Monthly Minister's Column

MJSCarter_AlwaysUse

Rev. Michael J S Carter

September 2021

"Get A Life!"

We are rapidly (at least to my mind) approaching the last quarter of the year 2021 as I write this column. My daughter is attending her first day of school as I write this, and Labor Day Weekend is just around the corner, and by the way, so is our Homecoming Service in September.  After a brief reprieve, the Covid-19 "Delta Virus" has arrived and it appears we are collectively taking a step backwards, and many of us are just plain frustrated. And with good reason. And yet, if we have learned anything from this virus, if we have learned anything from life itself, it is that life does go on. It goes on. Yes, there are changes which are uncomfortable to say the least. And yet the world simply continues to turn.

A few days ago I was in a line at Ingles waiting to check out and pay for my groceries. I overheard two people in front of me in an animated conversation. I did not hear all of what was said as we were social distancing either intentionally or coincidentally, but I did hear one person say to the other--"Get a life."  I had not heard this phrase in quite some time, and usually I have heard it as an insult.  Get a life!  There it is. When you are in your twenties, the quest to get a life is your focus, and you may have had some fun doing just that. When you are in your thirties, you can expect to visit this goal at various times in response to a variety of transformational experiences. However, when you are older and you hear the words, get a life, you  may be shocked.

You could panic, you could become seriously depressed and even angry. If you are one of those people who have missed the "lifeboat" or have been afraid to wade into the "rivers of life" the real question becomes, just what does it mean exactly to have a life? When you have a life, you can stand alone in what is true about you and what you believe to be true. You do what feels right for you, even when it means that those around you may not agree with what you are doing. You mind your own business, leaving it up to others to do the same. To really have a life, a good life, means sticking with something long enough to see if it works for you, admitting when it doesn't ,moving on without fear or anger and exacting the blessings from the lessons, because you know that every lesson is priceless on the journey.

Is the life you have today really the life you really want? Are you doing the things that are important to you? Are you learning and growing in response to the things you are doing? Are you willing to make the changes required to create the life that you desire to experience?  Are you sailing or sinking? Or are you keeping score of what others are doing? It's the final quarter of the year. Do you have one, or are you needing to get a life?

August 2021

First and foremost, on behalf of The Board of Trustees and the congregation, I would like to thank Damaris Pierce for her service to our community. She has been a supporter of this congregation in thought, word and deed. We are eternally grateful for your work here Damaris, and wish you nothing but wonderful things in your next endeavors.
Thank you so much!

Masks

I want to talk a bit in this column about masks. It was so wonderful to see your lovely faces in person as we returned to in-person services on July 11. Your bright smiles lit up the sanctuary with the light of a thousand suns. All of this light was hiding behind the masks we wore (and still must wear from time to time) because of the pandemic. Let's take it a bit further though. If you see a chameleon in the mud, it will appear to be brown. What a wonderful gift nature provides its creation: the ability to change its appearance in order to survive. For human beings, the ability to adapt in order to fit in has one major drawback. If we do it too often we run the risk of forgetting who we truly are.

This has nothing to do with the decision to wear or not wear a mask, after all, I wear my mask when it is necessary and I have my vaccine shots as well. So no, this is not a political statement.

We have a business mask, a social mask, a home mask, a play mask, and a don't mess with me, I'm not playing mask! Then there are the many masks of the many roles we play. There's the parent/child mask. there's the husband/wife/partner mask. There's the help me I'm lost mask. Each of our masks carries duties and responsibilities, fears and frustrations, likes and dislikes, demands and desires. Sometimes, the responsibilities of one mask conflicts with those of another. Or, to hold the mask in place, there may be things we must do that are inappropriate for the other masks to wear. In fact, we can become so skilled at putting on the appropriate mask, at the appropriate time, in order to survive that we can eventually lose sight of who we really are.

Perhaps it is time to wear the mask of our true essence, our true selves. Do you remember what that is? I believe it is Love. Find your true essence and allow it to show in all of the roles you and I play. If you wear it as often as you can, there will be a lot less confusion about what to do and how to do it. At times we allow our environment to determine the mask we wear. Let's devote ourselves to discovering or rediscovering the truth about our true selves, so that tomorrow, our true colors will come shining through for all the world to see.

A Gentle Peace to You All,
Michael

July 2021

Bon Appétit!

Imagine yourself sitting at a banquet table, covered with all of your favorite foods. Hmmmmm. Imagine the sight! The aromas! Everything is prepared with love and cooked to perfection. Now you sink your teeth into the first dish, and then another elegant wait staff person brings you another dish. This continues for some time and you push yourself away from the table satisfied and grateful. Now you're looking for a bottle of Tums.

Are you also aware that your spirit needs to be fed as well? How about your spiritual diet? How about a plate full of meditation/prayer? Maybe a few hours of succulent self-reflection? Perhaps a piping hot selection of spiritual literature? Let's have that literature served by the side of a lake or under a tree so perhaps that would satisfy your spiritual hunger. Or perhaps you would prefer to listen to some spiritually uplifting music? What about forgiveness a la mode, topped with the whipped cream of compassion?

Enjoy your summer, but remember to take time for a little rest and rejuvenation!

"Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability."--Sam Keen

 

In-Person Sunday Services Resume
July 11, 2021 - 11:00 a.m.

Well, it's official. UUCSV will begin live services on July 11. The past 16 months have been challenging to say the least but we are going to meet again. COVID-19 had many lessons to bring to us individually as well as collectively. We had time to reassess (whether we wanted to or not) what and who was important ("essential" is the new word being bandied about these days) to us and what was not. We got to make choices on what was worth stressing over and what was not. These are important and life changing decisions as we move forward with our lives.

For those of us who are more extroverted, this was a most uncomfortable time. People needed and wanted to socialize and connect, to have that exchange of energy. For those more introverted, it was a time of recharging and savoring the time alone, to "recharge the batteries," if you will. The world will never be the same after COVID as the virus also forced us to see just how vulnerable and fragile we really are, individually and collectively. I'm sure there are many lessons that have been learned and each of us must process those lessons and experiences in our own personal and unique way. This is only natural for we all handle situations differently.

What is exciting, at least to me, is that we will be gathering once again as a congregation, as a community. We will get to see each other's faces and smiles. For those who are comfortable with it, there will be hugs and kisses. There will be stories of both joy and sorrow and concerns. This is the stuff that life is made of. And yet, wherever you are on the journey after this time of isolation and change, like the phoenix rising from the ashes, I know you will bring your wisdom gleaned from lessons learned, your longing for community, and your continuing commitment and dedication to our congregation and our free, liberal, UU religious heritage and legacy. I know you will bring your best selves. Besides, isn't that the way it should be?

We will live-stream the services for all those who choose to remain socially distant and prefer to watch remotely. All in-person attendees should follow current CDC safety protocol and those not yet vaccinated should take extra precautions.

A heartfelt thanks to:

Deb Evenchik
Rhea Bockhurst
Carolyn Shorkey and Milt Warden
Kate Ramsey
Spence Foscue
Susan Hurley
Susan Enwright Hicks
Jackie Franklin
Angie and Mark Manuel
Sue and Ken Stone

Thank you all for painting and preparing the building to open. Thank you all for your time and commitment. If I missed anyone, please forgive me.

See you on July 11, 2021.

Michael

June 2021

June's Picture by Annette Wynne

"Let me paint June's picture---first I take some gold, fill in the picture full of sun, all that it can hold; save some for the butterflies, darting all around, and some more for the buttercups here upon the ground. Take a lot of baby blue--- this to make the sky, with a lot of downy white---soft clouds floating by; Cover all the ground with green, hang it from the trees, sprinkle it with shiny white, neatly as you please.

"So---a million daisies spring up everywhere, surely you can see now what is in the air! Here's a thread of silver---that's a little brook to hide in dainty places where only children look. Next comes something---guess---it grows among green hedges---it's a rose! Brown for a bird to sing a song, brown for a road to walk along.

"Then add some happy children to the fields and flowers and skies, and so you have June's picture here before your eyes."

I don't know about you, but now that many people are getting vaccinated and the year of lockdown is over, summer has a different feel to it for me. It feels like the first signs of spring after an exceptionally long and frigid winter. It feels like a rebirth of sorts, people seem to be just a bit friendlier, there's a certain "pep in the step" of folks I run into on my day-to-day errands. Maybe it's me, but the energy has changed, something has lifted. Or maybe it's just that I have changed. Perhaps it's all of the above. Everything old seems new again, and I must confess that I like this feeling.

That being said, I pray that we can learn and remember the lessons that the pandemic has taught us. The lessons of what is really important, and who is really essential. I hope and pray that we really remember and treasure just how much pleasure can be derived from a simple hug or the warmth of a smile. The joy of really being able to see the expression in someone's face. It's the so-called "little things" that really matter.

So enjoy your summer activities this year and if you can, spend as much time as you can out of doors. The time of lockdown has passed, at least for now. We don't know what lies ahead, so give that extra hug, extend a helping hand, smile even wider and brighter. Rejoice in the moment. Revel in the joy of just being you, of just being alive. If for no other reason that in the twinkling of an eye, all could once again be otherwise.

Memorial Day Weekend is the "official" beginning of the summer season. The month of June is upon us. The date of the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere of our planet is June 20, 2021, at 11:30 pm EST.

Happy Father's Day to All!

Michael

In honor of June in the northern hemisphere:

"And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer."
F. Scott Fitzgerald

May 2021

Mother's Day

The "Merry Merry Month of May" is on the horizon and so is Mother's Day, which for many is not the greatest of holidays. For all of the obvious, and not so obvious reasons, "Mother's Day" can be depressing, triggering old and new wounds around mother and family of origin issues.
Just a few days ago I was speaking with a friend who's mother has since crossed over to the spirit world, and yet for my friend, the pain of their relationship still looms large. To be truthful, her mom was not at her best in this life regarding her children and they must deal with this as she is physically gone.
Much guilt and regret looms large in their lives. As I listened to my friend speak, I could hear and see the pain in her voice and etched on her face. Could I have done better, could I have done more to heal the relationship with my mother?

What else could she have done? You keep turning the expectations over in your mind. You are rethinking your actions and responses, which leads to questioning and doubting yourself. Instead of making yourself crazy, why not ask and honestly answer this one simple question, "What else could I have done?" Then take it a step further by asking, "If you could have done it, why didn't you do it?"

Could you have been more considerate? Compassionate? Understanding? Probably. Could you have said more or less? Could you have listened a bit closer? Could you have planned better? Waited longer? Of course you could have but you didn't?
We've all been there. Perhaps in different ways but you are not alone!
When you feel sufficiently remorseful, overwhelmingly confused and totally beaten down, you will be on the brink of a "eureka moment!". You will be face to face with something you probably never considered. The truth is, if you could have done it you would have done it! The fact that you didn't means you couldn't for reasons you may not be aware of right now.
Second guessing yesterday will not help you today. Holding yourself hostage hostage to what was not will not propel you into what will be. As you accept the reality of what you did not do in the past, you open yourself up to the luxury of knowing it does not mean you will not do better in the future.
You did all you could have done at the time. Note what you saw, heard, and felt and experienced, and do better next time!

Whatever Mother's Day means to you, experience it as deeply and authentically as you can.

Michael

 

The First of May
If I could stay up late no doubt
I'd catch the buds just bursting out,
And up from every hidden root, Would jump a tiny slender root,
I wonder how seeds learn the way,
they always know the very day---
The pretty, happy first of May;
If I could stay up then, no doubt, I'd catch the buds just bursting out.

--Annette Wynne

 

April 2021

The Origins of April Fools Day

On April 1, 1700, English jokesters began making popular the annual tradition of April Fool's Day by playing jokes on one another. The day is also called "All Fools Day", and has been celebrated for centuries by different cultures, although its exact origin remains unknown. There is some speculation among historians that April Fools Day began in 1582, when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. People who were slow to get the news or failed to recognize that the start of the New Year had moved to January 1 became the victims of jokes. April fools day spread throughout Britain during the 18th century and in Scotland it became a two-day event in which people were sent on phony errands and having signs placed on their backs with the words "kick me" on them.

"Don't You Be No Fool!"
This was a phrase that I heard often from my parents and elders in my community growing up. They were trying to "school" us younger folks about the ways of the world. They didn't want us to be taken advantage of as we were learning the lessons of life. They were attempting to get us to understand that although the world was beautiful it was still full of trickery and guile. They were also trying to remind us that we could be our own worst enemy on the journey of life. They would tell us, especially when we were being resistant or hard-headed -- "don't you be no fool."
When someone points out the stuff that you have been ignoring, or denying, don't get mad. You see life uses people as its eyes, ears, and hands. That person is simply life's tool. They are being used by life (consciously or unconsciously) to work on you because you have been resistant to looking at your stuff.

You can always tell when someone is saying something that you are resistant to hearing because you feel yourself getting defensive. Your first reaction may be to cut them off. Or the moment they finish, you attack! If you are aware enough at the time (or maybe even later) ask yourself, why is it difficult for me to hear this? Why am I resisting this information? Many times, but certainly not all the time, when you feel the need to defend yourself, people are in your stuff. We are not talking about the times when you are being falsely accused of something, or when folks don't have all of the information. Nor are we speaking of times when others dump all of their stuff or junk on you.

