Sunday, December 25, 2011


The last couple of days have been somewhat contemplative for me, as Christmas often is.

Friday I went to the Christmas party for my mom's side of the family. It was actually pretty decent. Although I couldn't help but feel amused that an aunt and uncle got me an ice scraper as a gift. Albeit a very nice one. I live in a part of the country where generally, ice only exists in refrigerator freezers. In all fairness, they also got one for my cousin. My cousin who doesn't drive and doesn't own a car.

Saturday, we went to a local park, which had Christmas lights up for display. It wasn't as good as the light displays in the park I go to every year in South Carolina, but it was still fun. On the way home, we stopped by a house that had an amazing light display, which I was able to video:

This morning, we had the Christmas gathering for my dad's side of the family, which was just his older brother and sister. They came to my parents' house, and we had breakfast, and we went to church.

Church with my fundamentalist family usually bores and frustrates me. Today, however, I just felt sad for them. The sermon was entitled "When God Came to Earth", and was..... well, what would be expected at a conservative church with a sermon of that title. I just kept thinking, "Why can't they understand that God never "left" Earth? Why can't they see that God is all around us, in everything we see, and within ourselves?" It saddens me that they can't see what a beautiful creation this is, and that God isn't just some stodgy guy in the heavens watching us with disdain, unless we think and believe The Right Things. No wonder we as a species are so war-torn, domineering, and destructive - we have no collective self-esteem or self-worth.

After church, we came back to my house and opened gifts. Then went to my aunt's house for lunch/dinner and opening gifts. Then we came back home and watched Christmas movies. I got some good movies, some not so good movies, some cologne, and a nice jacket. All in all, it wasn't a bad holiday. Now we'll see how I'll survive the rest of the week!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

CYF Religious Education: Session 2: Letting Your Light Shine

The opening words for today's RE lesson on the Church of the Younger Fellowship is comprised of a passage in the Bible, Matthew Chapter 5:14-16, which speaks of letting your light shine on your good works. The exact passage is:

You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting
a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lamp-stand, and it gives light to all in
the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see
your good works….
-Matthew 5:14-16

The reflection is by a minister, who states that she always wanted to be a jazz singer, and admired Ella Fitzgerald, until she realized she had no musical talent whatsoever. The following passage sticks out to me:

"At that moment, I had a crazy thought that might pass as a revelation. What if some
crazy flip-flop were the case? I thought to myself. What if I were to find out that years
ago a beautiful jazz singer had dreamed of being me? What if, more than anything else,
this singer wanted to possess the gifts and talents I possess? Indeed, what if she had
dreamed me up and her highest aspirations and life-long yearnings were supposed to
come to fruition through me? How ungrateful I would be to stand here wasting my
time dreaming of being her!
What would happen if each of us were to find out that we were the creation of
someone else’s dreams? I wonder: Would that change the way we live our lives?
Would we spend less time thinking about what we don’t have or aren’t? Would we
spend more time cherishing who we are? Would we approach life a bit like a treasure
hunt, and spend our time looking for the gifts the dreamer had hidden in us? Perhaps
we would stay awake at night, not worrying by wondering—wondering what great
works or wonders this dreamer had made us capable of making real?"
This is something, I admit, I struggle with. Even now, I always find myself comparing myself with others, usually in the negative. I have musical talent, but lack the showmanship and ability to overcome stagefright (not to mention, at this point in my life, opportunities). I work well with kids and have made many good friends, but still struggle with a great deal of shyness and social anxiety. I always wish I could be taller. Bigger. More outgoing. More comfortable in my own skin. You get the idea. Maybe my New Year's resolution for the upcoming year should be to rid myself of the negativity and pressure I always put on myself.

I will close with this session's discussion questions:

"What are you particularly good at?": Music. Photography. Helping people who are less fortunate - including animals.

"What are you proud of having accomplished?:" becoming generally self-sufficient when I never thought I would be able to. Surviving grad school to the extent that I have.

"What talents do you have?": I see this as a repetition of question #1, so I will refer to the above.

"How do you let your light shine in the world?": I suppose, by being the best person I can be. I'm still trying to figure out just how - and if - I'm impacting the world around me. I think this is something I will always question.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Finding Your Path: a course from the UU Young Adult Office by Rev. Michael Tino

So, I know I haven't been posting a lot lately. Partly that's because, as mentioned in my previous post from last night/early Wednesday AM, I've been busy with school (brought my GPA up to a 3.4 by the way, 4.0 for the semester), and on a much lesser scale, work (I'm pretty much broke right now). But mostly, it's been because I've been in a funk. Emotionally and spiritually stagnant.

Today, I remembered the site I am still a member of and used to frequent, although much less so in recent months, the Church of the Younger Fellowship, and its parent site, the Church of the Larger Fellowship, both listed in my links section. I was pleased to see that the Church of the Larger Fellowship is transitioning to a new website with some new features, such as an online church service on Sunday evenings and Monday afternoons, which I believe I will begin watching.

The CYF also now has a "Religious Education" feature, comprised of (so far) 36ish daily readings and reflections, with discussion questions. In effort to bring new life into my spirituality and get myself out of this funk, I think I'm going to read through those daily devotionals, and blog summaries and my responses to discussion questions here.

