I found an amazing product. "Wellness Dry Cat Food for Adult Cats, Indoor Health Recipe" it's called, and I can't speak of it highly enough!
I was reluctant to spend 2 or 3 times more than I had been for a bag of cat food but I was ready to try something different. As it has turned out, even though the cat food costs more up front, I'm spending less on feeding my animals, and they're healthier, too.
I am absolutely astonished at how little they eat now. And yet, they have not lost any weight, their fur seems fuller and softer, and they are playing more. The barfing of food has stopped, hairballs are fewer, and I don't need to clean the catbox as often (less solid and liquid waste).
I had read reviews by other people who mentioned these benefits but I thought they were exaggerating. Now I know they weren't and so I'm adding my voice to the call for better care for our pets.
If you keep an indoor cat (or two, or more) then you owe it to them to provide a food product with great nutrition. Try a bag of Wellness, and by the time your pet has finished it I'm quite certain you'll be convinced that it offers superior value in so many ways.
Actually, I believe there are two reasons, and both lie with our government. First is our military aggression around the world. We have caused death and injury to over a million people just since 9/11. How can we possibly condone such action? This is not retaliation or retribution for the lives we lost on September 11th. This death toll far exceeds any sort of honest justice if, indeed, an eye-for-an-eye mentality can be called "honest justice."
Why shouldn't we expect a terrible backlash for all the pain and suffering we've caused? Who is the biggest terrorist in the world? The U.S. of A. We firebombed civilians in Dresden during WWII. We dropped nuclear bombs - TWICE - in Japan. We used Agent Orange and other toxic and carcinogenic chemicals in Vietnam. We used "depleted" uranium shells and phosphorus bombs in the Gulf War. And now drones terrorize people who never know if the sound of the robotic missile will be the last they ever hear.
If the Boston terrorist is discovered to have been inspired by our actions in foreign countries I will not be surprised. But I also won't be shocked if it turns out to be a home-grown terrorist, because our government is inciting them, too.
It started several years ago. Our government relaxed controls and then turned a blind eye to financial sector shenanigans. When the bubble burst, our economy imploded, and the man (and woman and child) on the street was left reeling. Jobs were lost, or hours cut back. Loans were called in, or houses foreclosed on. Credit card companies changed the rules overnight with upped interest rates and lowered ceilings. Student loan debt soared. Medical costs continued to climb, as well as health insurance (if one could afford it at all).
I don't need to go into too much detail because we've all lived through it - are still living it, even now. This failure to regulate, followed by a failure to support a safety net, has stressed too many people to the breaking point. This is not a time for austerity when so many are hurting. It cannot be solely up to the churches to provide foodbanks and run clothing drives. We'll do our part but we can't provide the jobs that make people honest, that help people to have a sense of self-worth.
There are U.S. citizens who have turned their stress upon themselves and taken their own lives. There are, unfortunately, others who have turned their anger outward, and directed it at others, even innocents who have no relationship to the perpetrator. Whether it is road rage running someone off the highway, or taking a loaded gun into a school, or detonating a homemade bomb doesn't matter. They are all incidents of someone who has gone over the edge, gone beyond reason, and allowed their own anger and grief to control their actions.
I want our government leaders to take responsibility. Stop the killings abroad and bring our troops safely home. Fund the infrastructure projects that have been neglected. Fund our schools - all schools - from pre-K to college. Write off student loan debt. Provide true universal health care. Regulate the bankers to prevent this from happening again. Fund jobs that will create a green economy and wean us off oil and nuclear power.
This is a time for bravery by our elected officials. I call upon them to actually govern for a change. Set aside partisan differences and get our country back on the right track. We'll do our part in the churches. We'll teach love and forgiveness and humility and honesty and all the good traits necessary for humans to be humane. But to truly end the cycle of violence we must have a government that knows when to say "enough's enough."
3 am. Car strikes pedestrian. Ambulance to emergency department. Call to parents ("Your son's been in an accident and you need to come.") The long drive to the hospital wondering, worrying, about how bad it is, if it's life and death.
Not a scenario I'd wish on anyone, but it happened this week to one of my parishioners. In fact, the pedestrian was dedicated as a child in my church.
As soon as I learned of it, I immediately went to the hospital and found my "peeps" in the ICU. Thankfully, injuries were not as severe as one could imagine (human vs. car does not usually end well). I was glad to be there, to offer support, and I'm sure this family was grateful to see me.
What pains me is that they also felt a small sense of guilt. "I should come to church more often" are words that need not be spoken. It doesn't matter. Let me repeat the opening words of this post: "I don't care if you haven't been to church in months." I do care about you, and your family.
The church exists for a whole lot more than child dedications, weddings and funerals. It exists to provide a sanctuary from the roughness of life, to provide encouragement and guidance for one's spiritual journey, to provide a foundation (roots) for launching into life (wings), to provide an intentionally formed community when our natural connectedness becomes ever more elusive in today's electronic world.
I don't expect perfect attendance. Of course, members of this church exist, in part, to support each other and such is easier to accomplish when you attend - whether it be Sunday service or potluck supper or movie night or walkies. But no one is going to stop loving you and caring about you just because you haven't been to church in a while. So please put those concerns aside.
Haven't been to church in a bit? Stop in some time. You might like the energy and the love you'll find there. And when crap happens, call your pastor. I don't care (what time).