We are talking about situations in which someone reveals to you things about yourself that you have refused to address. We are talking about those things you have done your darndest to keep others from knowing about. If and when that happens,and it inevitably will, don't get mad or try to get even. Don't you be a fool. Take it as a sign that life is on to you. Take it as an opportunity to heal.

Don't you be no fool. You may have been unaware or reluctant to acknowledge that there are things about you that could stand a little attention. In fact, you may have overreacted when people have pointed this out to you. Don't you be no fool. Allow yourself to be aware of your growing edges or weakness when they are pointed out to you, especially those things which make you angry and defensive when they are pointed out. At least try to accept the gift life is giving you at that moment. Consider yourself fortunate that life is bringing these things to your attention. Don't you be no fool. This is the wisdom of the elders.

Have a wonderful April Fools Day!

 

March 2021

The Season of Lent

Lent is a time of penitence. During the Middle Ages, "sinners" were accepted back into the church only after doing penance for Lent. Usually, something had to be "given up" for Lent; bad habits, dysfunctional behavior, asking for forgiveness.

Just as Christmas was born out of the ancient celebrations of the winter solstice, so did Lent and Easter also have their roots in ancient myths and celebrations.

The word Lent is said to have come from the Anglo-Saxon word Lenten, meaning spring, and the German Lenz, meaning the time when the days lengthen. Human beings have always been fascinated with the mysteries of life and death, and the winter solstice and the coming of spring are the times that brings these mysteries nearer to human consciousness. Death and Rebirth is the name of the game.

It is only human to give meaning to these two events. Struggling with not having “control” over these events, perhaps the image of a god was needed, and the need to appease this god with penance, petition, and obedience was the work of the church according to their interpretations of these mysteries.

"Naughty or nice" were the two choices along with heaven or hell, so Lent as a time of penance and to seek forgiveness was a way to bring people to god and the church, not necessarily in that order. There are still many people who take Lent seriously as a time of repentance, and for many it is seen as symbolic, part of the tradition of their chosen faith community. You see Penitence has for the most part become synonymous with guilt, and guilt is a rather dirty word for people of this generation.

Yet, as people in 12-Step Programs know, and as more and more of us are discovering and realizing, acknowledging the negative or harmful things that we have done, to ourselves and to others, and getting in touch with those feelings of shame or guilt; discomfort or disconnectedness, that result from our acting out or disconnectedness can assist us in laying our burdens down. Getting in touch with our human yearning to know better and to do better, to listen to that still small voice that lets us know that we need to make amends is what makes us human beings. The ability and courage to say "I did wrong, I am sorry, I need to ask forgiveness of you and how can I make amends for what I have done?" This is something we all need and must do from time to time.

As UUs we may struggle with the origins of the season theologically, but one thing is for sure--we can all use time to take stock of our shortcomings, even perhaps taking the 40 days of Lent before Easter, to reflect and to reimagine the types of people we say we are, and the type of people we want to be.

The beginning of Lent was on Ash Wednesday, February 17, 2021. Lent is 40 days before Easter Sunday. Whatever you do, use the time well. Spring is on its way!

 

February 2021

What Are Your Plans?

Well, it's 2021. The majority of folks that I have heard from or spoken to are saying that this new year could not arrive fast enough. So, with that said, what is your spiritual plan for this new year? Do you have a clear vision about where you are headed spiritually? Do you know where you want to be? Do you know how to get there? Do you know how to achieve the spiritual stamina required to move ahead in the world? You can't have one without the other, you know? You cannot achieve any kind of success without spiritual strength. How do you achieve it? Maintain it? Have you ever even thought about these kinds of questions?

A spiritual plan is a statement of clear intention about what you desire to experience within yourself and a clear definition of what you must do to make it happen. A spiritual plan is not only about prayer, meditation and contemplation; it is about action--what you will and will not do, what you can and cannot do, in order to achieve your spiritual goal or goals. A spiritual plan requires you to take an in-depth and honest look at where you are and to make an accurate assessment of how you arrived there. (With or without the reality of a virus, by the way.) This goes a tad deeper than making a New Year's resolution.

After making this assessment, you must determine if this is where you want to be, and if not, what must you do to eliminate or incorporate, in order to move forward. These examinations and "resolutions" must be made by yourself, with yourself, and for yourself. And if you are serious, you will not only write them down and speak them aloud. You must believe in yourself and your goals so as to manifest them so that "the word that proceeds from my mouth shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish what I please and achieve the purpose for which I have sent it." (Isaiah 55:11).

So in this New Year, be devoted to examining what you are going through and planning how you want to go through it. If you want to make your journey worthwhile, you must have a plan. Get to it.

Rev. Michael J S Carter

 

January 2021

Blessings at Year's End
by Dr. Howard Thurman

I remember with gratitude the fruits of the labors of others, which I have shared as a part of the normal experience of daily living.

I remember the beautiful things I have seen, heard and felt---some as a result of definite seeking on my part and many that came unheralded into my path, warming my heart and rejoicing my spirit.

I remember the moments of distress that proved to be groundless and those who taught me profoundly about goodness of good and the evilness of evil.

I remember the new people I have met, from whom I have caught glimpses of the meaning of my own life and the true character of human dignity.

I remember the dreams that haunted me during the year, keeping me ever mindful of goals and hopes which I did not realize but from which I drew inspiration to sustain my life and keep steady my purposes.

I remember the awareness of the spirit of God that sought me out in my aloneness and gave to me as sense of assurance that undercut my despair and confirmed my life with new courage and abiding hope.

December 2020

A New Beginning

This is the final minister's column that I will write this year, and what a year it's been. I have been fortunate enough this year to not have to define my entire experience by the COVID-19 virus. That has been intentional on my part as I have experienced and known that somehow, life was and is larger than a virus. However, this has been my experience and insight and, of course, you all will have your own. Now matter, there is still much to be grateful for and we have made it. Yes, we have lost friends and family along the way and not necessarily to illness. This is the cycle of life. Shakespeare reminds us that life is a great stage and as players on this grand stage of life we all have our entrances and exits.

Without a doubt, the "Holiday Season" this year is being experienced differently by many because of the coronavirus. It is indeed curious how much difference can be marked between 2 days, from December 31 to January 1. We do not know what the future holds or what the new year will bring. 2021 may mark the end of relationships of many years' accumulation. It may mean the first encounter with stark tragedy, or radical illness, or other tasting of the dregs from the cup of bitterness. And yet, It may also mean the great discovery of the riches of another human heart and the revelation of the secret beauty of one's own.

It may show the meaning of a new kind of living. This, of course, may include a marriage or other committed relationship, a relocation, a graduation, or perhaps one's first job or even a new one. It may mean the hearing of a distant drummer calling you, the multiverse (or "God") sending you a message that only you can hear, above the noise and distractions of this busy life. When the call is answered, life becomes invaded by smiling energies never before released.

In whatever sense this Holiday (Holy Day) Season, in whatever way this coming year is a new year for you, may the moment find you eager and unafraid, ready to take it by the hand with joy and gratitude. It's been a pleasure to serve this congregation during this time. Do not be afraid! Be of good cheer! Be joyful even after considering all of the so called "facts." There is always room for joy,and love. You don't have to seek it. Just look for the ways you block it from coming to you.

Wishing you all a Merry Everything and a Happy Always!

Rev. Michael J S Carter

 

November 2020

Some thoughts for Election Day 2020 and Beyond

As I write this column, there are only 13 days until election day 2020. It is an extreme understatement to remind you that much is riding on the outcome of this election; I believe our democratic experiment is in peril. Having said that, I do believe in my heart of hearts that "the contradictions of life are not final" and that our political leadership can and will change course. We shall soon see.

Yet whatever the outcome, we must keep moving forward as best we can. I want to share my thoughts with you, take them as you wish--or not.

When you have an intact and healthy sense of worth (inherent worth), you value other people. One begins to realize on a deeper level that people are different. You understand that people see and interpret things in different ways. You do not compare yourself to them, nor do you feel the need to compete with them. You know who you are which means you can at least try to accept others as they are.

When you do not have a healthy sense of worth, you feel the need to win every argument. Perhaps you know folks like this or you notice this a bit more, especially in these challenging times. Perhaps even you feel this need, at least some of the time. You may feel compelled to always prove your point. You may feel threatened by differences. You may need agreement with your views, values, and opinions in order to feel supported and acknowledged. Again, this may not be you but you may notice this in others at this time more intensely. When one is not sure that who they are is good enough, one will do their absolute darndest to prove that they are better than someone else or another group of people. This is not new information but it is easy to forget. It is easy to be triggered by others. Since one may not have enough of their own self worth to draw upon, they will set out to destroy the worth of those who they believe are attacking them. You see, as Gandhi once reminded us, "We think the enemy is hate. It is not hate but fear."

Should you ever find yourself on the attack, realize you are experiencing at that moment a sense of "less than" or "not as good as." When you find yourself tearing someone else down in order to prove your point, realize that you have lost your grounding. You are not centered in yourself. Disagreement is not the same as an attack! When you call someone out, when you criticize their physical being, their talents, gifts or efforts, believing that their inability to agree with you somehow makes you wrong, realize you have lost it! You have lost touch with your sense of inherent worth and dignity. By the way, I have been guilty of everything I wrote about above... just sayin'!

You may have not realized this at the time. You may not have realized that you attack, criticize, or tear people down when they do not agree with you. Take a deep breath and draw on the strength of who you are. Stand in the strength of what you know. Should you be faced with a different point of view, allow yourself and others to be different. It will be a gift in these challenging times. It will be the gift of inner peace. There are difficult days ahead. Be smart. Keep your heart open.

Be joyful, even after considering all the facts!

Peace to you All,
Justice & Blessings,

Rev. Michael J S Carter

 

October 2020

Nothing is Lost

As most of you know by now I love the season of autumn.

Indulge me once again as I riff on what the season means, at least from my limited perspective. Yes, fall means that summer is past as one season blends into another. This change accentuates the passing of time and allows (if we are willing to take it) a time of recollection and reflection. But fall provides something more. There is a harvest, a time of ingathering, of storing up things, especially those things of the heart. Nothing is lost, nothing disappears. As the extraterrestrial visitor says to a human child grieving the death of his father in the remake of the movie The Day The Earth Stood Still, "the Universe wastes nothing. Nothing is wasted." All things belong, each in its own way, to a harmony and an order which envelops all, which infuses all. Yes, Fall accentuates the goodness of life and finds its truest meaning in the strength of winter and the breath of Spring. I thank God for the Fall.

I write this column two days after Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg has died (she died September 18th, 2020). We are losing, but not forgetting, these great souls of wisdom, compassion, and love; Congressman John Lewis, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Rev. C. T. Vivian, and Rev. Joseph Lowery, to name just a few. And yet they have given us our marching orders. We must lose our fear of each other and no longer be ashamed of who and what we are. I give homage and thanks to their lives and their vision of what this nation can be--to live up to the full meaning of its creed.

" ...Let us go forth now to save the land of our birth from the plague that first drove us into the 'will to quarantine' and to separate ourselves behind self-imposed walls. For this is why human beings were born. All human beings belong to each other, and he or she who shuts themselves away diminishes themselves, and he who shuts another away from him or herself destroys themselves. And all the people said Amen."
---- Dr, Howard Thurman ( The Search For Common Ground)

Rev. Michael J. S. Carter

 

September 2020

Hitting The Pause Button

Here we are entering the last quarter of the year 2020. For some the end of the year can't come soon enough. Others look at this experience with social unrest, a pandemic, political upheaval, climate change and the like as a great adventure. Some see it as a hot mess and still others view it as all of the above.

However you personally happen to view the events of this year, there are roughly 3 more months to go. It's been a wild ride for sure. With that in mind, I wanted to say that if you have not already had an opportunity, try to get some down time.

Whether or not it is a "staycation" or a vacation, do try to make the time to decompress. There is so much noise out there and it does affect us in ways known and unknown. Body, Mind, and Spirit are all affected by the media, the fear, the confusion, the hype, you name it. Find your center and hold it.

I just had a vacation in South Carolina and spent some time on the beach. I had not been on a beach in 8 years! It was wonderful, the sun, the sand, the sky, the ocean, not many people around, it was delightful. I was also grateful for the opportunity because I have the privilege to be able to take the time and get some relaxation and I am very much aware that many people cannot afford the luxury, especially at this time.

You see Everything has to stop at one time or another. When driving you must pause at stop lights and stop signs (I sincerely hope you do). On a train there must be stops before you reach your destination. An airplane stops at the head of the runway before takeoff. Realizing this, we forget that we too must stop before moving from experience to experience to refuel and to rest.

Most of us will not leave a job until we find another. As soon as a romantic relationship is over, many of us are ready to jump right back into another one without time to really heal and to rest. Some people actually feel guilty if they take the time to pause or to rest. Perhaps they are missing something or "wasting time."

Sometimes it is a good thing to do nothing and then afterwards to rest. We don't have to always be earning money or earning our keep or meeting some responsibility in our lives at all times. Press the pause button on your life sometimes. The images and sounds of life must come to a halt if you want some clarity about what to do next. It is a blessing to push the pause button, to have the ability to stop and gather strength, or to wait until things have passed before turning a corner and moving forward.