Today's reading began with an intro, followed by some opening words for Chalice Lighting. The following poem was then made the focus reading, written by a CYF member and the writer of this day's devotional:

"Wild Night Wind
Michael Tino
I want…
…a hug each morning to greet the brand new day, and one each night to bid it farewell.
…to know love as vast as the sky and as pure as the first winter snow.
…a sandy beach each summer to keep me cool and a blazing fire each winter to warm
…to soar through the air like a bird, if only to remind myself of the magic and wonder
of being earthbound.
…a wild night wind to rustle the trees as I drift to sleep, and to call my dreams by name.
I want…
…to feel peace deep down in the core of my being.
…a babbling brook to sit by and notice the passage of time and seasons and the
unfolding of life before me.
…a room to call my own in which I can be free to create, to develop, to learn, or simply
to sit in a warm ray of sunshine streaming in through the window, amidst the dancing
dust faeries and shadows.
I want…
…to seek justice, simple and true, and to pass it like water for all to drink from.
…to be wholly a part of creation, in concert with beings and mountains and trees,
treating all which surrounds me as part of myself.
…a compass, true and steady, to point me the way I’ve been longing to go and to help
me remember the way that I’ve been.
I want…
…a steaming pot of Earl Grey tea to share with a friend and inspire conversation (or
simply silence, in gentle recognition that nothing needs to be said).
…to stand tall and firm, proud of my accomplishments but, at the same time, humble in
my minuteness in the glory of all being.
…to know God as the loving spirit in each of my breaths, transcending the boundaries
of all space and time and transforming my breathing into being.
And what do you want in the deepest center of your very being?
What quickens your heart and shortens your breath at the mere thought of it entering
your life?
What sounds an echo in the back of your soul and enters the symphony within you like
a high, insistent flute, calling your name over and over?
Is it peace? Is it love? Is it harmony with all beings?
Or is it a mission, a calling, a purpose?
Is it a reason that you want?
Or a question?
Or an answer?
Is it fields of purple heather swaying softly in the breeze
or libraries of knowledge to satisfy your growing curiosity?
Is it woolly socks in winter to keep your toes warm as you snuggle on the couch
watching the snow fall
or maple trees in autumn, blazing colors bright and true like wild fire on the mountains
towards the far horizon?
Is it a fountain in the summer, spraying, misting, sprinkling you with water and forming
puddles to wiggle your toes through
or a seedling in the springtime, pushing up through loamy soil and creating life from a
dormant shell?
What is it you really want?
An afternoon, a kitten, or a bicycle?
Or maybe justice like the waters
and pride
and love
and wonder?
A cup of tea, a ray of sun?
A peaceful, quiet moment?
Perhaps a hug to start each day, and one to fall asleep by,
or a wild night wind that moves the trees
and sparks your dreams
and lets you know possibilities without end."
 -- source - although it may not work if you haven't joined

The following Questions for Reflection are then presented, along with my answers:
"Who are you? Introduce yourself to the group": No introductions needed here, as most of my readers know me, and to any who don't, I wish to simply stick with "Chad" or "Chadly".

"What do you want?": I want to help others. I want to live and work somewhere I find fulfilling on every level. I want to travel. I want to fall in love and have a family.

"What are your dreams?": To make a difference in the world, and to find spiritual fulfillment.

"How have they changed the way you live your life?": I moved to be closer to the sea - although I am contemplating a return to the mountains via Asheville, depending on my luck finding work in Charleston after school. I do love the ocean though. I chose a career field not based on money, but my desire to make a difference in the world. I try to get out in nature as much as I can. I've become much more open minded, and draw from many spiritual traditions - Gnosticism, Christianity, Druidry, and Zen - in my personal spiritual path.

"What do you hope to get out of this curriculum?": If nothing else, to give me some new ideas and concepts to think about.


Well, I'm finally finished with another semester at school. Only one more to go. Things have been crazy busy, hence my long absence. I'm now back in North Carolina, visiting family for the holidays.

The holidays are always an interesting time for me. I feel nostalgic for the better moments of my childhood. At the same time, it pulls me into spiritual contemplation and evaluation of my spiritual beliefs, as I ponder the deeper meanings behind the winter holidays I celebrate - Christmas (including daily Advent readings through a UU Christian Advent devotional I have printed out), with a more Gnostic, metaphorical interpretation than my mainstream family; Yule, with the acknowledgement of the changing seasons and the longing for warmer days; and Chalica, the 7 day long Unitarian- Universalist themed holiday, modeled after Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, in which each day represents one of UU's 7 Principles. I did experiment with Hanukkah  for a couple of years and, while it's still in my "rituals" section of my Grimoire, I feel I have not connected with that holiday as well as the aforementioned.

One thing in particular I find curious, is that even though I attend a Christian church, consider myself Christian - even though I do also practice Druidry and minimally interact with the Unitarian Universalists online - every time I take the Beliefnet religion quiz, which I do periodically, my top religions are almost always Neo-Pagan, UU, and Mahayana Buddhism. Now, I have been attempting to incorporate some Zen into my life, and once I get back to my regular post-Advent daily spiritual practices, I will be including my book, "The Buddhist Bible" in my daily readings (along with my NRSV Bible and "The Other Bible" which contains various Gnostic writings). But seeing as how I have had very little exposure to actual Buddhism (whereas I have had exposure to the others, via local Pagan groups I've visited, and visiting the local UU church), I've been curious as to what that "looks like", so to speak. How does it fit in with my various beliefs? Should I consider just becoming Buddhist? What about the fact that here in the West, many view Buddhism as a philosophy, not just a religion, and as such practice Christianity (or other religions) with a Buddhist flavor, so to speak? The benefit of being spiritually eclectic, as I seem to be, is that I feel the freedom to incorporate what works. It can be a bit confusing, sometimes though, and frustrating, when I'm not sure where I "fit in". Especially when it comes to being a part of a faith community and/or meeting others of like mind.