Go Big or Go Home

They say that there comes a time when you have to go big, or go home. That time is coming up for the I Am UU project. I have done almost all the work on the project for the last 5 years. For the last two, I’ve put in an average of 45 hours a week, not including Chalica. I have taught myself some graphic design, I read several sermons a week, I’ve built a network of contacts, and I’ve written 43 blog posts and all the other content on IAmUU.net over the last year and a half. It has allowed me to feel like I am contributing something to the wide world while I’ve been a caretaker for my mother (who has recently passed) and my kids (two of whom have special needs). It has been an honor to touch so many lives, and one I absolutely do not want to give up.

What I would like to do is to learn how to do it all better. I want to be able to do the work offered by the UUA to be the religious educator that the I Am UU community deserves. I would like to attend lots of workshops and seminars. I’d like to go to GA and meet some of the amazing people that I’ve traded emails or had video chats with. I’d like to eventually be able to visit congregations as a speaker or to lead workshops. I want to “go big”.

What I am not sure how to do, right now, is to add all of that to the 45 hours a week I am already spending on this ministry, in addition to other obligations. What I cannot do is spend money I don’t have on registration fees and travel expenses. What I need to know is that the community that has built up around the I Am UU project wants to see it continue to grow and to become a better resource. I need your links, your personal stories, your comments on our Facebook posts, and what money you can spare to help me live up to the promise of the I Am UU project.

It is an investment in liberal religion and in sharing Unitarian Universalism with the world. It is about creating opportunities to start discussions about the inherent worth and dignity of every person. I hope to make it easier to explain our goal of a more just, equitable, and compassionate world. I want people to know that we will accept them, no matter what their life experience, and we will encourage them to be their best. If you think this mission could make the world a better place, I ask you to be an active part of the I Am UU community so that we can make it happen, together.

This is my passion. I want the world to know that there is a choice beyond conservative and moderate religion. Liberal religion is an important message, and I want nothing more than to devote my life to sharing it in a way that is ethical, compelling, and personal. At the beginning of the year, I gave myself until May to figure out how to continue to do so.

I am asking for your feedback and your help. I need your submissions to help get some of my time back. I need your engagement on Facebook to help put our posts on more screens. I need your support to educate myself and to further my own spiritual growth, so that I can bring what I learn back to you. If I haven’t earned all of that, then I would love to hear what direction you would like to see things go in.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I look forward to reading your thoughts.

Obligations and calling: decision point

I have had a strange life, so far. In most respects, I have been very lucky. I admit that, and I honor the people who have helped me get to where I am. Part of how I honor them is to keep trying to be my best, and to give my best to the world. The I Am UU ministry is part of me trying hard to give back to the world in a way that promotes the best in humanity.

Another way is that I try to return what favors I can. I give back to those who have given to me with glee and fervor, because I want to encourage the doing of good and reward those who do it.

I was adopted. I was days old when my parents claimed me, and I have only ever known one family, and it has always been a part of my life. It was not a perfect family. It isn’t one that I am now particularly proud of. I am sure that a lot of liberals raised in Texas have those feelings some times. Family still matters, as a part of who I am and how I got here, and family is an obligation that I cannot ignore.

To that end, I took on the care of my mother several years ago. She has cancer that she doesn’t wish to treat, and she has dementia at a very young age. At 67, she has the body and mind that her doctors compare to patients in their 80s. Being her caretaker has been hard, and at times rewarding. More over, her income being part of the household has allowed me to create the I Am UU project, staying at home to handle her appointments and help her with daily tasks as well as those of my kids.

My ability to care for her is now stretched to the breaking point. I will not be able to keep it up another full year, and we may not make it to the end of this one.

This is hard to admit, because I know that we cannot afford to put her in a facility that will be anywhere near as nice as the home we’ve worked to provide. I want her to have a quality of life, but it has come the point where I cannot provide that here, either.

That part is internal. It is something I will have to deal with. It is hard, but I need to admit that the time will come, soon, that I cannot do what she needs here at home, and I will have to trust skilled professionals to help her in her daily life. I want what every American wants for their family: one more Christmas (or relevant winter-time holiday). I don’t know if that is realistic.

Another serious hurdle is the financial burden that we will face when her income is removed from our household. We moved into the house and the neighborhood that we did because we needed room for my Mom. We love it here, now, and more over, moving would be a huge expense all at once. In order to pay the rent, I need an income to replace what we are loosing. More than just making up that income, finding a regular job will mean paying for daycare, as well as a few other expenses we have been able to avoid thanks to me being home, like not absolutely needing a second car so far.

