Words for Reflection, A Community of Identity

February 26, 2017: Marching to the Beat of Our Own Drum

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. [That human] experiences … thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion…. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

– Albert Einstein

The Rev. Dr. Andrew Pakula wrote:

Let there be light
The light of joy, the light of happiness, and the light of contentment
May it illuminate our paths and fill our lives with peace
And let there be dark
For it is from our dark places that we are brought forward
Tried and tested
And impelled toward growth
It is in these places that we realize compassion and learn to love
And there was day and there was night.
And there was joy and there was sorrow.
And it was good.
[Let us grow together, into the light of joy, learn love, and fill our lives with peace.]

“One of the lessons that I grew up with was to always stay true to yourself and never let what somebody else says distract you from your goals. And so when I hear about negative and false attacks, I really don’t invest any energy in them, because I know who I am.”  – Michelle Obama

“Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.” – Golda Meir

“Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is Enlightenment.” – Lao Tzu

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” – Mark Twain

“If [someone] does not keep pace with … companions, perhaps it is because [that person] hears a different drummer. Let [someone] step to the music which [they hear], however measured or far away.” – Henry David Thoreau

“I had crossed the line. I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom. I was a stranger in a strange land.” – Harriet Tubman

“You shall not wrong or oppress the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” – Exodus 22:21

“You cannot believe in God until you believe in yourself.” – Swami Vivekananda

February 19, 2017: Always in Formation

Though not always comfortable, change is ever-present. Formation, however, is optional. It is the willingness to grow in, through, and beyond changes that come our way. Author Dan Millman wrote, “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

Rev. Gretchen Haley wrote:

Though you have been warned
And given plenty of explanations
Reasons to do otherwise
You have persisted
To claim a life of joy, and justice
To carve out this time
This space for the renewal
Of your own heart
Despite all the reasons, the resistance
Fighting for your attention, luring you towards fear
You persist
To practice gratitude
For this day, this life
That has been given
This chance to begin again
And so let us gather
That we might
Offer one another courage, strength
Healing, hope
And this promise to
Persist in kindness,
Persevere in compassion
Prevail in a life that is for more than ourselves
Come, let us worship together

“You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals … each of us must work for our own improvement, and at the same time share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful.”
– Marie Curie

“By letting go of the debris and filth, I have come to a deeper, more soulful beauty and clarity … From that place of clarity, a vision of what I could have, what I could do, who I could be has emerged, if I allow my heart to become a place of compassion, acceptance and forgiveness.”
– Sharon E. Rainey

“When the going gets tough, the tough reinvent.”
– RuPaul

“It’s like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head… That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.”
– Patrick Rothfuss

He allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all … but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.”
– Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
– Mahatma Gandhi 

“The [siblings] that you meet give you the materials which your character uses to build itself … In truth, the ways in which your character is built have to do with all three of those. Those around you, those you choose, and those who choose you.”
– Maya Angelou

“Through others we become ourselves.”
– Lev S. Vygotsky

February 12, 2017: Finding Ourselves Along the Way

“When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.”  So remarks the narrator of Ralph Ellison’s classic work Invisible Man. We may consider this as well: without really coming to understand our own identity and claiming it, can we live without the fetters laid down by others or the inheriting limitations of not knowing ourselves? How freeing it is to live fully in one’s own skin.

Rev. Erika Hewitt:

The word courage comes from the Latin cor, which means heart. According to poet Mark Nepo, the original use of the word courage meant to stand by one’s core: a “striking concept that reinforces the belief found in almost all traditions that living from the Center is what enables us to face whatever life has to offer.”

To “encourage” means to hearten; to impart strength and confidence. This is our work, as a religious community: to encourage one another; to be bold in engaging the world around us, as well as what scares us internally; to give one another the confidence and heart to live as fully as possible.

With full hearts, we affirm our relationships with one another; we recognize our agency and our connective power; and we accept our responsibility to be bold and courageous …[in] all that we have done together, and all that we will be as our shared ministry encourages those within, and beyond, our walls.

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of stardust”. Carl Sagan

“I am a citizen of the world.” Sylvia Beach

“The earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the sons [and daughters] of the earth. If [we] spit upon the ground, [we] spit upon [our]selves. This we know. The earth does not belong to [us]; [we] belong to the earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.” Chief Seattle

“I belong to the people I love, and they belong to me–they, and the love and loyalty I give them, form my identity far more than any word or group ever could.” Veronica Roth, Allegiant

“Afraid that our inner light will be extinguished or our inner darkness exposed, we hide our true identities from each other. In the process, we become separated from our own souls. We end up living divided lives, so far removed from the truth we hold within that we cannot know the ‘integrity that comes from being what you are.’” Parker Palmer

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” Kurt Vonnegut

“Perhaps it’s impossible to wear an identity without becoming what you pretend to be.” Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” Matthew 7:15

“You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it.” Edith Head

“Find out who you are and do it on purpose.” Dolly Parton

February 5, 2017: Being the Beloved

“We gather in faith of the power of diversity, the power of love, and the hope of a world transformed by our care. We gather in faith in ourselves and those around us. Not a faith that requires perfection or rightness in one another. Rather, a faith that in our shared imperfection we may learn to stumble and fall together. Faith that we will help one another to rise and to try again and again. We are Unitarian Universalists.”

– Rev. Sunshine Jeremiah Wolfe, Unitarian Universalist

Rev. Scott Alexander wrote:

“… We need a religion that proclaims the inherent worth and dignity of every person…
We need a religion that seeks justice, equity, and compassion in human relations.
In a world with so many persons abused and neglected,
We need a religion that calls us to accept one another and encourage one another to spiritual growth…
We need a religion that affirms the right and conscience and the use of the democratic process.
In a world with so much inequity and strife,
We need a religion that strives toward the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all.
In a world with so much environmental degradation,
We need a religion that advocates respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part…
We need a religion that teaches our hearts to hope, and our hands to care.”

[And so, we gather here, in this place of sanctuary, hope, and love.
Together we strive
To live our covenant,
To come to know ourselves and one another more honestly, more fully,
And to be a religion of radical compassion that lifts every weighed down heart in love.]

“Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here… And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.” Max Ehrmann

“We know what we are, but not what we may be.” William Shakespeare

“It is easier to live through someone else than to complete yourself. The freedom to lead and plan your own life is frightening if you have never faced it before.” Betty Friedan

 “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.” Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

 “In most of our human relationships, we spend much of our time reassuring one another that our costumes of identity are on straight.” Ram Dass

 “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” Oscar Wilde

 “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everyone I’ve ever known.” Chuck Palahniuk

 “The real you is the energy force that created the entire universe!” RuPaul