Showing posts from 2013

Dealing with Trauma

Our community lost a former member and her child in a traumatic and violent way.  What I want to share with our community right now is a little bit about how to recognize if you are experiencing trauma, and what some of the things you can do are.

First of all, you don't have to be close to someone who was killed in order to experience this as a traumatic event in your life.  There are a lot of forms that a trauma response can take.  Sometimes it leads to people questioning God or one's faith-- how can there be a God who lets these things happen?  Sometimes there is anger -- How could somebody do this?  Sometimes the dominant emotion is grief -- How could anybody do this?  Sometimes it's a feeling of guilt -- I should've done something more.  Sometimes we experience things bodily -- sleeplessness, lack of appetite or stress eating, exhaustion, stomach problems, stress dreams or nightmares, and more.  Some people will feel none of these at first, and they may hit later. …

A Moment of Grace: Taking the Long Way In

This week our congregation lost two people who were loved by us -- a mother and son who were former members who were killed in an act of domestic violence. 

Today at the end of an emotional and difficult day, I went to the hospital to visit a member who had been suddenly hospitalized.  (The member is doing okay, but still in some pain.)  I parked near the E.R. and walked in the E.R. doors to avoid being out in the cold, and then walked through the hallway to the main hospital lobby.

There in the hallway were pictures from The Real MEN's Project.  I've seen these pictures before.  Most of them are in the wonderful book, Real Dads, by Dani Meier, the founder, which I got for my husband for Father's Day the year it came out.  But it was different suddenly encountering them in a hallway, and not just because of the bigger size of the photos.  It was different because it was an encounter in a different way with these fathers in our community who have signed a pledge against dom… and the Small Church

So I spent some time on today, the questions being 1) How hard is this, really? and 2) Is there a comparable plan to my employer's healthcare plan (the UUA's Highmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield) that would cost less money?

Last night I created my user name and password, and then was booted out of the system because it was under maintenance.  Fair enough.

I went back in today.  I had to answer some security questions that prove that I'm me.  It turns out the government has more handy access to facts about myself than I do.  I had to chase down the information of what year my car is. 

Then I had to provide information on the members of my family, including how much money we make, before taxes.  That's complicated.  How do I classify my housing allowance?  I decided to just put it in as income before taxes, even though it won't be taxed.  What about my husband's income?  Well, he's an adjunct professor.  We never know how many classes he'll be g…

Science Fiction & Thanksgiving


This is what is on my mind this morning, as I come back from a weekend where I went out to the movies twice, once to see Catching Fire and once to see the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special.  There's a common thread that runs through both the recent Doctor Who seasons and the Hunger Games trilogy, and that is the effects of war on the survivors and the ethical struggles before and after making a decision to kill innocents in order to end a war.

It's not really in Catching Fire that this question occurs; it's actually in the next book, Mockingjay.  In it, there are two parts that I'm thinking of -- first, there's the decision by District 13 to bomb children and aid workers to advance the rage against the Capitol.  Here's the description of when Katniss learns about the weapons that will eventually be used in that way:
This is what they’ve been doing. Taking the fundamental ideas behind Gale’s traps and adapting them into weapons against hum…

Generations and the loss of JFK

The fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy is tomorrow. And with this anniversary I'm reminded of what a major moment this was in the history of our country and in the lives of most Americans who were alive and old enough to understand it fifty years ago.  It's one of those moments where people remember where they were and what they were doing when it happened or when they heard.  People remember it as a "Turning Point" where there was a "Loss of Innocence." 

I don't remember it.  I was born after the fall of Camelot.  I was born into a world where the Loss of Innocence had already happened, the Turning Point was past, and we were in the age of cynicism.  I have some sympathy for Steve Friess who wrote an article in Time titled "Five Reasons People Under 50 Are Already Tired of JFK Nostalgia" and Nick Gillespie who wrote in The Daily Beast, "JFK Still Dead, Boomers Still Self-Absorbed."  Those of us younger tha…

Ender's Game

I was once a big Orson Scott Card fan.  The number of Orson Scott Card books I own may still outnumber any single other author on the dozens of bookshelves in my home.  I read his works voraciously in college and in my early 20s.  I read the Ender saga, the Alvin Maker series, the Homecoing Saga, and assorted other books and short stories of his.  I recently re-read Ender's Game and still enjoyed it.  At some point in reading his books, however, I suddenly stopped, because I felt like I was reading the same story over and over again -- the same boy messiah saving the human race -- and I disagreed with the theology underpinning it.  But I enjoyed all those stories of his up until that time.  I still do, when I read them.  I recently re-read Ender's Game and found myself wanting to read them all over again, or start reading the later books in the series that I never read, or the Shadow Saga.

But between the time I was the big Orson Scott Card fan and now, I learned a lot about O…

SUUSI SciFi and Fantasy Recommendations

I had a great time at SUUSI this year leading a workshop on Science Fiction and Fantasy and Religion.  One favorite part of the class was the great reading/viewing list we generated.  I hesitate to some degree to share it with those who weren't part of the class.  On the other hand, it's such a great list of works that others may find engaging.  Please be mindful that this is partly a result of where our particular conversation wandered.  The categories that are short are usually so because they are categories we didn't get to, so they just have my starter items in them.  And yes, there are a couple of things slipped in there that you might not consider SF/Fantasy, but which were a part of our discussion.