I am facing a serious dilemma: I cannot continue to grow the I Am UU project that I have come to love, and will likely have to scale it back quite a bit if I have to find a regular job.  I will not be able to continue to give what I have come to think of as the best of me. I fight my demons now by knowing that what I am doing matters to a lot of people, and matters a great deal to some.

So, this is me, begging. Help me save my family AND the one accomplishment outside my family that I am truly proud of. Help me do the right thing for my mother without doing the wrong thing for myself. Help me find a way to support my ministry, or to find a paying gig with similar benefit to the world. I put this out there to the universe, because I need all the help I can get.

Faitify, an all UU crowd funding site, has launched, and I am hopeful that it will change the way that Unitarian Universalist think about funding, because the 1st report on GA from UU World clearly shows that we need to. Sadly, Faitify is set up for goal-oriented projects needing one large push to get started or to move to the next level.

I would love to have the relative security of people pledging small monthly gifts via Patreon, but will gladly accept gifts through Square Cash (sign up now and they’ll give you a dollar!). As the only designer on the I Am UU team so far, I also get some money from the purchases on Cafe Press, though it is a very small percentage (on purpose; I want people to have these things to wear). I want to keep this ministry going. I want to honor the trust that these thousands of people have given me by choosing to read, comment on, and share this content. I want to keep reaching people, because I know that I have helped people find Unitarian Universalism through this work, both as new visitors and as UUs who needed a push to deepen their connection. I need something like that to be proud of in my life.

30 Days of Gratitude: Nov. 7

Today, I did a week’s worth of class work, read a few pages worth of jokes, learned more about Bob Ross than I thought I needed to know, and had my brain tickled by random You Tube videos. I am really grateful for the internet and ability it gives to expand my understanding of what it means to be human.

Metablog: Blogging for the Future of Unitarian Universalism.

I once had an idea of becoming a social media guy. Becoming an expert in an emerging field seemed like a good idea, and this was a field that I had both interest and relevant experience in. That was a short lived goal, as I saw that the only way to reach it was just to jump in with both feet. I quickly understood that you couldn’t become a social media guy; you had to just do it and prove yourself.

I’ve got a decent number of followers on Twitter, where I post a lot of links and quotes. My Tumblr is getting a fair number of likes with similar content, plus some observations that I intend to be thought provoking. I have 2 Facebook pages with several hundred fans each. What I am really invested in, though, has become content creation. I have started trying to create sharable images, with some success, that spread UU (small p) principles and ideas, helping others share those mutual concepts of faith. Most of my efforts, though, have been going into writing.

The fact is that this is what I am doing, right now. I don’t have a regular job. I take care of my mother and the kids and I write and “curate” links and, more and more often, create some visual piece that I feel should be shared. I’ve taken time off for other obligations, but I feel like I owe it to myself to come back to this and prove that my blog is a serious effort.

One thing I have learned about myself in this effort: I enjoy seeing other people respond to the things that I publish. I love seeing people share my thoughts and images on Facebook with their friends, knowing that I have given them a way to talk about their faith when they might not have done so otherwise. I love putting ideas in terms that people can understand, even when they disagree, because starting a conversation where there was none fosters deeper contemplation, which is the only way to build real understanding. I have seen how people respond when they find something that helps them say what has been in their hearts, and it is amazing.

In the information age, anyone can sermonize. There are millions of people now able to rant, rave, and ramble about any number of topics, and there are plenty of people blogging about religion. Most of them are just screaming into the aether. While I am not awash in comments, though, I clearly do have people sharing links to my blog and talking about the ideas that I present.

That interaction is what I work for. I’d love to find a way to monetize it at some point, but I am more gratified to know that people are thinking thoughts and pondering ideas in new ways because of what I have crafted. I am a blogger, and you, dear reader, make that a worthwhile endeavor.

The state of technology is that everyone can be a preacher. Everyone can be a journalist. Everyone can be an advertising agency. The only thing that differentiates the random weirdo from someone with real reach is the ability to incite conversation. That is also the state of religion and of politics. Being able to shape the conversation by creating the talking points and giving people the confidence to express themselves. It is only by recognizing those who have the ability to shape and stimulate conversation that we can ensure that people hear our message of salvation. We don’t need to sell it, but we need to make it accessible and we need to get people talking and asking questions.

I am proud that I am part of this movement, and that it still has life in it, despite many declarations from inside as well as out. We are still in a position to be part of the new awakening that America is headed for. If we choose to be faithful and bold, then we can ensure that love, acceptance, and respect win this time around. The world wants reason along side fulfillment. They want something that reflects how small the world has gotten and how connected the human race is becoming. We reflect that, already.