A pause in Life's journey does not mean that nothing is happening. In reality, it is an opportunity to be present and to catch up with what is going on. Unless you pause, you may not know if you are fast forwarding or going in reverse.

Don't just do something. Stand There!

"Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes. Including You!" ----Anne Lamott

Rev. Michael J S Carter

 

August 2020

Masks Beneath Masks

" Love takes off the mask we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within."
-- James Baldwin

Lots of talk these days ("heated discussions" may actually be a better phrase) about masks. Yes, I have gotten into these discussions even after swearing off. Questions like "should you wear one?" "Should you not?" Opinions and statements ranging from "those who do wear masks respect science", and "those who don't don't respect anything." "Blue states respect science and those poor red states... what are they thinking?" Well, I'll leave that conversation alone and invite you to think about the masks we wear everyday as human beings with or without the reality of Covid-19.

Most of us wear all sorts of masks and were wearing them long before the virus came along. We have a business mask, a social mask, a home mask, a play mask and a don't-you-dare-mess-with-me-mask, cause-I'm-not-playing-with-you mask! Of course, there are the many masks of the many roles we play. There's the daughter/son mask, the father mask, the mother mask, the wife/husband mask. There is also the help-me-I'm-lost mask. Each one of our masks carries duties and responsibilities, fears and frustrations, likes and dislikes, demands and desires.

Sometimes the responsibilities of one mask conflicts with those of another. Or, to hold one mask in place, there may be many things we must do that are inappropriate for the other masks we wear. In fact, we can become so skilled at putting on the appropriate mask, at the appropriate time, in order to survive that we eventually lose sight of our essence. Perhaps it is time to wear the mask of authenticity and integrity. Find your true essence (regardless of what others may think or say about you) and allow it to show in all of the roles you play. It is an anchor in these changing times. If you wear it all of the time, or at least try to, there will be a lot less confusion about what to do and how to do it.

"We reach for the mask of righteousness when our insecurities are exposed, slip it over the purple scars and yellowing bruises we gained when open-faced, we first met our fears. Once inside our masks comfort fills our lungs and our breathing softens. No one told the dangers of living behind the mask, of what happens when tears fall in darkness and do not wash away arrogance and pride. No one told us how life fades from faces untouched by opposition. But now that we know, will you help me lift my mask? And if you'll let me, I'll help you lift yours."
--Stephen Shick (from: Be The Change)

Michael
Rev. Michael J. S. Carter

 

July 2020

Being Right

There are many conversations going on these days about many things. Racial justice, wearing of masks, presidential politics, etc. Perhaps you have been involved in some of these topics or all of them. Hopefully, you come to realize that there are some people with whom you are never going to be right. No matter what you say, or how you say it, what you do or how you do it, there are people who are going to find something wrong with everything. This includes you. There are some people who can take what you say and twist it into something you did not say in order to be right. By the time you realize you are fighting a losing battle it is too late. They are right and you feel wrong! You see, the challenge with being confronted by an I-gotta-be-right person, is that they have a way of bringing out the I-gotta-be-right in you.

When you have the smallest glimmer of I-gotta-be-right in your eyes, people detect it. Even when you couch your need in care or concern, those you approach recognize in you what they know about themselves. In response, they can become as determined as you. They have a need to be right, and they are not afraid to sacrifice you in pursuit of their own needs. If you have the same need, somebody is going to go down hard.

The need to be right is nothing more than the need for external validation. The conflict created when one need-to-be-right person locks horns with another need-to-be-right person is really a blessing in disguise. The one who can back down first, without feeling they have lost anything, is the one well on their way to self-acceptance, self-forgiveness, and self-love. Perhaps you may not have known that you still have a need for self-validation. We all do at times. But just for today, surrender, take a deep breath and ask yourself, is this worth it? You do not have to always be right and when you are you will know it. You don't have to attend every fight you're invited to. Nothing is worth giving up your inner peace to prove you are right.

Peace and Robust Health To You!
Michael

 

June 2020

Mercury Retrograde

I was speaking with an astrologer friend of mine recently about what it means to go through a Mercury retrograde. For those of you who are not familiar with the term, back when the gods and goddesses were thought to be in charge of the affairs of humanity, Mercury (the planet of communication) shuttled messages between the gods and mortals. In today's world, Mercury is the computer, the telephone, the internet. Mercury acts as a messenger who collects data and information. When Mercury goes retrograde for 3 weeks 3 times a year, travel, technology, and communications seem to break down during this time period. The next 2 Mercury retrogrades for this year are June 18 - July 12, and October 13 - November 13.

Usually, it's a time to not force anything and just go with the flow, because the planet Mercury appears to be going backwards or in retrograde motion. This is also at time when people who you have not heard from in a while may pop up again in your life. You have the dates above so see how this works for you if you are interested. Personally I like to know when the Mercury retrogrades appear so as to be prepared for the little annoyances and aggravations that can occur during the 3 week time period. And to be fair some Mercury retrogrades are milder than others.

Ironically, it is said that this period is a time to do anything with the prefix "re" in front of it. A good time to review, relax, revisit, etc. The prefix re means to do again. What a blessing! Just think, you can re-peat a lesson at no charge until you get it right. You can re-group after a setback. You can re-structure your life should it appear that things seem to be falling apart. You can re-create your image should you happen to fall apart. You can re-position yourself in any situation, one you re-evaluate. You can always re-think the evaluation once it is done. While most of us do not like doing things over, when you consider the blessings of re, doing it again may not be so bad.

You can re-deem your character by re-tracting words spoken harshly. You can re-cover from your losses through the power of re-organization. At some point, we have all faced the pain of being re-jected, which is actually just a wonderful opportunity to re-flect on who we really are. There is no reason to live with re-morse or re-gret when you consider that every experience is simply a re-hearsal for the next. You can always re-move yourself from a situation when you feel you just can't re-late.

When you re-fuse to nurture yourself, you burnout. When you re-lease habits, people, and situations that do not honor who you are, you will re-generate your power. You cannot re-capture your hairline when it re-cedes, but you can always re-lax the re-quirement that you must look pleasing all of the time. Re-fine your thinking! Re-form your life! Re-search what you need to be and do without any re-sistance! Don't be re-luctant to do things more than once. Re-do what you need to do to re-collect yourself.

You don't have to wait for Mercury to go retrograde to do it (although it may help). Be happy even after considering all of the facts. Hope to see you all soon....Stay well. Happy Summer!

Michael

In-Person Sunday Services Resume
July 11, 2021 - 11:00 a.m.

Well, it's official. UUCSV will begin live services on July 11. The past 16 months have been challenging to say the least but we are going to meet again. COVID-19 had many lessons to bring to us individually as well as collectively. We had time to reassess (whether we wanted to or not) what and who was important ("essential" is the new word being bandied about these days) to us and what was not. We got to make choices on what was worth stressing over and what was not. These are important and life changing decisions as we move forward with our lives.

For those of us who are more extroverted, this was a most uncomfortable time. People needed and wanted to socialize and connect, to have that exchange of energy. For those more introverted, it was a time of recharging and savoring the time alone, to "recharge the batteries," if you will. The world will never be the same after COVID as the virus also forced us to see just how vulnerable and fragile we really are, individually and collectively. I'm sure there are many lessons that have been learned and each of us must process those lessons and experiences in our own personal and unique way. This is only natural for we all handle situations differently.

What is exciting, at least to me, is that we will be gathering once again as a congregation, as a community. We will get to see each other's faces and smiles. For those who are comfortable with it, there will be hugs and kisses. There will be stories of both joy and sorrow and concerns. This is the stuff that life is made of. And yet, wherever you are on the journey after this time of isolation and change, like the phoenix rising from the ashes, I know you will bring your wisdom gleaned from lessons learned, your longing for community, and your continuing commitment and dedication to our congregation and our free, liberal, UU religious heritage and legacy. I know you will bring your best selves. Besides, isn't that the way it should be?

We will live-stream the services for all those who choose to remain socially distant and prefer to watch remotely. All in-person attendees should follow current CDC safety protocol and those not yet vaccinated should take extra precautions.

A heartfelt thanks to:

Deb Evenchik
Rhea Bockhurst
Carolyn Shorkey and Milt Warden
Kate Ramsey
Spence Foscue
Susan Hurley
Susan Enwright Hicks
Jackie Franklin
Angie and Mark Manuel
Sue and Ken Stone

Thank you all for painting and preparing the building to open. Thank you all for your time and commitment. If I missed anyone, please forgive me.

See you on July 11, 2021.

Michael

In-Person Sunday Services Resume
July 11, 2021 - 11:00 a.m.

Well, it's official. UUCSV will begin live services on July 11. The past 16 months have been challenging to say the least but we are going to meet again. COVID-19 had many lessons to bring to us individually as well as collectively. We had time to reassess (whether we wanted to or not) what and who was important ("essential" is the new word being bandied about these days) to us and what was not. We got to make choices on what was worth stressing over and what was not. These are important and life changing decisions as we move forward with our lives.

For those of us who are more extroverted, this was a most uncomfortable time. People needed and wanted to socialize and connect, to have that exchange of energy. For those more introverted, it was a time of recharging and savoring the time alone, to "recharge the batteries," if you will. The world will never be the same after COVID as the virus also forced us to see just how vulnerable and fragile we really are, individually and collectively. I'm sure there are many lessons that have been learned and each of us must process those lessons and experiences in our own personal and unique way. This is only natural for we all handle situations differently.

What is exciting, at least to me, is that we will be gathering once again as a congregation, as a community. We will get to see each other's faces and smiles. For those who are comfortable with it, there will be hugs and kisses. There will be stories of both joy and sorrow and concerns. This is the stuff that life is made of. And yet, wherever you are on the journey after this time of isolation and change, like the phoenix rising from the ashes, I know you will bring your wisdom gleaned from lessons learned, your longing for community, and your continuing commitment and dedication to our congregation and our free, liberal, UU religious heritage and legacy. I know you will bring your best selves. Besides, isn't that the way it should be?

We will live-stream the services for all those who choose to remain socially distant and prefer to watch remotely. All in-person attendees should follow current CDC safety protocol and those not yet vaccinated should take extra precautions.

A heartfelt thanks to:

Deb Evenchik
Rhea Bockhurst
Carolyn Shorkey and Milt Warden
Kate Ramsey
Spence Foscue
Susan Hurley
Susan Enwright Hicks
Jackie Franklin
Angie and Mark Manuel
Sue and Ken Stone

Thank you all for painting and preparing the building to open. Thank you all for your time and commitment. If I missed anyone, please forgive me.

See you on July 11, 2021.

Michael

June 2021

June's Picture by Annette Wynne

"Let me paint June's picture---first I take some gold, fill in the picture full of sun, all that it can hold; save some for the butterflies, darting all around, and some more for the buttercups here upon the ground. Take a lot of baby blue--- this to make the sky, with a lot of downy white---soft clouds floating by; Cover all the ground with green, hang it from the trees, sprinkle it with shiny white, neatly as you please.

"So---a million daisies spring up everywhere, surely you can see now what is in the air! Here's a thread of silver---that's a little brook to hide in dainty places where only children look. Next comes something---guess---it grows among green hedges---it's a rose! Brown for a bird to sing a song, brown for a road to walk along.

"Then add some happy children to the fields and flowers and skies, and so you have June's picture here before your eyes."

I don't know about you, but now that many people are getting vaccinated and the year of lockdown is over, summer has a different feel to it for me. It feels like the first signs of spring after an exceptionally long and frigid winter. It feels like a rebirth of sorts, people seem to be just a bit friendlier, there's a certain "pep in the step" of folks I run into on my day-to-day errands. Maybe it's me, but the energy has changed, something has lifted. Or maybe it's just that I have changed. Perhaps it's all of the above. Everything old seems new again, and I must confess that I like this feeling.

That being said, I pray that we can learn and remember the lessons that the pandemic has taught us. The lessons of what is really important, and who is really essential. I hope and pray that we really remember and treasure just how much pleasure can be derived from a simple hug or the warmth of a smile. The joy of really being able to see the expression in someone's face. It's the so-called "little things" that really matter.

So enjoy your summer activities this year and if you can, spend as much time as you can out of doors. The time of lockdown has passed, at least for now. We don't know what lies ahead, so give that extra hug, extend a helping hand, smile even wider and brighter. Rejoice in the moment. Revel in the joy of just being you, of just being alive. If for no other reason that in the twinkling of an eye, all could once again be otherwise.

Memorial Day Weekend is the "official" beginning of the summer season. The month of June is upon us. The date of the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere of our planet is June 20, 2021, at 11:30 pm EST.

Happy Father's Day to All!

Michael

In honor of June in the northern hemisphere:

"And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer."
F. Scott Fitzgerald

May 2021

Mother's Day

The "Merry Merry Month of May" is on the horizon and so is Mother's Day, which for many is not the greatest of holidays. For all of the obvious, and not so obvious reasons, "Mother's Day" can be depressing, triggering old and new wounds around mother and family of origin issues.
Just a few days ago I was speaking with a friend who's mother has since crossed over to the spirit world, and yet for my friend, the pain of their relationship still looms large. To be truthful, her mom was not at her best in this life regarding her children and they must deal with this as she is physically gone.
Much guilt and regret looms large in their lives. As I listened to my friend speak, I could hear and see the pain in her voice and etched on her face. Could I have done better, could I have done more to heal the relationship with my mother?

