Finding Happiness

Scientists are revealing what mystics have known for centuries, there is a profound connection between the mind and the body. People who are happy have lower blood pressure, more energy, and tend to live longer.  Join me on Sunday, June 3, 10:30am for a joy-filled service with music, meditation, and simple practices that can increase your sense of well-being.  UU Congregational Society of Westborough, MA

What Matters Most?

Memorial Day weekend is about more than a good barbeque!  It is a time to open our hearts and minds to our interconnectedness.  The world’s religions and great moral teachers offer the same life lesson: KINDNESS is what matters most.  Join the Rev. Amy Freedman for a service upholding this universal teaching, Sunday, May 27, 10:00AMFirst Universalist Society 262 Chestnut Street, Franklin, MA

Centering Prayer

O Creator, who creates life and to which all life returns,

you are as close as our beating heart and the cycle of breath.

Where there are unresolved troubles in our minds

may we find clarity of purpose.

Where there are heavy burdens in our hearts

may we discover a healing path.

Where ever there is pain,

whether in our lives, in our circle of loved ones, or in our world,

May we become divine messengers

through our prayers, our actions and our words,

Peace to all.

Life to all.

Love to all.


Meditations with Hafiz

Across time these words by Hafiz speak to me:

In the morning

When I began to wake,
It happened again—

That feeling
That You, Beloved,
Had stood over me all night
Keeping watch,

That feeling
That as soon as I began to stir

You put Your lips on my forehead
And lit a Holy Lamp
Inside my heart.

–Hafiz, translated by Daniel Ladinsky

Sunday, April 15, 10:30AM, Meditations with Hafiz, First Parish in Malden, Universalist

Join me on Sunday, April 15th for a service filled with the poetry of the Persian mystic, Hafiz and opportunities for spiritual reflection.  Hafiz is the most beloved poet in Iran where his works outsell that of Rumi and even the Koran.  His zest for the sensual nature of existence and passion for the Beloved, as he calls the Divine, invites us into fuller living.  All are welcome!

Intergenerational Invocation

Spirit of Infancy, be with us now.
Bring all of your vulnerability and softness.
Bless us with loud cries and captivating smiles.
Teach us to trust.

Spirit of Childhood, be with us now.
Bring all of your energy and curiosity.
Bless us with giggles and hugs.
Teach us to play.

Spirit of Youth, be with us now.
Bring all of your insight and courage.
Bless us with passion and intelligence.
Teach us to grow.

Spirit of Adulthood, be with us now.
Bring all of your responsibility and loving.
Bless us with your gifts and fears.
Teach us to connect.

Spirit of Elders, be with us now.
Bring all of your answers and questions.
Bless us with your stories and hopes.
Teach us to believe.

Come, let us worship together.

Celebrating Dr. Seuss

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”–Theodor Giesel

In honor of his recent birthday, I would like to celebrate the man who became known as Dr. Seuss.  He was born Theodor Giesel in Springfield, Massachusetts.  There is a Memorial Sculpture Garden in his home town. There you can see a sculpture of the artist himself working at a drawing table with the Cat in the Hat looking over his shoulder.  There are other favorite characters like Horton the Elephant, the Grinch and his dog Max, Thing One and Two, Gertrude McFuzz, the lovable Thidwick the Moose, and the Lorax (who is also coming soon to a movie theater near you).

From a young age, Theodor loved to draw.  As a young boy, as he was making a picture, he would turn the paper over to look at his creation from the other side.  He figured that if the image looked good backwards then it worked.  It turns out that this is a practice of artists.  It is a way of really observing your drawing to see if the composition is right.  However, his childhood teacher had no patience for this method.  Noticing him looking through the paper, she snapped, “Theodor, real artists do NOT look at their drawings backwards!”  From that moment as a young boy, he decided never to take an art class again.

Lucky for us, he did not stop drawing.  However, he never considered himself an artist.  He said “I try to draw a kangaroo and it comes out looking like a Grinch!”  His father served as the parks commissioner in charge of the Forest Park Zoo.  So, Theodor spent a lot of time visiting animals and you can see his love of creatures great and small in all his books.  He also credited his mother for his approach to language.  It seems that she was always keeping Theodor and his sister entertained with infectious rhyming.

He used many different pseudonyms over the years but the one that stuck Dr. Seuss was a tip of his hat to his parents.  His father had hoped his son would become a college professor.  After graduating from Dartmouth College, Ted attended Oxford pursuing a degree in literature.  He found that he had no interest in the academic profession and dropped out without his doctorate.  Seuss was his mother’s maiden name.