So I thank all of my readers and fellow bloggers. I thank those who are trying to create a missional form of Unitarian Universalism. I thank those who are participating in the discussion, and leading our congregations forward. I have often said that we have something great to offer. Now I am saying that we have a great opportunity before us as well. We have to use it by talking to people and making our message personal. Saving the world will come from the ground up, once we focus our religion on saving people from the culture that we hope to change. Culture is made of people, and saving the people will change the change the world.

Lutheran Pastor Makes an Excelent Chirstian Case For Universalism

A post from Brian Konkol, co-pastor of Lake Edge Lutheran Church, Madison, Wis. on the Living Lutheran (http://www.livinglutheran.com) blogs had some interesting points about God’s Love. In response to the naming of the Boston bombing suspects, he cautions his fellow Lutheran’s to be patient and merciful. It is a lovely piece of writing, and I recommend reading it in its entirety for yourself. For the sake of clarity, I will quote sections here, specifically from the last 4 paragraphs.

“While we often celebrate the inclusive love of God, in many ways we recognize how shocking — and even scandalous — such love actually is. As Jesus himself died on the cross in the company of criminals, we affirm that in God’s eyes we are not defined by our worst acts, and even those responsible for evil deeds are offered the gift of grace, love and forgiveness.”

This point couldn’t be more crucial. Given the immensity of God, as presumed creator of the Universe, how could our sins ever seem less than awful, like the mother rodent eating her own young for reasons we can’t always understand in the moment. People do horrible things to other people every single day, and this seems to have been happening since the beginning of humanity itself. At the same time, how can these terrible deeds ever seem worthy of damnation? Aren’t they temporal acts that simply take a finite life and deeds that, however cruel, can be recorded and accounted for? How then can it be grace to torment anyone for eternity for these brief misdeeds?

“While we support the institutions that hold us accountable for our offenses, and we affirm the desire to punish those found guilty of crime, we also recognize that each and every person falls short of God’s divine law, thus not only are all people guilty in some shape or form, but by God’s grace we never get the punishment that we actually deserve. All together, regardless of who we are or what we have done or left undone, we receive the life-giving promise of the gospel and blessed assurance that God will never leave us or forsake us. This is the scandalous nature of God’s criminal justice.

Absolutely beautifully said. If you believe in a loving God, worthy of reverence, then you must admit that this is God’s desire. If it is God’s will that all will be saved; if that was the mission of his prophets and his Messiah, then how can it fail? If that was the intent at the creation of the Universe, then it is woven into every atom and every force. We come back to the idea that if God is not benevolent, powerful, and wise, then why should we offer praise? If God cannot save every soul spawned by creation, then which of these do we rule out, because at least one of these three qualities is missing.

And so, can God actually love those responsible for the recent bombings in Boston? As shocking and troubling as it may sound, and as tormented as it might make us feel, we affirm in Jesus’ name that God can (and does)… God does not give up on anyone, not even those responsible for acts of terrorism.

Now, his wording here isn’t entirely clear: is he affirming this “in Jesus’ name”, or affirming that this can be done “in Jesus’ name”? Either way, I see the same basic message. He leaves out the idea that these men must repent, must submit, must renounce anything of themselves or their doings. I want to believe that this is intentional, because it doesn’t need to be there for this to make sense, and it might ruin the whole line of thought. God’s love is so amazing that even those who have done terrible things are still loved, and can enter heaven, though we cannot possibly understand how with our mortal limitations.

He finishes by saying

“While we cannot passively accept the massive pain and suffering that is taking place in Boston and other areas around the world, one of the ways we can reconcile, transform and empower is through an outpouring of love and compassion for both victims and victimizers. As the God made known to us in Jesus embodied the way of restoration over retaliation, may we learn to follow this difficult and necessary path, in Boston and in all places, so that we may realize God’s criminal justice throughout the world.”

That message would be uncomfortable in even a Unitarian Universalist Church, and yet we would recognize the truth of it, and we would accept that we have to try to understand, to learn, and to forgive, even if forgiveness is never sought by the people who have done wrong. It is a wonderful indictment, intentional or accidental, of the concept of eternal damnation.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has a strange relationship with Universalism. It is rarely stated clearly, though a passage from “Principles of Lutherian Theology” that clearly lays out a case for Universal Salvation, used to be part of their website, yet they also teach that the The Athanasian Creed is part of their belief structure, and that is certainly does not speak of Universal Salvation, but also is not a doctrine of damnation, but of destruction, which is arguably more in-line with the temporal nature of human misdeed. I like the tone of this post, and it gives me hope that the movement towards accepting Universal Salvation is growing.