What else could she have done? You keep turning the expectations over in your mind. You are rethinking your actions and responses, which leads to questioning and doubting yourself. Instead of making yourself crazy, why not ask and honestly answer this one simple question, "What else could I have done?" Then take it a step further by asking, "If you could have done it, why didn't you do it?"

Could you have been more considerate? Compassionate? Understanding? Probably. Could you have said more or less? Could you have listened a bit closer? Could you have planned better? Waited longer? Of course you could have but you didn't?
We've all been there. Perhaps in different ways but you are not alone!
When you feel sufficiently remorseful, overwhelmingly confused and totally beaten down, you will be on the brink of a "eureka moment!". You will be face to face with something you probably never considered. The truth is, if you could have done it you would have done it! The fact that you didn't means you couldn't for reasons you may not be aware of right now.
Second guessing yesterday will not help you today. Holding yourself hostage hostage to what was not will not propel you into what will be. As you accept the reality of what you did not do in the past, you open yourself up to the luxury of knowing it does not mean you will not do better in the future.
You did all you could have done at the time. Note what you saw, heard, and felt and experienced, and do better next time!

Whatever Mother's Day means to you, experience it as deeply and authentically as you can.

Michael

 

The First of May
If I could stay up late no doubt
I'd catch the buds just bursting out,
And up from every hidden root, Would jump a tiny slender root,
I wonder how seeds learn the way,
they always know the very day---
The pretty, happy first of May;
If I could stay up then, no doubt, I'd catch the buds just bursting out.

--Annette Wynne

 

April 2021

The Origins of April Fools Day

On April 1, 1700, English jokesters began making popular the annual tradition of April Fool's Day by playing jokes on one another. The day is also called "All Fools Day", and has been celebrated for centuries by different cultures, although its exact origin remains unknown. There is some speculation among historians that April Fools Day began in 1582, when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. People who were slow to get the news or failed to recognize that the start of the New Year had moved to January 1 became the victims of jokes. April fools day spread throughout Britain during the 18th century and in Scotland it became a two-day event in which people were sent on phony errands and having signs placed on their backs with the words "kick me" on them.

"Don't You Be No Fool!"
This was a phrase that I heard often from my parents and elders in my community growing up. They were trying to "school" us younger folks about the ways of the world. They didn't want us to be taken advantage of as we were learning the lessons of life. They were attempting to get us to understand that although the world was beautiful it was still full of trickery and guile. They were also trying to remind us that we could be our own worst enemy on the journey of life. They would tell us, especially when we were being resistant or hard-headed -- "don't you be no fool."
When someone points out the stuff that you have been ignoring, or denying, don't get mad. You see life uses people as its eyes, ears, and hands. That person is simply life's tool. They are being used by life (consciously or unconsciously) to work on you because you have been resistant to looking at your stuff.

You can always tell when someone is saying something that you are resistant to hearing because you feel yourself getting defensive. Your first reaction may be to cut them off. Or the moment they finish, you attack! If you are aware enough at the time (or maybe even later) ask yourself, why is it difficult for me to hear this? Why am I resisting this information? Many times, but certainly not all the time, when you feel the need to defend yourself, people are in your stuff. We are not talking about the times when you are being falsely accused of something, or when folks don't have all of the information. Nor are we speaking of times when others dump all of their stuff or junk on you.

We are talking about situations in which someone reveals to you things about yourself that you have refused to address. We are talking about those things you have done your darndest to keep others from knowing about. If and when that happens,and it inevitably will, don't get mad or try to get even. Don't you be a fool. Take it as a sign that life is on to you. Take it as an opportunity to heal.

Don't you be no fool. You may have been unaware or reluctant to acknowledge that there are things about you that could stand a little attention. In fact, you may have overreacted when people have pointed this out to you. Don't you be no fool. Allow yourself to be aware of your growing edges or weakness when they are pointed out to you, especially those things which make you angry and defensive when they are pointed out. At least try to accept the gift life is giving you at that moment. Consider yourself fortunate that life is bringing these things to your attention. Don't you be no fool. This is the wisdom of the elders.

Have a wonderful April Fools Day!

 

March 2021

The Season of Lent

Lent is a time of penitence. During the Middle Ages, "sinners" were accepted back into the church only after doing penance for Lent. Usually, something had to be "given up" for Lent; bad habits, dysfunctional behavior, asking for forgiveness.

Just as Christmas was born out of the ancient celebrations of the winter solstice, so did Lent and Easter also have their roots in ancient myths and celebrations.

The word Lent is said to have come from the Anglo-Saxon word Lenten, meaning spring, and the German Lenz, meaning the time when the days lengthen. Human beings have always been fascinated with the mysteries of life and death, and the winter solstice and the coming of spring are the times that brings these mysteries nearer to human consciousness. Death and Rebirth is the name of the game.

It is only human to give meaning to these two events. Struggling with not having “control” over these events, perhaps the image of a god was needed, and the need to appease this god with penance, petition, and obedience was the work of the church according to their interpretations of these mysteries.

"Naughty or nice" were the two choices along with heaven or hell, so Lent as a time of penance and to seek forgiveness was a way to bring people to god and the church, not necessarily in that order. There are still many people who take Lent seriously as a time of repentance, and for many it is seen as symbolic, part of the tradition of their chosen faith community. You see Penitence has for the most part become synonymous with guilt, and guilt is a rather dirty word for people of this generation.

Yet, as people in 12-Step Programs know, and as more and more of us are discovering and realizing, acknowledging the negative or harmful things that we have done, to ourselves and to others, and getting in touch with those feelings of shame or guilt; discomfort or disconnectedness, that result from our acting out or disconnectedness can assist us in laying our burdens down. Getting in touch with our human yearning to know better and to do better, to listen to that still small voice that lets us know that we need to make amends is what makes us human beings. The ability and courage to say "I did wrong, I am sorry, I need to ask forgiveness of you and how can I make amends for what I have done?" This is something we all need and must do from time to time.

As UUs we may struggle with the origins of the season theologically, but one thing is for sure--we can all use time to take stock of our shortcomings, even perhaps taking the 40 days of Lent before Easter, to reflect and to reimagine the types of people we say we are, and the type of people we want to be.

The beginning of Lent was on Ash Wednesday, February 17, 2021. Lent is 40 days before Easter Sunday. Whatever you do, use the time well. Spring is on its way!

 

February 2021

What Are Your Plans?

Well, it's 2021. The majority of folks that I have heard from or spoken to are saying that this new year could not arrive fast enough. So, with that said, what is your spiritual plan for this new year? Do you have a clear vision about where you are headed spiritually? Do you know where you want to be? Do you know how to get there? Do you know how to achieve the spiritual stamina required to move ahead in the world? You can't have one without the other, you know? You cannot achieve any kind of success without spiritual strength. How do you achieve it? Maintain it? Have you ever even thought about these kinds of questions?

A spiritual plan is a statement of clear intention about what you desire to experience within yourself and a clear definition of what you must do to make it happen. A spiritual plan is not only about prayer, meditation and contemplation; it is about action--what you will and will not do, what you can and cannot do, in order to achieve your spiritual goal or goals. A spiritual plan requires you to take an in-depth and honest look at where you are and to make an accurate assessment of how you arrived there. (With or without the reality of a virus, by the way.) This goes a tad deeper than making a New Year's resolution.

After making this assessment, you must determine if this is where you want to be, and if not, what must you do to eliminate or incorporate, in order to move forward. These examinations and "resolutions" must be made by yourself, with yourself, and for yourself. And if you are serious, you will not only write them down and speak them aloud. You must believe in yourself and your goals so as to manifest them so that "the word that proceeds from my mouth shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish what I please and achieve the purpose for which I have sent it." (Isaiah 55:11).

So in this New Year, be devoted to examining what you are going through and planning how you want to go through it. If you want to make your journey worthwhile, you must have a plan. Get to it.

Rev. Michael J S Carter

 

January 2021

Blessings at Year's End
by Dr. Howard Thurman

I remember with gratitude the fruits of the labors of others, which I have shared as a part of the normal experience of daily living.

I remember the beautiful things I have seen, heard and felt---some as a result of definite seeking on my part and many that came unheralded into my path, warming my heart and rejoicing my spirit.

I remember the moments of distress that proved to be groundless and those who taught me profoundly about goodness of good and the evilness of evil.

I remember the new people I have met, from whom I have caught glimpses of the meaning of my own life and the true character of human dignity.

I remember the dreams that haunted me during the year, keeping me ever mindful of goals and hopes which I did not realize but from which I drew inspiration to sustain my life and keep steady my purposes.

I remember the awareness of the spirit of God that sought me out in my aloneness and gave to me as sense of assurance that undercut my despair and confirmed my life with new courage and abiding hope.

December 2020

A New Beginning

This is the final minister's column that I will write this year, and what a year it's been. I have been fortunate enough this year to not have to define my entire experience by the COVID-19 virus. That has been intentional on my part as I have experienced and known that somehow, life was and is larger than a virus. However, this has been my experience and insight and, of course, you all will have your own. Now matter, there is still much to be grateful for and we have made it. Yes, we have lost friends and family along the way and not necessarily to illness. This is the cycle of life. Shakespeare reminds us that life is a great stage and as players on this grand stage of life we all have our entrances and exits.

Without a doubt, the "Holiday Season" this year is being experienced differently by many because of the coronavirus. It is indeed curious how much difference can be marked between 2 days, from December 31 to January 1. We do not know what the future holds or what the new year will bring. 2021 may mark the end of relationships of many years' accumulation. It may mean the first encounter with stark tragedy, or radical illness, or other tasting of the dregs from the cup of bitterness. And yet, It may also mean the great discovery of the riches of another human heart and the revelation of the secret beauty of one's own.

It may show the meaning of a new kind of living. This, of course, may include a marriage or other committed relationship, a relocation, a graduation, or perhaps one's first job or even a new one. It may mean the hearing of a distant drummer calling you, the multiverse (or "God") sending you a message that only you can hear, above the noise and distractions of this busy life. When the call is answered, life becomes invaded by smiling energies never before released.

In whatever sense this Holiday (Holy Day) Season, in whatever way this coming year is a new year for you, may the moment find you eager and unafraid, ready to take it by the hand with joy and gratitude. It's been a pleasure to serve this congregation during this time. Do not be afraid! Be of good cheer! Be joyful even after considering all of the so called "facts." There is always room for joy,and love. You don't have to seek it. Just look for the ways you block it from coming to you.

Wishing you all a Merry Everything and a Happy Always!

Rev. Michael J S Carter

 

November 2020

Some thoughts for Election Day 2020 and Beyond

As I write this column, there are only 13 days until election day 2020. It is an extreme understatement to remind you that much is riding on the outcome of this election; I believe our democratic experiment is in peril. Having said that, I do believe in my heart of hearts that "the contradictions of life are not final" and that our political leadership can and will change course. We shall soon see.

Yet whatever the outcome, we must keep moving forward as best we can. I want to share my thoughts with you, take them as you wish--or not.

When you have an intact and healthy sense of worth (inherent worth), you value other people. One begins to realize on a deeper level that people are different. You understand that people see and interpret things in different ways. You do not compare yourself to them, nor do you feel the need to compete with them. You know who you are which means you can at least try to accept others as they are.

When you do not have a healthy sense of worth, you feel the need to win every argument. Perhaps you know folks like this or you notice this a bit more, especially in these challenging times. Perhaps even you feel this need, at least some of the time. You may feel compelled to always prove your point. You may feel threatened by differences. You may need agreement with your views, values, and opinions in order to feel supported and acknowledged. Again, this may not be you but you may notice this in others at this time more intensely. When one is not sure that who they are is good enough, one will do their absolute darndest to prove that they are better than someone else or another group of people. This is not new information but it is easy to forget. It is easy to be triggered by others. Since one may not have enough of their own self worth to draw upon, they will set out to destroy the worth of those who they believe are attacking them. You see, as Gandhi once reminded us, "We think the enemy is hate. It is not hate but fear."

Should you ever find yourself on the attack, realize you are experiencing at that moment a sense of "less than" or "not as good as." When you find yourself tearing someone else down in order to prove your point, realize that you have lost your grounding. You are not centered in yourself. Disagreement is not the same as an attack! When you call someone out, when you criticize their physical being, their talents, gifts or efforts, believing that their inability to agree with you somehow makes you wrong, realize you have lost it! You have lost touch with your sense of inherent worth and dignity. By the way, I have been guilty of everything I wrote about above... just sayin'!

You may have not realized this at the time. You may not have realized that you attack, criticize, or tear people down when they do not agree with you. Take a deep breath and draw on the strength of who you are. Stand in the strength of what you know. Should you be faced with a different point of view, allow yourself and others to be different. It will be a gift in these challenging times. It will be the gift of inner peace. There are difficult days ahead. Be smart. Keep your heart open.

Be joyful, even after considering all the facts!

Peace to you All,
Justice & Blessings,

Rev. Michael J S Carter

 

October 2020

Nothing is Lost

As most of you know by now I love the season of autumn.

