Blessing – May 2016 Theme

soul matters for May: what does it mean to be a people of Blessing?

A story from Rev. Suzelle Lynch:

When I was a kid, the only thing that made me madder than being told to “count my blessings” was when my mom used to say, “Every cloud has a silver lining, honey.”

She was right, of course. 

But when you’re a child, and your best friend suddenly decides she’s best friends with someone else, well, it’s hard to see the silver lining through the rainstorm of tears!

This month’s Soul Matters theme, “We are a People of Blessing”, has me thinking about those silver linings, though. It has me thinking about blessings in disguise.

Nineteenth century Irish playwright Oscar Wilde wrote, “What seems to us bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.” The simplest definition of a blessing is that it is a beneficial thing for which we are grateful, something that adds to our well-being. But how do we get from “bitter trial” to “beneficial to our well-being?”

A small story.

During the summer of 2012, I traveled with our UUCW Nicaragua Brigades to build houses and community in the village of Piedras Menudos (“Tiny Stones”). It was quite an experience—learning about Nicaraguan culture, seeing the beauty and the poverty, and working side-by-side with the family whose house we were building. The construction was some of the hardest labor I’d done in years—shoveling dirt, sand, gravel and concrete; mixing mortar and moving cinderblocks. But I loved it.

I loved it, that is, until the soles fell off my work boots. 

They literally cracked in half and fell off. We tried to glue them back on—no dice. I tried wrapping duct tape around them—in the dust and heat it stayed stuck for 15 minutes.
The only other shoes I had were my favorite shoes of all time, a pair of stylish, flimsy mesh maryjanes. No ankle support, nothing to keep out the sand and gravel and mud. But with no other option, I strapped them on and went on working. 

At the end of the first day, those shoes were a mess, my feet were on fire, and I felt more than a little self-righteous and whiny. The minister had lost her soul(s)!

But that was the blessing in disguise. I didn’t lose my soul, I found it

In the midst of the work, the pain, and the mess, there was a powerful love and friendship amongst our Brigadistas and the people of Piedras Menudos. I, who have so many material things, so much comfort, discovered that the deep connection of helping one another is soul-satisfying in a way comfort can never be. The path from bitter trial to blessing was paved with shy conversations in broken Spanish, smiles over beans and rice, truth-telling about American politics, and shovel after shovel of shared work that shifted my view from privilege to partnership. 

Have you experienced a blessing in disguise? How about a cloud with a silver lining?

 

our spiritual exercises

Thanks to Ben Barker for adding this quote.:

1. #soulblessings: Writes Rev. Claire Feingold Thoryn, "If you go online to sites like Instagram or Twitter and search for the hashtag 'blessed' (hashtag is sort of like adding a keyword to something), [you’ll see] people, especially celebrities, will post something that is essentially bragging and add #blessed to attempt to make the post sound humble. Celebrity photos of the red carpet, huge diamond rings, champagne, and extravagant travel, all are apparently signs that the recipient is #blessed."

So this month let’s right the ship! Let’s together honor those blessings that are richer than wealth and tastier than bacon, and that are true gifts, most of the time. Here's how you can participate in this communal spiritual exercise: 1. If you are on Twitter: tweet moments of true blessing using the hashtag #soulblessings. 2. If you do Instagram: post pictures of the #soulblessings you see in the world around you (and be sure to tag your picture). 3. If you use Facebook (yes, hashtags work on Facebook too!), you’re invited to post pictures or tell a story of #soulblessings both on your own personal page as well as on our group Soul Matters Facebook page. 

2. Pay it Forward. Many of us are likely familiar with the idea of “paying it forward” rather than simply “paying it back.” To pay someone back for a blessing or gift accomplishes little more than evening the score. The concept of paying it forward changes everything. Suddenly the blessings in our life are sources of abundance rather than sources of debt. This spiritual exercise invites you to tap into these sources of abundance.

Two simple steps: 1. Spend a few days assessing the major blessings in your life. 2. Then figure out how to share them. The point is to get so in touch with the way you’ve been blessed that you can’t help but want to spread that blessing around.

 

questions to ask yourself

Your voice is your liberation. Subscribe: DanielleLaPorte.com #Truthbomb #Words #Quotes: As always, don’t treat these questions like “homework” or a list that needs to be covered in its entirety. Instead, simply pick the one question that “hooks” you most and let it lead you where you need to go. The goal of these questions is not to help you analyze what liberation means, but to figure out what being a person of creation means for you today. So, which question is calling to you?