Just some news:

I built a Facebook page for the blog, so that people who are not friends of mine can see new posts there, and so that “friends” who don’t read my blog don’t really see anything from me anymore, as blog updates constituted almost of of my Facebook activity for a while. If you are interested, it is A Material Sojourn on Facebook…

Next up, I’d like to thank my significant other and life partner, Carey, for proof reading as many of my posts as she can, given her work schedule. Many more of my posts would look like my worst posts if she didn’t catch my typos and poor word choices.

Lastly, I have had a couple of requests from a very singular friend to post more content about the lumber industry, and logging in particular. As I have never posted about this subject before, I am fairly sure that this fulfills the request.

Thanks to everyone who has been reading. It has been wild to see how many people some of these posts have reached. I even appreciate the trolls and the critics, as they have helped my sharpen my perceptions and hone my arguments.

With that, I hit “publish” on a very short but grateful 100th post to the blog.

It is not good enough to be Free if we cannot hold each other Responsible.

I have been following, and even occasionally tweeting links to, the small, relatively new site calling its self “UU Humanist Symposium“. it seems that I will not be doing this any more.

They have posted many things that I found interesting. They have certainly posted things that I have found controversial. They have posted a number of things that I thought might lead to some interesting discussions, and it seems that several others thought so as well.

The problem is that it seems as though the community of the UU Humanist Symposium is not interested in interesting discussion and intelligent disagreement.

I point those who wish to read it to this post, where someone asks some serious and reasonable questions about the content and context of a post, and is insulted and banned for the effort.

This brings to mind my often-stated concern that we Unitarian Univerasalists are much better at Free than Responsible.

After the theist makes it clear that he accepts the atheist as part of his spiritual movement, the atheist (for I can’t call his replies “Humanist”) tells the theist that there isn’t room in the UU Humanist movement for a theist, and that he won’t even bother to try and explain why, instead blocking the querent from further participation.

This is a problem I have with militant atheists, and why I have problems accepting that some of them are committed to the 7 Principles. There are some great hUUmanists out there. I consider myself a mystical humanist, due to my acceptance of the fact that there is no “mighty hand of God” at work in the world today. Being a humanist means, to me, accepting that humanity is in charge of our own destiny, and that we have to take collective responsibility for making it a good one. To me, the 7 Principles are an excellent guideline to creating that better future and a Beloved Community. That includes “Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth” as well as “A free and responsible search for truth and meaning“. What I saw was one Unitarian Universalist trying to meaningfully engage another in an instance where the latter was pushing the bounds of a responsible statement. Instead of seeing that as encouragement, the second UU resorted to name calling and censorship of an alternate but completely UU view point.

The most UU viewpoint, in my understanding, is a healthy skepticism and honest agnosticism. It is fine to say that your life is fulfilling enough without concern for the supernatural; it is quite another to refuse to entertain the idea of something that is currently outside of the ability of science to test, much less comprehend. We are, ultimately, a religious movement. The idea that there is a creator who wants better for us and from us is an inseparable aspect of a church.  The Great Mystery is essential to the philosophies and the lives of so many UUs, as it has been for our intellectual predecessors.

I will not be following this blog and longer. I will not encourage others to do so. Many of the post seemed to me to reflect an irresponsible viewpoint, and one that is being voiced more and more loudly by people in our Unitarian Universalist communities. It is not, in my understanding, an acceptable UU philosophy to be wed to your ideas to the point of irrationality. It is not healthy to be so dedicated to an idea that you cannot even abide civil dissent. It is dangerous for us to embolden those who seek to eliminate God from our churches. It will prove fatal to our movement if we allow fundamentalist factions to fracture our small movement. There has to be room for all seekers-after-truth. We cannot try to shut down those who disagree with our theologies as long as they fellowship with us in good faith and good will.

There is no room in my congregation for fundamentalists or any stripe, who cannot be wrong because they are righteous. There is not room for those who cannot have reasonable disagreements or debate. There is no room for those whose philosophies cannot be questioned. It is outside the bounds of my Principles, and the Principles of the UUA as I understand them. We need our principles to act as a covenant between us; with out at least that, we have nothing to rally around. Without that covenant, we accept that anything goes, and the behavior of this on-line community has proven that being a UU has to be about more than paying dues.