Indulge me once again as I riff on what the season means, at least from my limited perspective. Yes, fall means that summer is past as one season blends into another. This change accentuates the passing of time and allows (if we are willing to take it) a time of recollection and reflection. But fall provides something more. There is a harvest, a time of ingathering, of storing up things, especially those things of the heart. Nothing is lost, nothing disappears. As the extraterrestrial visitor says to a human child grieving the death of his father in the remake of the movie The Day The Earth Stood Still, "the Universe wastes nothing. Nothing is wasted." All things belong, each in its own way, to a harmony and an order which envelops all, which infuses all. Yes, Fall accentuates the goodness of life and finds its truest meaning in the strength of winter and the breath of Spring. I thank God for the Fall.

I write this column two days after Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg has died (she died September 18th, 2020). We are losing, but not forgetting, these great souls of wisdom, compassion, and love; Congressman John Lewis, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Rev. C. T. Vivian, and Rev. Joseph Lowery, to name just a few. And yet they have given us our marching orders. We must lose our fear of each other and no longer be ashamed of who and what we are. I give homage and thanks to their lives and their vision of what this nation can be--to live up to the full meaning of its creed.

" ...Let us go forth now to save the land of our birth from the plague that first drove us into the 'will to quarantine' and to separate ourselves behind self-imposed walls. For this is why human beings were born. All human beings belong to each other, and he or she who shuts themselves away diminishes themselves, and he who shuts another away from him or herself destroys themselves. And all the people said Amen."
---- Dr, Howard Thurman ( The Search For Common Ground)

Rev. Michael J. S. Carter

 

September 2020

Hitting The Pause Button

Here we are entering the last quarter of the year 2020. For some the end of the year can't come soon enough. Others look at this experience with social unrest, a pandemic, political upheaval, climate change and the like as a great adventure. Some see it as a hot mess and still others view it as all of the above.

However you personally happen to view the events of this year, there are roughly 3 more months to go. It's been a wild ride for sure. With that in mind, I wanted to say that if you have not already had an opportunity, try to get some down time.

Whether or not it is a "staycation" or a vacation, do try to make the time to decompress. There is so much noise out there and it does affect us in ways known and unknown. Body, Mind, and Spirit are all affected by the media, the fear, the confusion, the hype, you name it. Find your center and hold it.

I just had a vacation in South Carolina and spent some time on the beach. I had not been on a beach in 8 years! It was wonderful, the sun, the sand, the sky, the ocean, not many people around, it was delightful. I was also grateful for the opportunity because I have the privilege to be able to take the time and get some relaxation and I am very much aware that many people cannot afford the luxury, especially at this time.

You see Everything has to stop at one time or another. When driving you must pause at stop lights and stop signs (I sincerely hope you do). On a train there must be stops before you reach your destination. An airplane stops at the head of the runway before takeoff. Realizing this, we forget that we too must stop before moving from experience to experience to refuel and to rest.

Most of us will not leave a job until we find another. As soon as a romantic relationship is over, many of us are ready to jump right back into another one without time to really heal and to rest. Some people actually feel guilty if they take the time to pause or to rest. Perhaps they are missing something or "wasting time."

Sometimes it is a good thing to do nothing and then afterwards to rest. We don't have to always be earning money or earning our keep or meeting some responsibility in our lives at all times. Press the pause button on your life sometimes. The images and sounds of life must come to a halt if you want some clarity about what to do next. It is a blessing to push the pause button, to have the ability to stop and gather strength, or to wait until things have passed before turning a corner and moving forward.

A pause in Life's journey does not mean that nothing is happening. In reality, it is an opportunity to be present and to catch up with what is going on. Unless you pause, you may not know if you are fast forwarding or going in reverse.

Don't just do something. Stand There!

"Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes. Including You!" ----Anne Lamott

Rev. Michael J S Carter

 

August 2020

Masks Beneath Masks

" Love takes off the mask we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within."
-- James Baldwin

Lots of talk these days ("heated discussions" may actually be a better phrase) about masks. Yes, I have gotten into these discussions even after swearing off. Questions like "should you wear one?" "Should you not?" Opinions and statements ranging from "those who do wear masks respect science", and "those who don't don't respect anything." "Blue states respect science and those poor red states... what are they thinking?" Well, I'll leave that conversation alone and invite you to think about the masks we wear everyday as human beings with or without the reality of Covid-19.

Most of us wear all sorts of masks and were wearing them long before the virus came along. We have a business mask, a social mask, a home mask, a play mask and a don't-you-dare-mess-with-me-mask, cause-I'm-not-playing-with-you mask! Of course, there are the many masks of the many roles we play. There's the daughter/son mask, the father mask, the mother mask, the wife/husband mask. There is also the help-me-I'm-lost mask. Each one of our masks carries duties and responsibilities, fears and frustrations, likes and dislikes, demands and desires.

Sometimes the responsibilities of one mask conflicts with those of another. Or, to hold one mask in place, there may be many things we must do that are inappropriate for the other masks we wear. In fact, we can become so skilled at putting on the appropriate mask, at the appropriate time, in order to survive that we eventually lose sight of our essence. Perhaps it is time to wear the mask of authenticity and integrity. Find your true essence (regardless of what others may think or say about you) and allow it to show in all of the roles you play. It is an anchor in these changing times. If you wear it all of the time, or at least try to, there will be a lot less confusion about what to do and how to do it.

"We reach for the mask of righteousness when our insecurities are exposed, slip it over the purple scars and yellowing bruises we gained when open-faced, we first met our fears. Once inside our masks comfort fills our lungs and our breathing softens. No one told the dangers of living behind the mask, of what happens when tears fall in darkness and do not wash away arrogance and pride. No one told us how life fades from faces untouched by opposition. But now that we know, will you help me lift my mask? And if you'll let me, I'll help you lift yours."
--Stephen Shick (from: Be The Change)

Michael
Rev. Michael J. S. Carter

 

July 2020

Being Right

There are many conversations going on these days about many things. Racial justice, wearing of masks, presidential politics, etc. Perhaps you have been involved in some of these topics or all of them. Hopefully, you come to realize that there are some people with whom you are never going to be right. No matter what you say, or how you say it, what you do or how you do it, there are people who are going to find something wrong with everything. This includes you. There are some people who can take what you say and twist it into something you did not say in order to be right. By the time you realize you are fighting a losing battle it is too late. They are right and you feel wrong! You see, the challenge with being confronted by an I-gotta-be-right person, is that they have a way of bringing out the I-gotta-be-right in you.

When you have the smallest glimmer of I-gotta-be-right in your eyes, people detect it. Even when you couch your need in care or concern, those you approach recognize in you what they know about themselves. In response, they can become as determined as you. They have a need to be right, and they are not afraid to sacrifice you in pursuit of their own needs. If you have the same need, somebody is going to go down hard.

The need to be right is nothing more than the need for external validation. The conflict created when one need-to-be-right person locks horns with another need-to-be-right person is really a blessing in disguise. The one who can back down first, without feeling they have lost anything, is the one well on their way to self-acceptance, self-forgiveness, and self-love. Perhaps you may not have known that you still have a need for self-validation. We all do at times. But just for today, surrender, take a deep breath and ask yourself, is this worth it? You do not have to always be right and when you are you will know it. You don't have to attend every fight you're invited to. Nothing is worth giving up your inner peace to prove you are right.

Peace and Robust Health To You!
Michael

 

June 2020

Mercury Retrograde

I was speaking with an astrologer friend of mine recently about what it means to go through a Mercury retrograde. For those of you who are not familiar with the term, back when the gods and goddesses were thought to be in charge of the affairs of humanity, Mercury (the planet of communication) shuttled messages between the gods and mortals. In today's world, Mercury is the computer, the telephone, the internet. Mercury acts as a messenger who collects data and information. When Mercury goes retrograde for 3 weeks 3 times a year, travel, technology, and communications seem to break down during this time period. The next 2 Mercury retrogrades for this year are June 18 - July 12, and October 13 - November 13.

Usually, it's a time to not force anything and just go with the flow, because the planet Mercury appears to be going backwards or in retrograde motion. This is also at time when people who you have not heard from in a while may pop up again in your life. You have the dates above so see how this works for you if you are interested. Personally I like to know when the Mercury retrogrades appear so as to be prepared for the little annoyances and aggravations that can occur during the 3 week time period. And to be fair some Mercury retrogrades are milder than others.

Ironically, it is said that this period is a time to do anything with the prefix "re" in front of it. A good time to review, relax, revisit, etc. The prefix re means to do again. What a blessing! Just think, you can re-peat a lesson at no charge until you get it right. You can re-group after a setback. You can re-structure your life should it appear that things seem to be falling apart. You can re-create your image should you happen to fall apart. You can re-position yourself in any situation, one you re-evaluate. You can always re-think the evaluation once it is done. While most of us do not like doing things over, when you consider the blessings of re, doing it again may not be so bad.

You can re-deem your character by re-tracting words spoken harshly. You can re-cover from your losses through the power of re-organization. At some point, we have all faced the pain of being re-jected, which is actually just a wonderful opportunity to re-flect on who we really are. There is no reason to live with re-morse or re-gret when you consider that every experience is simply a re-hearsal for the next. You can always re-move yourself from a situation when you feel you just can't re-late.

When you re-fuse to nurture yourself, you burnout. When you re-lease habits, people, and situations that do not honor who you are, you will re-generate your power. You cannot re-capture your hairline when it re-cedes, but you can always re-lax the re-quirement that you must look pleasing all of the time. Re-fine your thinking! Re-form your life! Re-search what you need to be and do without any re-sistance! Don't be re-luctant to do things more than once. Re-do what you need to do to re-collect yourself.

You don't have to wait for Mercury to go retrograde to do it (although it may help). Be happy even after considering all of the facts. Hope to see you all soon....Stay well. Happy Summer!

Michael

March 2021

The Season of Lent

Lent is a time of penitence. During the Middle Ages, "sinners" were accepted back into the church only after doing penance for Lent. Usually, something had to be "given up" for Lent; bad habits, dysfunctional behavior, asking for forgiveness.

Just as Christmas was born out of the ancient celebrations of the winter solstice, so did Lent and Easter also have their roots in ancient myths and celebrations.

The word Lent is said to have come from the Anglo-Saxon word Lenten, meaning spring, and the German Lenz, meaning the time when the days lengthen. Human beings have always been fascinated with the mysteries of life and death, and the winter solstice and the coming of spring are the times that brings these mysteries nearer to human consciousness. Death and Rebirth is the name of the game.

It is only human to give meaning to these two events. Struggling with not having “control” over these events, perhaps the image of a god was needed, and the need to appease this god with penance, petition, and obedience was the work of the church according to their interpretations of these mysteries.

"Naughty or nice" were the two choices along with heaven or hell, so Lent as a time of penance and to seek forgiveness was a way to bring people to god and the church, not necessarily in that order. There are still many people who take Lent seriously as a time of repentance, and for many it is seen as symbolic, part of the tradition of their chosen faith community. You see Penitence has for the most part become synonymous with guilt, and guilt is a rather dirty word for people of this generation.

Yet, as people in 12-Step Programs know, and as more and more of us are discovering and realizing, acknowledging the negative or harmful things that we have done, to ourselves and to others, and getting in touch with those feelings of shame or guilt; discomfort or disconnectedness, that result from our acting out or disconnectedness can assist us in laying our burdens down. Getting in touch with our human yearning to know better and to do better, to listen to that still small voice that lets us know that we need to make amends is what makes us human beings. The ability and courage to say "I did wrong, I am sorry, I need to ask forgiveness of you and how can I make amends for what I have done?" This is something we all need and must do from time to time.

As UUs we may struggle with the origins of the season theologically, but one thing is for sure--we can all use time to take stock of our shortcomings, even perhaps taking the 40 days of Lent before Easter, to reflect and to reimagine the types of people we say we are, and the type of people we want to be.

The beginning of Lent was on Ash Wednesday, February 17, 2021. Lent is 40 days before Easter Sunday. Whatever you do, use the time well. Spring is on its way!

 

February 2021

What Are Your Plans?

Well, it's 2021. The majority of folks that I have heard from or spoken to are saying that this new year could not arrive fast enough. So, with that said, what is your spiritual plan for this new year? Do you have a clear vision about where you are headed spiritually? Do you know where you want to be? Do you know how to get there? Do you know how to achieve the spiritual stamina required to move ahead in the world? You can't have one without the other, you know? You cannot achieve any kind of success without spiritual strength. How do you achieve it? Maintain it? Have you ever even thought about these kinds of questions?

A spiritual plan is a statement of clear intention about what you desire to experience within yourself and a clear definition of what you must do to make it happen. A spiritual plan is not only about prayer, meditation and contemplation; it is about action--what you will and will not do, what you can and cannot do, in order to achieve your spiritual goal or goals. A spiritual plan requires you to take an in-depth and honest look at where you are and to make an accurate assessment of how you arrived there. (With or without the reality of a virus, by the way.) This goes a tad deeper than making a New Year's resolution.

After making this assessment, you must determine if this is where you want to be, and if not, what must you do to eliminate or incorporate, in order to move forward. These examinations and "resolutions" must be made by yourself, with yourself, and for yourself. And if you are serious, you will not only write them down and speak them aloud. You must believe in yourself and your goals so as to manifest them so that "the word that proceeds from my mouth shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish what I please and achieve the purpose for which I have sent it." (Isaiah 55:11).

So in this New Year, be devoted to examining what you are going through and planning how you want to go through it. If you want to make your journey worthwhile, you must have a plan. Get to it.