Once he broke into the children’s book market, his first book was rejected over twenty times, Dr. Seuss brought a strong message against bullies, hypocrites, intolerance, and greed.  The Sneetches deals with Anti-Semitism and racial discrimination.  Yertle the Turtle is anti-fascist.  With the main character building his throne on the backs of the other turtles and being over thrown by a plain turtle named Mack who simply cannot take it anymore.  Dr. Seuss encourages us all to speak out.  He reminds us that the smallest among us even the littlest Who down in Whoville has the power to overthrow tyrants for as Horton says, “A person’s a person no matter how small.”

You might be surprised to discover as I was that Dr. Seuss never had children himself.  When asked why he responded, “You keep having kids, I’ll keep writing books for them.”  He was a private person who seldom made public appearances.  When he did he said that crowds of children made him nervous.  As you can imagine, he also grew weary of folks serving him green eggs and ham.

It is a hoot for me to share these books with my daughter.  She loves the colorful drawings, fantastic creatures, and rhythmic language.  Knowing how true the author was to his ideals, the meaning grows deeper still.


What REALLY happened in the Garden of Eden?

Join me for “Eve’s Side of the Story” this Sunday, March 4th, 10:30am.  While the Rev. Barbara Threet is on Sabbatical, I will be the Guest Minister offering the service.  So, I am polishing an apple and taking my Eve monologue to the Melrose Unitarian Universalist Church.

What really happened in the Garden of Eden?  Are there any lessons to be learned?  If she had it to live over, would Eve bite the apple?  You will not want to miss this dramatic retelling that speaks directly to our lives today.  All are welcome!

Universalist Valentine

“Live as though the essential power and force of the universe is love, goodness, truth, and beauty. Then you shall discover the faith for which you so ardently long”.–Robert Miller, Universalist minister 

To believe “God is Love” means the sacred is found in relationship, in connection. This is a process that continues through out our daily living. True happiness lies not in individual attainment, but when we discover a power that is deeper and wider than self. When we are conscious of the intimate relationship of all beings, to act with justice and mercy in the world leads to personal fulfillment. Together we can build a better world. The Divine is not the goal of life but the very path on which we travel.

Welcome to Our Religion

If by “Church” you mean a place where people bend down to follow the word from a higher authority, then no, Unitarian Universalists do not belong to a church.

If by “Faith” you mean firm belief and adherence to traditional doctrines, then no, Unitarian Universalism is not a faith.

If by “Religion” you mean scrupulous conformity to a system of beliefs, then no, Unitarian Universalism is not a religion.

Then again…

If by “Church”, you mean a safe place where you can be yourself and bring your loved ones to find support and meaning in facing the joys and struggles of life, then welcome to our church.

If by “Faith” you mean belief in the inherent goodness of all people and the confidence that we can work together to make this world a better place, then welcome to our faith.

If by “Religion” you mean a way of life drawing inspiration and guidance from many sources, engaging your heart, mind, and spirit in a lifelong journey toward wholeness then welcome to our religion.

Beyond the Old Church Model

Liberal religion is not an institution; it is a movement in history, a set of values and a way of life.”  Dana McLean Greeley proclaimed those words as the opening statement to “The Free Church in a Changing World” in 1963.  The report, written by several Commissions of the recently formed Unitarian Universalist Association, reflects on the role of tradition, the free spirit, and leadership during a time of rapid change.

Today the digital revolution is changing how people connect, collaborate, learn, protest, and make decisions about our lives.  While bringing people together in new ways, the population of the United States is more socially isolated than ever before in human history.[i]  Jobs, education, family structures, and systems which once seemed solid are in the midst of flux.

Unitarian Universalist communities are remarkably suited to engage with the issues of our times.  The liberal religious values of acceptance, justice, equity, compassion, and use of the democratic process require our constant care and practice in the Sanctuary, on the streets, and through new media.  This is a critical time for us to be bold in creating new initiatives beyond the old church model.

In order for our religious movement to thrive in the digital age, we need to embrace the tools of our time and the collaborations they allow.  Social media, online video, and other web technologies are allowing new forms of community, education, and activism to emerge.  With instant access to friends, information, and media of every kind, the digital is increasingly appealing, engaging, and relevant.  Instead of waiting for newcomers to find and visit us, we have the ability, and now a calling, to meet them where they are, and that is online.  Increasingly, online connections are the first step toward real-life gatherings and community-building.

Expanding our ministry more fully into online spaces is a massive undertaking.  Many ministers and religious educators do not have expertise in these new technologies.  Fortunately, the communication tools that call us forward into the future also enable us to collaborate in new and exciting ways.  We do not need to do this alone.  Given the scope of the challenge, we probably cannot do this alone.

