Best of UU

“beginning the spiritual life with insight into our wholeness. . .”

Filed under: Sermons — Jess at 1:32 pm on Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sometimes insight can come from the most unexpected of sources, as the Rev. Joshua Pawelek found when he explored the work of Harvard professor and psychologist Tal Ben-Shahar, whose best-selling book is titled Happier. Rev. Pawelek discovered a resonance with his own vision of Unitarian Universalism in what he had dismissed as mere pop-psychology, exploring the idea of being joyfully determined in the way we live our spiritual lives.

You can also find an essay by Rev. Pawelek, who serves the Unitarian Universalist Society: East in Manchester, Connecticut, in the just-released Reverend X: How Generation X Ministers are Shaping Unitarian Universalism, from the Jenkin Lloyd Jones Press.

To Be Joyfully Determined

by the Rev. Joshua Mason Pawelek

Recall a time when things weren’t going well for you, when you didn’t feel quite right, didn’t feel quite like yourself; a time when you couldn’t hear the still, small voice, or when its song was faint; a time when there was some emotional or mental dissonance in your life; a time when you felt disconnected, depressed, anxious, weak, subdued, out-of-whack, broken; a time when your sense of purpose and meaning waned, and you sought help. You sought help from a therapist—a psychologist or a psychiatrist or some other mental health professional; or you talked to a social worker or school guidance counselor. Maybe you attended a twelve-step group, or an affinity group for bereavement, divorce, cancer. Maybe you talked to a minister, priest or rabbi; maybe your doctor. Maybe you turned to a self-help book or a friend you could trust to give good advice. I assume most of you have been in this situation at some point: you’ve sought help when something didn’t feel quite right.

Put that memory aside and recall a time when things were going great, when you felt exactly like yourself; a time when you could hear the beautiful, compelling still, small voice melody; a time when you felt emotionally and mentally healthy; a time when you felt joyful, happy, inspired, powerful, whole; a time when you had a potent sense of purpose and meaning, and you sought help. You said to yourself, “Wow, I feel so good I need help immediately! I need help to figure out what I’m doing right so I can keep doing it; so I can do it more, do it better.” We’ve all had that experience too, right? No, we haven’t. My guess is there are few people to whom that thought occurs. We don’t typically approach our lives this way. At least in the United States, it’s fair to say we spend an awful lot of time and energy looking at what’s wrong with us, what our diseases are, what our weaknesses are, how to overcome them. We don’t spend as much time and energy looking at what’s already right with us, what gives us joy and fulfillment, what our gifts are and how to use them well. To the extent I understand it, focusing on what’s right is the essence of Positive Psychology.

(Read on … )

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“connected to something larger, or deeper. . .”

Filed under: Reflections — Jess at 1:40 pm on Thursday, April 3, 2008

Today, another perspective on the use of religious language in our Unitarian Universalist churches, this time from lay preacher Bruce Arnold, at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, New Bern, North Carolina.

Mr. Arnold argues that avoiding certain aspects of religious language does more harm than good, particularly in a congregation that aims to welcome a greater number of people into their midst. He offers a challenge to his fellowship, to reach deeper into what it means to be a religious community and engage with that depth.

Note: I am always looking for more good material by our lay members, not just ministers or historical figures, but these pieces are hard to find. If you’ve written, or heard, something that you think belongs on this site, please drop me a line!

A Rose by Any Other Name

by Bruce Arnold

Words have power.

They say sticks and stones will break your bones but words can never hurt you. They are wrong about a lot of things. Over and over, my domestic violence patients have said that the bruises heal and the broken bones knit up, but the cruel words last forever.

Words have power.

They say the pen is mightier than the sword. They are right about a lot of things also. During World War II, when Churchill warned Josef Stalin against conflict with the Pope, he replied scornfully “The Pope! How many divisions does he have?” The Soviet Union no longer exists. John Paul II left the papacy stronger than it had been in a century.

Words have power.

Talk about power: In May of 1961, John F. Kennedy gave a stirring speech about putting a man on the moon, at a time when we had not even worked the bugs out of the Atlas rocket. Just over 8 years later, Neil Armstrong fulfilled that promise, with stirring words of his own.

Words have power.

(Read on … )

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“going beyond the surface understanding of life. . .”

Filed under: Reflections — Jess at 9:54 am on Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Religious naturalism offers additional insight into this exploration of the place of humanity in the natural world, and what meaning we can find in a more intentional approach to living in it. The Rev. Jerome A. Stone, Ph.D. wrote this piece (PDF) in the Meadville Lombard Theological School’s Journal of Liberal Religion in the Fall of 2000, explaining his own personal experiences and how they have informed his view of the world around him. Rev. Stone is Professor Emeritus at William Rainey Harper College, frequently serves as an adjunct faculty member at Meadville Lombard Theological School, and is the author of The Minimalist Vision of Transcendence: A Naturalists Philosophy of Religion.

from “What is Religious Naturalism?”

by Rev. Jerome A. Stone

The key word that I now use in articulating this approach [to religious naturalism] is “sacred.” I learned this word and how to use it by attending services as a child and early adolescent in a liberal Protestant church. We did not use this word often, but when we did it always carried a notion of respect. You held something sacred by treating it with respect. We referred to Sunday as a sacred day. Of course, we were explicitly taught that all days were holy, but that by observing one day a week as sacred it helped us realize that all days were holy. This non-dogmatic yet traditional upbringing is here noted, although its degree of importance calls for further reflection. Later through graduate study in both the Christian tradition and the major religions of the world I became familiar with the classical texts and theorists concerning the sacred.

Now I wish to select four events from my experience which I have learned to think of as sacred. I will briefly depict them. What I wish to emphasize is their overriding importance in my life.

I remember the day my father died. I was sitting in my apartment feeling rather sad when my daughter, at that time about eight years old, came home from school. When I told her what had happened, she said, “Oh, Dad” and put her arm around me. It was one of the most comforting and supportive moments of my life.

(Read on … )

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