Rev. Michael J S Carter

 

January 2021

Blessings at Year's End
by Dr. Howard Thurman

I remember with gratitude the fruits of the labors of others, which I have shared as a part of the normal experience of daily living.

I remember the beautiful things I have seen, heard and felt---some as a result of definite seeking on my part and many that came unheralded into my path, warming my heart and rejoicing my spirit.

I remember the moments of distress that proved to be groundless and those who taught me profoundly about goodness of good and the evilness of evil.

I remember the new people I have met, from whom I have caught glimpses of the meaning of my own life and the true character of human dignity.

I remember the dreams that haunted me during the year, keeping me ever mindful of goals and hopes which I did not realize but from which I drew inspiration to sustain my life and keep steady my purposes.

I remember the awareness of the spirit of God that sought me out in my aloneness and gave to me as sense of assurance that undercut my despair and confirmed my life with new courage and abiding hope.

December 2020

A New Beginning

This is the final minister's column that I will write this year, and what a year it's been. I have been fortunate enough this year to not have to define my entire experience by the COVID-19 virus. That has been intentional on my part as I have experienced and known that somehow, life was and is larger than a virus. However, this has been my experience and insight and, of course, you all will have your own. Now matter, there is still much to be grateful for and we have made it. Yes, we have lost friends and family along the way and not necessarily to illness. This is the cycle of life. Shakespeare reminds us that life is a great stage and as players on this grand stage of life we all have our entrances and exits.

Without a doubt, the "Holiday Season" this year is being experienced differently by many because of the coronavirus. It is indeed curious how much difference can be marked between 2 days, from December 31 to January 1. We do not know what the future holds or what the new year will bring. 2021 may mark the end of relationships of many years' accumulation. It may mean the first encounter with stark tragedy, or radical illness, or other tasting of the dregs from the cup of bitterness. And yet, It may also mean the great discovery of the riches of another human heart and the revelation of the secret beauty of one's own.

It may show the meaning of a new kind of living. This, of course, may include a marriage or other committed relationship, a relocation, a graduation, or perhaps one's first job or even a new one. It may mean the hearing of a distant drummer calling you, the multiverse (or "God") sending you a message that only you can hear, above the noise and distractions of this busy life. When the call is answered, life becomes invaded by smiling energies never before released.

In whatever sense this Holiday (Holy Day) Season, in whatever way this coming year is a new year for you, may the moment find you eager and unafraid, ready to take it by the hand with joy and gratitude. It's been a pleasure to serve this congregation during this time. Do not be afraid! Be of good cheer! Be joyful even after considering all of the so called "facts." There is always room for joy,and love. You don't have to seek it. Just look for the ways you block it from coming to you.

Wishing you all a Merry Everything and a Happy Always!

Rev. Michael J S Carter

 

November 2020

Some thoughts for Election Day 2020 and Beyond

As I write this column, there are only 13 days until election day 2020. It is an extreme understatement to remind you that much is riding on the outcome of this election; I believe our democratic experiment is in peril. Having said that, I do believe in my heart of hearts that "the contradictions of life are not final" and that our political leadership can and will change course. We shall soon see.

Yet whatever the outcome, we must keep moving forward as best we can. I want to share my thoughts with you, take them as you wish--or not.

When you have an intact and healthy sense of worth (inherent worth), you value other people. One begins to realize on a deeper level that people are different. You understand that people see and interpret things in different ways. You do not compare yourself to them, nor do you feel the need to compete with them. You know who you are which means you can at least try to accept others as they are.

When you do not have a healthy sense of worth, you feel the need to win every argument. Perhaps you know folks like this or you notice this a bit more, especially in these challenging times. Perhaps even you feel this need, at least some of the time. You may feel compelled to always prove your point. You may feel threatened by differences. You may need agreement with your views, values, and opinions in order to feel supported and acknowledged. Again, this may not be you but you may notice this in others at this time more intensely. When one is not sure that who they are is good enough, one will do their absolute darndest to prove that they are better than someone else or another group of people. This is not new information but it is easy to forget. It is easy to be triggered by others. Since one may not have enough of their own self worth to draw upon, they will set out to destroy the worth of those who they believe are attacking them. You see, as Gandhi once reminded us, "We think the enemy is hate. It is not hate but fear."

Should you ever find yourself on the attack, realize you are experiencing at that moment a sense of "less than" or "not as good as." When you find yourself tearing someone else down in order to prove your point, realize that you have lost your grounding. You are not centered in yourself. Disagreement is not the same as an attack! When you call someone out, when you criticize their physical being, their talents, gifts or efforts, believing that their inability to agree with you somehow makes you wrong, realize you have lost it! You have lost touch with your sense of inherent worth and dignity. By the way, I have been guilty of everything I wrote about above... just sayin'!

You may have not realized this at the time. You may not have realized that you attack, criticize, or tear people down when they do not agree with you. Take a deep breath and draw on the strength of who you are. Stand in the strength of what you know. Should you be faced with a different point of view, allow yourself and others to be different. It will be a gift in these challenging times. It will be the gift of inner peace. There are difficult days ahead. Be smart. Keep your heart open.

Be joyful, even after considering all the facts!

Peace to you All,
Justice & Blessings,

Rev. Michael J S Carter

 

October 2020

Nothing is Lost

As most of you know by now I love the season of autumn.

Indulge me once again as I riff on what the season means, at least from my limited perspective. Yes, fall means that summer is past as one season blends into another. This change accentuates the passing of time and allows (if we are willing to take it) a time of recollection and reflection. But fall provides something more. There is a harvest, a time of ingathering, of storing up things, especially those things of the heart. Nothing is lost, nothing disappears. As the extraterrestrial visitor says to a human child grieving the death of his father in the remake of the movie The Day The Earth Stood Still, "the Universe wastes nothing. Nothing is wasted." All things belong, each in its own way, to a harmony and an order which envelops all, which infuses all. Yes, Fall accentuates the goodness of life and finds its truest meaning in the strength of winter and the breath of Spring. I thank God for the Fall.

I write this column two days after Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg has died (she died September 18th, 2020). We are losing, but not forgetting, these great souls of wisdom, compassion, and love; Congressman John Lewis, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Rev. C. T. Vivian, and Rev. Joseph Lowery, to name just a few. And yet they have given us our marching orders. We must lose our fear of each other and no longer be ashamed of who and what we are. I give homage and thanks to their lives and their vision of what this nation can be--to live up to the full meaning of its creed.

" ...Let us go forth now to save the land of our birth from the plague that first drove us into the 'will to quarantine' and to separate ourselves behind self-imposed walls. For this is why human beings were born. All human beings belong to each other, and he or she who shuts themselves away diminishes themselves, and he who shuts another away from him or herself destroys themselves. And all the people said Amen."
---- Dr, Howard Thurman ( The Search For Common Ground)

Rev. Michael J. S. Carter

 

September 2020

Hitting The Pause Button

Here we are entering the last quarter of the year 2020. For some the end of the year can't come soon enough. Others look at this experience with social unrest, a pandemic, political upheaval, climate change and the like as a great adventure. Some see it as a hot mess and still others view it as all of the above.

However you personally happen to view the events of this year, there are roughly 3 more months to go. It's been a wild ride for sure. With that in mind, I wanted to say that if you have not already had an opportunity, try to get some down time.

Whether or not it is a "staycation" or a vacation, do try to make the time to decompress. There is so much noise out there and it does affect us in ways known and unknown. Body, Mind, and Spirit are all affected by the media, the fear, the confusion, the hype, you name it. Find your center and hold it.

I just had a vacation in South Carolina and spent some time on the beach. I had not been on a beach in 8 years! It was wonderful, the sun, the sand, the sky, the ocean, not many people around, it was delightful. I was also grateful for the opportunity because I have the privilege to be able to take the time and get some relaxation and I am very much aware that many people cannot afford the luxury, especially at this time.

You see Everything has to stop at one time or another. When driving you must pause at stop lights and stop signs (I sincerely hope you do). On a train there must be stops before you reach your destination. An airplane stops at the head of the runway before takeoff. Realizing this, we forget that we too must stop before moving from experience to experience to refuel and to rest.

Most of us will not leave a job until we find another. As soon as a romantic relationship is over, many of us are ready to jump right back into another one without time to really heal and to rest. Some people actually feel guilty if they take the time to pause or to rest. Perhaps they are missing something or "wasting time."

Sometimes it is a good thing to do nothing and then afterwards to rest. We don't have to always be earning money or earning our keep or meeting some responsibility in our lives at all times. Press the pause button on your life sometimes. The images and sounds of life must come to a halt if you want some clarity about what to do next. It is a blessing to push the pause button, to have the ability to stop and gather strength, or to wait until things have passed before turning a corner and moving forward.

A pause in Life's journey does not mean that nothing is happening. In reality, it is an opportunity to be present and to catch up with what is going on. Unless you pause, you may not know if you are fast forwarding or going in reverse.

Don't just do something. Stand There!

"Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes. Including You!" ----Anne Lamott

Rev. Michael J S Carter

 

August 2020

Masks Beneath Masks

" Love takes off the mask we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within."
-- James Baldwin

Lots of talk these days ("heated discussions" may actually be a better phrase) about masks. Yes, I have gotten into these discussions even after swearing off. Questions like "should you wear one?" "Should you not?" Opinions and statements ranging from "those who do wear masks respect science", and "those who don't don't respect anything." "Blue states respect science and those poor red states... what are they thinking?" Well, I'll leave that conversation alone and invite you to think about the masks we wear everyday as human beings with or without the reality of Covid-19.

Most of us wear all sorts of masks and were wearing them long before the virus came along. We have a business mask, a social mask, a home mask, a play mask and a don't-you-dare-mess-with-me-mask, cause-I'm-not-playing-with-you mask! Of course, there are the many masks of the many roles we play. There's the daughter/son mask, the father mask, the mother mask, the wife/husband mask. There is also the help-me-I'm-lost mask. Each one of our masks carries duties and responsibilities, fears and frustrations, likes and dislikes, demands and desires.

Sometimes the responsibilities of one mask conflicts with those of another. Or, to hold one mask in place, there may be many things we must do that are inappropriate for the other masks we wear. In fact, we can become so skilled at putting on the appropriate mask, at the appropriate time, in order to survive that we eventually lose sight of our essence. Perhaps it is time to wear the mask of authenticity and integrity. Find your true essence (regardless of what others may think or say about you) and allow it to show in all of the roles you play. It is an anchor in these changing times. If you wear it all of the time, or at least try to, there will be a lot less confusion about what to do and how to do it.

"We reach for the mask of righteousness when our insecurities are exposed, slip it over the purple scars and yellowing bruises we gained when open-faced, we first met our fears. Once inside our masks comfort fills our lungs and our breathing softens. No one told the dangers of living behind the mask, of what happens when tears fall in darkness and do not wash away arrogance and pride. No one told us how life fades from faces untouched by opposition. But now that we know, will you help me lift my mask? And if you'll let me, I'll help you lift yours."
--Stephen Shick (from: Be The Change)

Michael
Rev. Michael J. S. Carter

 

July 2020

Being Right

There are many conversations going on these days about many things. Racial justice, wearing of masks, presidential politics, etc. Perhaps you have been involved in some of these topics or all of them. Hopefully, you come to realize that there are some people with whom you are never going to be right. No matter what you say, or how you say it, what you do or how you do it, there are people who are going to find something wrong with everything. This includes you. There are some people who can take what you say and twist it into something you did not say in order to be right. By the time you realize you are fighting a losing battle it is too late. They are right and you feel wrong! You see, the challenge with being confronted by an I-gotta-be-right person, is that they have a way of bringing out the I-gotta-be-right in you.

When you have the smallest glimmer of I-gotta-be-right in your eyes, people detect it. Even when you couch your need in care or concern, those you approach recognize in you what they know about themselves. In response, they can become as determined as you. They have a need to be right, and they are not afraid to sacrifice you in pursuit of their own needs. If you have the same need, somebody is going to go down hard.

The need to be right is nothing more than the need for external validation. The conflict created when one need-to-be-right person locks horns with another need-to-be-right person is really a blessing in disguise. The one who can back down first, without feeling they have lost anything, is the one well on their way to self-acceptance, self-forgiveness, and self-love. Perhaps you may not have known that you still have a need for self-validation. We all do at times. But just for today, surrender, take a deep breath and ask yourself, is this worth it? You do not have to always be right and when you are you will know it. You don't have to attend every fight you're invited to. Nothing is worth giving up your inner peace to prove you are right.

Peace and Robust Health To You!
Michael

 

June 2020

Mercury Retrograde

I was speaking with an astrologer friend of mine recently about what it means to go through a Mercury retrograde. For those of you who are not familiar with the term, back when the gods and goddesses were thought to be in charge of the affairs of humanity, Mercury (the planet of communication) shuttled messages between the gods and mortals. In today's world, Mercury is the computer, the telephone, the internet. Mercury acts as a messenger who collects data and information. When Mercury goes retrograde for 3 weeks 3 times a year, travel, technology, and communications seem to break down during this time period. The next 2 Mercury retrogrades for this year are June 18 - July 12, and October 13 - November 13.