What is the greatest challenge for Unitarian Universalist leaders?  It is not the ministry landscape opening up before us—we are perfectly suited for it.  Rather, it is our long established patterns of working and ministering in isolation, of not living out the promise of our association.  In order for our religious movement to thrive in the next decade and beyond, Unitarian Universalists must be more generous in sharing resources with one another, collaborating in new ways, and creating ministries beyond our front doors.  Only then can we be true to our shared vision of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all.

[i] Social Isolation in America: Changes in Core Discussion Networks Over Two Decades. Author: Miller McPherson, Lynn SmithLovin, Matthew E. Brashears, American Sociological Review © 2006

Ready, Set, Relax!

Take a moment to consider if you had more room in your life.  What would that mean for you?  How would you like to spend your time?  Who would you like to see more of?  Think of the people who matter most to you: children, partner, parents, siblings, friends, relatives, neighbors or people who you have yet to meet.  How might you make more room in your life for these relationships?

Marcia Marra a mother of three and resident of Ridgewood, New Jersey recognized that her family was overscheduled and exhausted from constantly running from one activity to the next.  Instead of just accepting this as the norm in today’s fast-paced world, she gathered together community leaders, parents, professionals, clergy, and school representatives.  The committee read and discussed national research that established the potential negative effects of over-scheduling on childhood development, family cohesion, and the health of adults.

In 2002, the entire town of Ridgewood declared a Family Night called “Ready, Set, Relax!” with no sports, no homework, no meetings, chores, or classes.  Instead families enjoyed a meal together, played games or just relaxed.  The idea was that having one night in which the whole town shared this experience would motivate people to find ways to slow down and reduce unnecessary pressures from families and children.  This was such a positive initiative that this is now an annual event.

What is even more significant is that reports of this event spread across the country.  The community effort spoke to a longing that many Americans have to foster a balance between work, school, family time, unscheduled time, and outside enrichment activities.

I really like this idea!  This year, my resolution includes monthly gatherings with friends and family.  The first one is this weekend.  Ready, set…relax!

Prayer for the New Year

This moment, I take a deep breath in gratitude for my life.

May I make more room for what matters most and less for what subtracts from it.

Instead of trying to purchase happiness,
may I savor the wonders of Nature, the support of family, the opportunity to be of service, and foster stronger connections with my neighbors and friends.

Instead of running frantically,
may I become more attuned to the rhythms of Nature, simplify my days,
and nurture relationships that help me experience a more fulfilling way of living.

Instead of thinking of religion as one more thing to do,
may I remember that being a part of a spiritual community inspires me to become my best self, and more truly realize my place in the interdependent web of life.

Blessed Be.

Christmas Storytelling in Dover

Thursday, December 8th, 2pm-4pm

As a part of the Christmas program at the Dover Town Library, I will be telling two Christmas stories: The Polar Express and Olive, the other reindeer from 3pm-3:30pm.  Come share in the magic and fun of the season! (Map)

Everyone is invited to bring a wrapped tree ornament for the ornament swap and take a new one on your way home.

Enjoy treats and snacks and holiday cheer.

This Sunday Eve Tells All

Sunday, November 6, 10:30 a.m.

Finally, Eve will offer her side of the story!  What happened in the Garden of Eden? Are there any lessons to be learned? If she had it to live over, would she bite the apple?

You will not want to miss this dramatic retelling that speaks directly to women and men today.  All are welcome!

First Parish in Kingston, MA

Playing Doctor

Say “Ahhhh!” my nearly three-year-old daughter says peering down the imaginary throat of her teddy bear. “Pretty good! Now, let me get the telescope!” Of course she means stethoscope, as she listens to the stuffed animal’s heart. Playing doctor is one of her favorite games these days as she examines the eyes, ears, nose, hands, and feet and especially if it’s a real person, asking us to take a deep breath. Lately, the veins in our arms and legs have fascinated her. “That’s blood!” she declares.

Peter and I depart tomorrow for a Healthy Congregations facilitator training in St. Paul, Minnesota. This seminar designed for leaders to nurture religious communities no doubt will offer useful tools for our ministry and consulting work with congregations.

My prayer for our religious communities is that we bring the same enthusiasm to them as playing doctor. Let’s engage in routine check-ups instead of waiting for a problem to become severe or chronic. Let’s foster a holy curiosity about what makes our institutions function and be ready to try out new ideas. Above all, let’s remind one another to take a deep breath and create joyful ways to be together!