  1. Do you believe you are a blessing? We talk a lot about giving and receiving blessings. It’s another thing entirely to believe that we are a blessing. This has nothing to do with hubris. It’s about owning your uniqueness. Our Christian friends say that we’ve already earned grace without having to do a thing. We UUs prefer to talk about inherent worth. But we agree that all the proving, striving, achieving and competing to earn acceptance is a waste of time and a drain on the soul. Does this task of accepting yourself as a blessing come easy for you? Or are you still a bit too hard on yourself and imagine it as something you still have to earn?
  2. Has age helped or hurt? At what age were you best at noticing the blessings around you? Have you gotten better as time has gone on? Or worse? What would improve your gaze?
  3. Have you paid them forward? Many of us are likely familiar with the idea of “paying it forward” rather than simply “paying it back.” To pay someone back for a blessing or gift accomplishes little more than evening the score. The concept of paying it forward changes everything. Suddenly the blessings in our life are sources of abundance rather than sources of debt.
  4. Are you ok with asking for a blessing? Sometimes it is easier to offer a blessing rather than admit you need one yourself? What’s getting in your way? Why not let others know your need?
  5. Do your words bless others? One of our facilitators writes, “My Mom often told us to consider our words before offering an opinion. Her mantra was: “Are your words kind and helpful? If both adjectives do not apply, keep the thought to yourself!” Are there any words that have fallen from your lips lately that you need to go back and turn into a blessing?
  6. Are your high expectations blinding you to the blessing? What if your standard for blessing was:
       ● living with integrity, most of the time
       ● loving your work, most of the time;
       ● loving the people around you, most of the time;
       ● loving yourself, most of the time.
    In short, how would your life look different if you added that one simple phrase to all your assessments: “...most of the time”?
  7. Do you taste it? How do you take in the simple yet precious gift of food. Yes, literal food. Forget the metaphor of “nourishment.” When was the last time you just enjoyed that apple? That cup of coffee? That holiness of warm butter on freshly baked bread? Why do we let this blessing slip pass us?
  8. Have you given thanks for your work? Writing about the blessing of work, poet John O’Donohue writes, “May you see in what you do the beauty of your own soul.” This is not always the case. It isn’t always an option. But sometimes it is. Sometimes we have the power to pick work that reflects the beauty of our soul. Is that true for you? Do you want it to be?
  9. How many mothers do you have? Mother’s Day, at its best, reminds us that many have mothered us. How are you planning to thank all of those who have helped “give birth” to you?
  10. What blessing do our soldiers need most? This is the month of “honoring heroes.” Yet sometimes the celebration of heroics can mask the need for healing. How might Memorial Day be inviting you to honor their sacrifice in a new way?
  11. Do you see neutrality where blessing should be? Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once wrote, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.“ Howard Zinn, renowned activist and professor, was fond of saying, “You can’t be neutral on a moving train.” We see it all the time – in others and in ourselves: people have the chance and the power to offer a blessing in the face of suffering, but they settle for passively instead. Often there are good reasons; we are not capable of taking on every injustice or saving every hurting individual that crosses our path. And yet…
  12. What is “working” in your life? Buddhist teachers encourage their students to pay attention to what is “working” in their lives. This is a unique take on noticing the blessings around us. So often we focus on what is broken or stuck in our lives. But the truth is, most things in our lives are working so well that we should be utterly amazed. So are you? Utterly amazed by what is working?
  13. What’s your question? Your question may not be listed above. As always, if the above questions don't include what the theme is asking from you, spend the month listening to your days to hear it. 

 

Click here for more quotes related to the theme, selected by church members from church library resources. Check UUCW's Facebook page for further articles, videos, music, poetry, and more, related to the theme.

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This Sunday's Sermon:
  • "Holding On and Letting Go"

    Sunday, March 26, 2017 - 9:15 and 11:00 a.m.

    The Rev. Suzelle Lynch

    The challenge is always before us - when to hold on, and when to let go?  We know that all growth involves change, and yet it is our human nature to prefer the comfort of the known.  Today we explore this paradox in keeping with our Soul Matters theme, " We Are a Risk-Taking Community."

    Children's choir sings today for Worship for All Ages!  It's also "Choose the Music Sunday," purchased at last November's LEGENDARY Auction by Christopher Zamzow.  Look forward to out-of-the ordinary musical offerings today!

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