Usually, it's a time to not force anything and just go with the flow, because the planet Mercury appears to be going backwards or in retrograde motion. This is also at time when people who you have not heard from in a while may pop up again in your life. You have the dates above so see how this works for you if you are interested. Personally I like to know when the Mercury retrogrades appear so as to be prepared for the little annoyances and aggravations that can occur during the 3 week time period. And to be fair some Mercury retrogrades are milder than others.

Ironically, it is said that this period is a time to do anything with the prefix "re" in front of it. A good time to review, relax, revisit, etc. The prefix re means to do again. What a blessing! Just think, you can re-peat a lesson at no charge until you get it right. You can re-group after a setback. You can re-structure your life should it appear that things seem to be falling apart. You can re-create your image should you happen to fall apart. You can re-position yourself in any situation, one you re-evaluate. You can always re-think the evaluation once it is done. While most of us do not like doing things over, when you consider the blessings of re, doing it again may not be so bad.

You can re-deem your character by re-tracting words spoken harshly. You can re-cover from your losses through the power of re-organization. At some point, we have all faced the pain of being re-jected, which is actually just a wonderful opportunity to re-flect on who we really are. There is no reason to live with re-morse or re-gret when you consider that every experience is simply a re-hearsal for the next. You can always re-move yourself from a situation when you feel you just can't re-late.

When you re-fuse to nurture yourself, you burnout. When you re-lease habits, people, and situations that do not honor who you are, you will re-generate your power. You cannot re-capture your hairline when it re-cedes, but you can always re-lax the re-quirement that you must look pleasing all of the time. Re-fine your thinking! Re-form your life! Re-search what you need to be and do without any re-sistance! Don't be re-luctant to do things more than once. Re-do what you need to do to re-collect yourself.

You don't have to wait for Mercury to go retrograde to do it (although it may help). Be happy even after considering all of the facts. Hope to see you all soon....Stay well. Happy Summer!

Michael

February 2021

What Are Your Plans?

Well, it's 2021. The majority of folks that I have heard from or spoken to are saying that this new year could not arrive fast enough. So, with that said, what is your spiritual plan for this new year? Do you have a clear vision about where you are headed spiritually? Do you know where you want to be? Do you know how to get there? Do you know how to achieve the spiritual stamina required to move ahead in the world? You can't have one without the other, you know? You cannot achieve any kind of success without spiritual strength. How do you achieve it? Maintain it? Have you ever even thought about these kinds of questions?

A spiritual plan is a statement of clear intention about what you desire to experience within yourself and a clear definition of what you must do to make it happen. A spiritual plan is not only about prayer, meditation and contemplation; it is about action--what you will and will not do, what you can and cannot do, in order to achieve your spiritual goal or goals. A spiritual plan requires you to take an in-depth and honest look at where you are and to make an accurate assessment of how you arrived there. (With or without the reality of a virus, by the way.) This goes a tad deeper than making a New Year's resolution.

After making this assessment, you must determine if this is where you want to be, and if not, what must you do to eliminate or incorporate, in order to move forward. These examinations and "resolutions" must be made by yourself, with yourself, and for yourself. And if you are serious, you will not only write them down and speak them aloud. You must believe in yourself and your goals so as to manifest them so that "the word that proceeds from my mouth shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish what I please and achieve the purpose for which I have sent it." (Isaiah 55:11).

So in this New Year, be devoted to examining what you are going through and planning how you want to go through it. If you want to make your journey worthwhile, you must have a plan. Get to it.

Rev. Michael J S Carter

 

January 2021

Blessings at Year's End
by Dr. Howard Thurman

I remember with gratitude the fruits of the labors of others, which I have shared as a part of the normal experience of daily living.

I remember the beautiful things I have seen, heard and felt---some as a result of definite seeking on my part and many that came unheralded into my path, warming my heart and rejoicing my spirit.

I remember the moments of distress that proved to be groundless and those who taught me profoundly about goodness of good and the evilness of evil.

I remember the new people I have met, from whom I have caught glimpses of the meaning of my own life and the true character of human dignity.

I remember the dreams that haunted me during the year, keeping me ever mindful of goals and hopes which I did not realize but from which I drew inspiration to sustain my life and keep steady my purposes.

I remember the awareness of the spirit of God that sought me out in my aloneness and gave to me as sense of assurance that undercut my despair and confirmed my life with new courage and abiding hope.

December 2020

A New Beginning

This is the final minister's column that I will write this year, and what a year it's been. I have been fortunate enough this year to not have to define my entire experience by the COVID-19 virus. That has been intentional on my part as I have experienced and known that somehow, life was and is larger than a virus. However, this has been my experience and insight and, of course, you all will have your own. Now matter, there is still much to be grateful for and we have made it. Yes, we have lost friends and family along the way and not necessarily to illness. This is the cycle of life. Shakespeare reminds us that life is a great stage and as players on this grand stage of life we all have our entrances and exits.

Without a doubt, the "Holiday Season" this year is being experienced differently by many because of the coronavirus. It is indeed curious how much difference can be marked between 2 days, from December 31 to January 1. We do not know what the future holds or what the new year will bring. 2021 may mark the end of relationships of many years' accumulation. It may mean the first encounter with stark tragedy, or radical illness, or other tasting of the dregs from the cup of bitterness. And yet, It may also mean the great discovery of the riches of another human heart and the revelation of the secret beauty of one's own.

It may show the meaning of a new kind of living. This, of course, may include a marriage or other committed relationship, a relocation, a graduation, or perhaps one's first job or even a new one. It may mean the hearing of a distant drummer calling you, the multiverse (or "God") sending you a message that only you can hear, above the noise and distractions of this busy life. When the call is answered, life becomes invaded by smiling energies never before released.

In whatever sense this Holiday (Holy Day) Season, in whatever way this coming year is a new year for you, may the moment find you eager and unafraid, ready to take it by the hand with joy and gratitude. It's been a pleasure to serve this congregation during this time. Do not be afraid! Be of good cheer! Be joyful even after considering all of the so called "facts." There is always room for joy,and love. You don't have to seek it. Just look for the ways you block it from coming to you.

Wishing you all a Merry Everything and a Happy Always!

Rev. Michael J S Carter

 

November 2020

Some thoughts for Election Day 2020 and Beyond

As I write this column, there are only 13 days until election day 2020. It is an extreme understatement to remind you that much is riding on the outcome of this election; I believe our democratic experiment is in peril. Having said that, I do believe in my heart of hearts that "the contradictions of life are not final" and that our political leadership can and will change course. We shall soon see.

Yet whatever the outcome, we must keep moving forward as best we can. I want to share my thoughts with you, take them as you wish--or not.

When you have an intact and healthy sense of worth (inherent worth), you value other people. One begins to realize on a deeper level that people are different. You understand that people see and interpret things in different ways. You do not compare yourself to them, nor do you feel the need to compete with them. You know who you are which means you can at least try to accept others as they are.

When you do not have a healthy sense of worth, you feel the need to win every argument. Perhaps you know folks like this or you notice this a bit more, especially in these challenging times. Perhaps even you feel this need, at least some of the time. You may feel compelled to always prove your point. You may feel threatened by differences. You may need agreement with your views, values, and opinions in order to feel supported and acknowledged. Again, this may not be you but you may notice this in others at this time more intensely. When one is not sure that who they are is good enough, one will do their absolute darndest to prove that they are better than someone else or another group of people. This is not new information but it is easy to forget. It is easy to be triggered by others. Since one may not have enough of their own self worth to draw upon, they will set out to destroy the worth of those who they believe are attacking them. You see, as Gandhi once reminded us, "We think the enemy is hate. It is not hate but fear."

Should you ever find yourself on the attack, realize you are experiencing at that moment a sense of "less than" or "not as good as." When you find yourself tearing someone else down in order to prove your point, realize that you have lost your grounding. You are not centered in yourself. Disagreement is not the same as an attack! When you call someone out, when you criticize their physical being, their talents, gifts or efforts, believing that their inability to agree with you somehow makes you wrong, realize you have lost it! You have lost touch with your sense of inherent worth and dignity. By the way, I have been guilty of everything I wrote about above... just sayin'!

You may have not realized this at the time. You may not have realized that you attack, criticize, or tear people down when they do not agree with you. Take a deep breath and draw on the strength of who you are. Stand in the strength of what you know. Should you be faced with a different point of view, allow yourself and others to be different. It will be a gift in these challenging times. It will be the gift of inner peace. There are difficult days ahead. Be smart. Keep your heart open.

Be joyful, even after considering all the facts!

Peace to you All,
Justice & Blessings,

Rev. Michael J S Carter

 

October 2020

Nothing is Lost

As most of you know by now I love the season of autumn.

Indulge me once again as I riff on what the season means, at least from my limited perspective. Yes, fall means that summer is past as one season blends into another. This change accentuates the passing of time and allows (if we are willing to take it) a time of recollection and reflection. But fall provides something more. There is a harvest, a time of ingathering, of storing up things, especially those things of the heart. Nothing is lost, nothing disappears. As the extraterrestrial visitor says to a human child grieving the death of his father in the remake of the movie The Day The Earth Stood Still, "the Universe wastes nothing. Nothing is wasted." All things belong, each in its own way, to a harmony and an order which envelops all, which infuses all. Yes, Fall accentuates the goodness of life and finds its truest meaning in the strength of winter and the breath of Spring. I thank God for the Fall.

I write this column two days after Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg has died (she died September 18th, 2020). We are losing, but not forgetting, these great souls of wisdom, compassion, and love; Congressman John Lewis, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Rev. C. T. Vivian, and Rev. Joseph Lowery, to name just a few. And yet they have given us our marching orders. We must lose our fear of each other and no longer be ashamed of who and what we are. I give homage and thanks to their lives and their vision of what this nation can be--to live up to the full meaning of its creed.

" ...Let us go forth now to save the land of our birth from the plague that first drove us into the 'will to quarantine' and to separate ourselves behind self-imposed walls. For this is why human beings were born. All human beings belong to each other, and he or she who shuts themselves away diminishes themselves, and he who shuts another away from him or herself destroys themselves. And all the people said Amen."
---- Dr, Howard Thurman ( The Search For Common Ground)

Rev. Michael J. S. Carter

 

September 2020

Hitting The Pause Button

Here we are entering the last quarter of the year 2020. For some the end of the year can't come soon enough. Others look at this experience with social unrest, a pandemic, political upheaval, climate change and the like as a great adventure. Some see it as a hot mess and still others view it as all of the above.

However you personally happen to view the events of this year, there are roughly 3 more months to go. It's been a wild ride for sure. With that in mind, I wanted to say that if you have not already had an opportunity, try to get some down time.

Whether or not it is a "staycation" or a vacation, do try to make the time to decompress. There is so much noise out there and it does affect us in ways known and unknown. Body, Mind, and Spirit are all affected by the media, the fear, the confusion, the hype, you name it. Find your center and hold it.

I just had a vacation in South Carolina and spent some time on the beach. I had not been on a beach in 8 years! It was wonderful, the sun, the sand, the sky, the ocean, not many people around, it was delightful. I was also grateful for the opportunity because I have the privilege to be able to take the time and get some relaxation and I am very much aware that many people cannot afford the luxury, especially at this time.

You see Everything has to stop at one time or another. When driving you must pause at stop lights and stop signs (I sincerely hope you do). On a train there must be stops before you reach your destination. An airplane stops at the head of the runway before takeoff. Realizing this, we forget that we too must stop before moving from experience to experience to refuel and to rest.

Most of us will not leave a job until we find another. As soon as a romantic relationship is over, many of us are ready to jump right back into another one without time to really heal and to rest. Some people actually feel guilty if they take the time to pause or to rest. Perhaps they are missing something or "wasting time."

Sometimes it is a good thing to do nothing and then afterwards to rest. We don't have to always be earning money or earning our keep or meeting some responsibility in our lives at all times. Press the pause button on your life sometimes. The images and sounds of life must come to a halt if you want some clarity about what to do next. It is a blessing to push the pause button, to have the ability to stop and gather strength, or to wait until things have passed before turning a corner and moving forward.

A pause in Life's journey does not mean that nothing is happening. In reality, it is an opportunity to be present and to catch up with what is going on. Unless you pause, you may not know if you are fast forwarding or going in reverse.

Don't just do something. Stand There!

"Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes. Including You!" ----Anne Lamott

Rev. Michael J S Carter

 

August 2020

Masks Beneath Masks

" Love takes off the mask we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within."
-- James Baldwin

Lots of talk these days ("heated discussions" may actually be a better phrase) about masks. Yes, I have gotten into these discussions even after swearing off. Questions like "should you wear one?" "Should you not?" Opinions and statements ranging from "those who do wear masks respect science", and "those who don't don't respect anything." "Blue states respect science and those poor red states... what are they thinking?" Well, I'll leave that conversation alone and invite you to think about the masks we wear everyday as human beings with or without the reality of Covid-19.

Most of us wear all sorts of masks and were wearing them long before the virus came along. We have a business mask, a social mask, a home mask, a play mask and a don't-you-dare-mess-with-me-mask, cause-I'm-not-playing-with-you mask! Of course, there are the many masks of the many roles we play. There's the daughter/son mask, the father mask, the mother mask, the wife/husband mask. There is also the help-me-I'm-lost mask. Each one of our masks carries duties and responsibilities, fears and frustrations, likes and dislikes, demands and desires.