Science Fiction and Fantasy and Religion Works SUUSI 2013 Workshop #152 – Cynthia Landrum
The Nature of God

Avatar (Film)
The Parable of the Sower and The Parable of the Talents – Octavia Butler
The Mists of Avalon – Marion Zimmer Bradley
Contact – Carl Sagan
Star Trek (TV Series …

Blogging for Beginners

I'm leading a workshop at SUUSI this year on "Blogging for Beginners."  My mom (herself a former director for on-line learning for a university) pointed out to me that I should have handouts of my PowerPoint slides for the participants.  Handouts for a class about blogging?  That's so low-tech!  But I was trying to decide, indeed, how to share these -- whether to upload the file and share the URL or to e-mail them, or what.  Finally, I thought, "Why not just blog them?  The class is about blogging, after all!"  I remembered that I had found a way to do this once with some web-based application.  Turns out it's even easier now than it was before.

If you're not in the workshop, keep in mind that these are just slides for some basic information and URLs that I thought might be helpful.  It's not everything we'll cover.

We Don't Stand for Stand Your Ground

In the wake of the verdict about the Trayvon Martin case, there are a lot of protests going on, and petitions calling for a civil rights case against George Zimmerman. 

With all honesty, I think that George Zimmerman is innocent under the law.  And what we need to do now is channel this energy, this passion, and change those bad laws, state by state.

Michigan is a "Stand Your Ground" state.  There have been rallies and protests going on in Detroit.  What we need to do is get this base mobilized to change these laws.  The Stand Your Ground laws perpetuate and exacerbate an already large problem of racial bias in our sentencing.  In states with Stand Your Ground laws, a new study has shown that whites who kill blacks are more likely to be found to be acting in self-defense than any other racial combination.  It's true in all states, but more so in Stand Your Ground states.

The studies aren't as thorough as they could be -- they don't compare home-invasion with non-…

We Who Believe in Freedom Cannot Rest

Yesterday at UU Planet, Peter Bowden wrote about how some churches were guilty of ignoring the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case.  He said, "If it is Summer, that’s no excuse.   CLERGY, if you serve a congregation you are responsible for making sure this happens while you’re on Summer vacation."

I don't have a plan for how such things will be handled when I'm on vacation or study leave.  I was fortunate to be up and hear the news.  And, upon hearing it, decided that I needed to go to church, and after a little delay, realized that I needed to do something to address the verdict in the worship service, even though the worship service wasn't my responsibility directly that way.  Bowden is right, that it's always our responsibility, even when on summer vacation (or study leave).  We are responsible for the worship of the congregation, even when we're on leave.

There's a question about where to draw the line in terms of current events that need to be r…

The Last Straw and the #Truth

It seems I still have more to say on this issue, so those who are tired of it already may want to just close this post now and avoid the next few.  I promise to move on to another subject soon, but having NOT written about this for ten years of ministry, I've built up a list of things to say.  And it seems that there is a segment of people who have been yearning for someone to write about this. 

So what was the straw, the final thing that made me break my silence?  I think it was the "fat-shaming professor," Geoffrey Miller of the University of New Mexico, who tweeted, "Dear obese PhD applicants: if you didn't have the willpower to stop eating carbs, you won't have the willpower to do a dissertation #truth."

For the record, having written an M.A. thesis, a D.Min. thesis, and something over 300 sermons, I'm pretty sure that's not the #truth.  But I was raised by a fat man with a Ed.D.  He always told me what the hardest thing about finishing a d…

The Big Issue Simplified

A lot gets projected onto fat people.  And a lot gets projected onto people when they talk about fat.  So here's the nutshell version of what I was trying to say in my last post:
Be nicer to fat people.  Shaming people is not nice.  Shaming fat people is also not productive and helpful.  Truly.  Not.  Helpful. Judge not.  Period.   Really.  Stop judging other people.  Let go of some of the stereotypes you associate with fatness.  Like many stereotypes, you can find examples where they seem true, but they aren't always true.  Particularly look at your assumptions about willpower and laziness, but there are others you should challenge and let go of, as well.Fat is complicated, and varied, so avoid assuming that everyone can be fixed by your personal favorite simple solution or that your personal diagnosis or experience fits everyone, whether it is "diet and exercise," "calories in vs. calories out," "emotional eating," "addiction," or &quo…

The Big Issue

I’ve preached and blogged on a number of justice-related subjects over the dozen years that I’ve been in ministry. I’ve written about feminism, racism, classism, and homophobia. I’ve written about immigration and war and reproductive freedom and prison reform. I’ve written about religious intolerance and all sorts of types of bigotry. But there’s one issue I’ve always avoided writing about. I used it as a one-sentence illustration of a different issue once, but only, I think, once.

There are some prejudices that most of our society knows are wrong. Most people in our society know that racism is wrong, although there is still plenty of racism out there. And then there are issues that as a society we’re divided on, like homophobia, but where the liberal circles I’m in have a clear understanding that it’s wrong. But there are some prejudices that are still deemed completely acceptable. Those can be hard to write about, harder to speak up about, and hardest to confront when they’…