Sometimes the responsibilities of one mask conflicts with those of another. Or, to hold one mask in place, there may be many things we must do that are inappropriate for the other masks we wear. In fact, we can become so skilled at putting on the appropriate mask, at the appropriate time, in order to survive that we eventually lose sight of our essence. Perhaps it is time to wear the mask of authenticity and integrity. Find your true essence (regardless of what others may think or say about you) and allow it to show in all of the roles you play. It is an anchor in these changing times. If you wear it all of the time, or at least try to, there will be a lot less confusion about what to do and how to do it.

"We reach for the mask of righteousness when our insecurities are exposed, slip it over the purple scars and yellowing bruises we gained when open-faced, we first met our fears. Once inside our masks comfort fills our lungs and our breathing softens. No one told the dangers of living behind the mask, of what happens when tears fall in darkness and do not wash away arrogance and pride. No one told us how life fades from faces untouched by opposition. But now that we know, will you help me lift my mask? And if you'll let me, I'll help you lift yours."
--Stephen Shick (from: Be The Change)

Michael
Rev. Michael J. S. Carter

 

July 2020

Being Right

There are many conversations going on these days about many things. Racial justice, wearing of masks, presidential politics, etc. Perhaps you have been involved in some of these topics or all of them. Hopefully, you come to realize that there are some people with whom you are never going to be right. No matter what you say, or how you say it, what you do or how you do it, there are people who are going to find something wrong with everything. This includes you. There are some people who can take what you say and twist it into something you did not say in order to be right. By the time you realize you are fighting a losing battle it is too late. They are right and you feel wrong! You see, the challenge with being confronted by an I-gotta-be-right person, is that they have a way of bringing out the I-gotta-be-right in you.

When you have the smallest glimmer of I-gotta-be-right in your eyes, people detect it. Even when you couch your need in care or concern, those you approach recognize in you what they know about themselves. In response, they can become as determined as you. They have a need to be right, and they are not afraid to sacrifice you in pursuit of their own needs. If you have the same need, somebody is going to go down hard.

The need to be right is nothing more than the need for external validation. The conflict created when one need-to-be-right person locks horns with another need-to-be-right person is really a blessing in disguise. The one who can back down first, without feeling they have lost anything, is the one well on their way to self-acceptance, self-forgiveness, and self-love. Perhaps you may not have known that you still have a need for self-validation. We all do at times. But just for today, surrender, take a deep breath and ask yourself, is this worth it? You do not have to always be right and when you are you will know it. You don't have to attend every fight you're invited to. Nothing is worth giving up your inner peace to prove you are right.

Peace and Robust Health To You!
Michael

 

June 2020

Mercury Retrograde

I was speaking with an astrologer friend of mine recently about what it means to go through a Mercury retrograde. For those of you who are not familiar with the term, back when the gods and goddesses were thought to be in charge of the affairs of humanity, Mercury (the planet of communication) shuttled messages between the gods and mortals. In today's world, Mercury is the computer, the telephone, the internet. Mercury acts as a messenger who collects data and information. When Mercury goes retrograde for 3 weeks 3 times a year, travel, technology, and communications seem to break down during this time period. The next 2 Mercury retrogrades for this year are June 18 - July 12, and October 13 - November 13.

Usually, it's a time to not force anything and just go with the flow, because the planet Mercury appears to be going backwards or in retrograde motion. This is also at time when people who you have not heard from in a while may pop up again in your life. You have the dates above so see how this works for you if you are interested. Personally I like to know when the Mercury retrogrades appear so as to be prepared for the little annoyances and aggravations that can occur during the 3 week time period. And to be fair some Mercury retrogrades are milder than others.

Ironically, it is said that this period is a time to do anything with the prefix "re" in front of it. A good time to review, relax, revisit, etc. The prefix re means to do again. What a blessing! Just think, you can re-peat a lesson at no charge until you get it right. You can re-group after a setback. You can re-structure your life should it appear that things seem to be falling apart. You can re-create your image should you happen to fall apart. You can re-position yourself in any situation, one you re-evaluate. You can always re-think the evaluation once it is done. While most of us do not like doing things over, when you consider the blessings of re, doing it again may not be so bad.

You can re-deem your character by re-tracting words spoken harshly. You can re-cover from your losses through the power of re-organization. At some point, we have all faced the pain of being re-jected, which is actually just a wonderful opportunity to re-flect on who we really are. There is no reason to live with re-morse or re-gret when you consider that every experience is simply a re-hearsal for the next. You can always re-move yourself from a situation when you feel you just can't re-late.

When you re-fuse to nurture yourself, you burnout. When you re-lease habits, people, and situations that do not honor who you are, you will re-generate your power. You cannot re-capture your hairline when it re-cedes, but you can always re-lax the re-quirement that you must look pleasing all of the time. Re-fine your thinking! Re-form your life! Re-search what you need to be and do without any re-sistance! Don't be re-luctant to do things more than once. Re-do what you need to do to re-collect yourself.

You don't have to wait for Mercury to go retrograde to do it (although it may help). Be happy even after considering all of the facts. Hope to see you all soon....Stay well. Happy Summer!

Michael

May 2020

Wholeness

The World Health Organization defines health as, "A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."

In the world of psychology and mental health, we are really good at defining what is wrong with us, but what does it look like to be right, healthy, or whole? Would we know it if we saw it? Are there degrees of wholeness? Does wholeness look the same for you as it does for me?

Wholeness is a complex issue because it involves all of what makes us human - mind, body, soul, emotions and relationships. None of these can be scientifically studied in a vacuum, put under a microscope or dissected. You may argue that we can dissect the body and look at it on a molecular level, and you’d be right. Does this give us accurate or complete information about how the body interplays with the soul or emotions? I’m not so sure.

“Wholeness is our capacity to experience health as transcending all limitations while accepting them, overcoming this virus of perfectionism which keeps us locked into an imaginary world rather than the real world...it is paradoxically in accepting (limitations) that we can transcend them."
— Laurence Freeman

Because the subject of wholeness is so immense, I’d like us to consider just 3 parts of what it means to be whole:

1. How we see ourselves - The whole person is able to see themselves truthfully and accept his/her limitations as well as areas of personal excellence. This requires relational feedback and personal reflection. The whole person doesn’t only see themselves in a positive light. They are able to see their flaws and idiosyncrasies. Rather than self-condemnation in their shortcomings they are able to embrace themselves with acceptance and gratitude. The whole person also recognizes that they have blind spots. They are committed to self-compassion and curiosity in the areas of the unknown. For some people, accepting the negative is easy but it’s more difficult to accept the good. The whole person is able to integrate both the good and bad as part of reality.

2. What we do with how we see ourselves - The whole person moves toward improving his or her limitations and shortcomings and utilizing areas of personal excellence. This is not a striving for perfection. A whole person rests in who and where they are in life, while seeking personal growth for the benefit of self and others. There is a resting in each moment because perfection is not the goal and one never arrives at a place of perfection. Each moment is good even though we may experience pain and brokenness in the moment. There is a greater story being written, and the imperfections of life make it beautiful - but I’m getting ahead of myself as I begin to delve into the spirituality of wholeness...more on that later.

3. What we do when we go “backwards.” In case you missed it, life is not a steady improvement in the right direction. A whole person will have pain, struggle and broken relationships. Wholeness is not dependent upon our circumstances. A whole person is able to find comfort within the discomfort of life. In other words, there are times when we will take two steps forward and three steps back.

We all want to feel whole. It cannot be attained. Often, the harder we try to become whole the more we experience our brokenness. Wholeness must be realized and therefore received. It is a gift and free of cost to any who would wish to pursue it. It is a journey. There is so much more that can be said on wholeness. But for now, this is all I have.

Michael

April 2020

Cycles

Spring is here in all of her glory! A time of renewal and regeneration. Call it what you will, rebirth, resurrection, what was once left for "dead" is alive again. The lesson of this time of year is that the opposite of life is not death. The opposite of death is birth, for Life has no opposite. Besides, we die a bit every day so what is there to fear?

Author John Rodgers wrote, "We are only born once into life, but in life we are re-born many times." He was describing the many "mini-deaths" we experience on our journey through life.

We die to old beliefs to be reborn in truth. We die to habits of need, dependency, and control to be reborn to reliance on the inner life that we have cultivated which some call Spirituality. We die to fear of being reborn to fearlessness.

We are taught that death is the end. It is, we believe, the darkness into which we plunge, never to return, of which no one can speak. As long as you are breathing, death becomes what we commonly call change. There is a line in Langston Hughes' poem, Dearly Lovely Death, when he says of death that, "...change is thy other name." The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius reminds that, "death smiles at all of us, and all we can do is smile back."

You may have forgotten or may not have even been aware of the many times you have faced death or the ways in which death can alter your state of being. Just remind yourself to lay down your sword and shield, lay down your notions and fears about death and be willing to change.

Wishing you Health, Prosperity, and a Gentle Peace,
Michael

A few poems in honor of the April showers that most will surely come our way....

"Let the rain kiss you.
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops.
Let the rain sing you a lullaby.
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk.
The rain makes running pools in the gutter.
The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night--
And I love the rain."

Langston Hughes, 1902-1967, April Rain Song

"In time of Silver Rain, the earth puts forth new life again.
Green grasses grow and flowers lift their heads,
and over all the plain the wonder spreads.
Of Life, Of life, Of life.
In Time or Silver Rain."

Langston Hughes, In Time of Silver Rain

March 2020

March is Women's History Month, and we have St. Patrick's Day and the beginning of Spring. I just wanted to let you know of some other tidbits of info (some of you may find useless) about the month of March as well. Let us remember in the words of author Max Coots, "that unless we moved the seasons of the self, and Spring can come for us, the winter will go on and on..." despite the fact of Spring. The good news is that we will survive whatever this winter brings and get ready for the rebirth that is Spring.

It’s March—Happy New Year, ancient Romans! I mean Americans!

Welcome to the third month of the year—or, if you were born before 150 B.C., the first! According to the oldest Roman calendars, one year was ten months long, beginning in March and ending in December. It may sound crazy, but you can still see traces of this old system in our modern calendar: because December was the tenth month, it was named for the number ten in Latin (decem), just like September was named for seven (septem). So, what about January and February? They were just two nameless months called “winter.”

If you’re a basketball fan, March Madness is a cherished time to reacquaint oneself with the couch, especially during the early tournament days when dozens of games unfold consecutively.

March was named for war—and lives up to its title

March was actually named for the Latin Martius—aka Mars, the Roman God of war and a mythical ancestor of the Roman people via his wolf-suckling sons, Romulus and Remus. With the winter frosts melting and the ground becoming fertile for harvest again in the Northern hemisphere, March was historically the perfect month for both farmers to resume farming, and warriors to resume warring.

Incidentally, the Pentagon still seems to agree with this Roman tradition: with the exception of the recent War on Afghanistan, almost all major US-NATO led military operations since the invasion of Vietnam have begun in the month of March. To name a few: Vietnam (initiated March 8, 1965), Iraq (March 20, 2003), and Libya (March 19, 2011) all follow the trend.

Beware The Ides of March

We’ve all heard it uttered, but what does “beware the Ides of March” actually mean? On the Roman calendar, the midpoint of every month was known as the Ides. The Ides of March fell on March 15th. This day was supposed to correlate with the first full moon of the year (remember, winter didn’t count then) and marked by religious ceremonies, but thanks to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar we know it for another reason. Supposedly, in 44 BC, a seer told Julius Caesar that his downfall would come no later than the Ides of March. Caesar ignored him, and when the fated day rolled around he joked with the seer, “The Ides of March have come.” The seer replied, “aye, Caesar; but not gone.” Caesar continued on to a senate meeting at the Theatre of Pompey, and was summarily murdered by as many as 60 conspirators. So, if someone tells you “beware the Ides of March,” they are probably just letting you know they’ve read Shakespeare.

March 1: As the saying goes, March comes “in like a lion, out like a lamb.” But with climate change, who really knows?

March 17: St. Patrick’s Day.

March 19: The sun shines on the equator for the Vernal Equinox, giving us a near 50-50 split of day and night.

Michael

February 2020

The Myth of Perfection

It’s a New Year and I am encouraging all of us to learn to be gentle with ourselves in this New Year. Yes, that includes me as well. This column is for February and I am writing this in January so it’s not too late. What does being gentle with oneself look like you ask? Well it can look like many things. Here are a few suggestions:

Stop trying to be perfect! Stop trying to fix yourself. We are perfect in our imperfections. Stop trying to change yourself. Stop trying to do everything just so. Stop trying to improve every little thing to impress people with just how perfect you are. Stop looking for little imperfections in your life and in others so that you can perfect them. The quest for perfection is a myth and a waste of time and energy. (This message is especially for, but not limited to those of you who are born under the zodiac sign of Virgo. You know who you are.)

It is a quest that closes your mind and your heart to the beauty that is all around you. You can be so preoccupied perfecting the cracks in you that you fail to realize that the light comes through the cracks. Remember the words of author Ernest Hemingway, who said, “Not everything that appears to be broken needs to be fixed.” In fact, some of us are strong at the broken places!” In other words, everything need not be perfect in order to function. This includes you and me.

So, you may have held perfection as the standard that you needed to live up to or achieve. Accept that you are perfect just as you are. Embrace the cracks in your life and the breaks in your heart as places where the pure light of love and understanding can shine through.

Michael