Playing “Catch-up”

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I’m afraid I’ve fallen off on reporting my candle meditations. I don’t have the dates for each one, and I’m not even sure of the order, any more. Suffice it to say, each one is a reflection of where I was at the time, emotionally speaking. Some of them feel forced, so its a good thing they’re translations of wordless meditations rather than actual attempts at poetry.

This flame is fragile,
Yet bright enough to light the path.
This flame is small,
Yet strong enough to accomplish its purpose.
This flame is temporary,
And provides relief at its reliability.
This flame pales beside the sun,
And it takes deliberate effort to extinguish.
Let me be as fragile, as small, as temporary, as pale
As this flame.

A flame everburning,
A flare of light.
A fire to show,
Which way is right.

To guide, to shine,
To glow and warm,
I light this beacon
From which hope is born.

And this prayer I make,
With this burning I call
A blessing on friends new made
And of hope rekindled.

A beacon, a star, a guide;
A life, a hope, a light.
These a flame provides,
These within abide.

A symbol, a sign, a portal;
A focus, a warmth, a path.
These a flame is,
These within abide.


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One of the nearby churches has this as the title of the next sermon: If God is your co-pilot, guess who’s in the wrong seat. Amusing as it is, there’s something at the root of this statement that I find disturbing.

I’ve never liked the co-pilot analogy. My reaction upon seeing a bumpersticker with “God is my co-pilot” for the first time was: Dear Lord, how arrogant. It could be read a couple of different ways. The first: “God is my co-pilot…because I am just that awesome,” is not just egotistical and arrogant, but bears hints of a slightly delusional nature that the world must conform to the driver’s wishes. A second way the bumpersticker can be read: “God is my co-pilot…because he is my shield and my sword.” Really? So you’re using the divine presence as a tool to intimidate? Again, this is an arrogant and slightly delusional view point. The third way it could be read: “God is my co-pilot…he tells me where to go.” Of the three immediate ways I read it, this is the most disturbing to me.

Before I say why it’s the most disturbing, let me define some of my terms:
Egotistical: an exaggerated sense of self-worth
Arrogant: exaggerating or disposed to exagerate one’s own worth or importance often by an overbearing manner; showing an offensive attitude of superiority
Delusional: a persistent false psychotic (i.e. loss of touch with reality) belief regarding the self or persons or objects outside the self that is maintained despite indisputable evidence to the contrary

Breaking it down, the bumpersticker smacks of an inflated sense of the person’s importance and the idea that rubbing it in people’s faces is a good idea. As for the slightly delusional aspect: most people would say that making a statement does not necessarily make it a fact, yet that’s what this bumpersticker is doing. It is stating that God is manifested in the seat next to the person driving the vehicle.

I understand what they’re trying to say, but I had to think for a bit before coming to the conclusion that no, the driver of that car didn’t necessarily believe he or she was superior to everyone else on the road. What I think the bumpersticker is saying is God is an integral part of the driver’s life. Only “God is an integral part of my life” is not a catchy phrase.

So why is that third interpretation so disturbing to me? Because it sounds like the most reasonable interpretation, and is thus more likely to be true. The implications of the statement, though, is that the person driving isn’t thinking. Driving jokes aside, by “not thinking”, I mean that the driver relies on someone else to provide the answers. And that, to me, is very disturbing. It is disturbing in the sense that by relying on someone else to provide the answers, the driver may lose, or have lost, their ability to think critically about their own fundamental beliefs. (An ironic situation, because they rely on OTHERS to do that in order to bring in “converts”.)

Looking back at that sermon title (“If God is your co-pilot, guess who’s in the wrong seat.”) it seems to be the next step on that third interpretation. That is to say, if the third interpretation is more true than I could wish, this seems to escalate the message. Now instead of “God tells me what to do,” the sense is “God is driving and I have no choice.” Doubtless, some would say that’s exactly how it should be. Me, I question that answer. It seems counter to one of the central concepts believers often espouse: choice of whether to follow or not (granted not following has its…disadvantages, but the choice is there).

Personally, I’ve always liked the imagery of “Footprints in the Sand” by Mary Stevenson. God as Companion. And not in an enclosed, man-made vehicle, but in a wide open vista. As with any companion, you can wander away, you can wander back, you can talk, you can be silent. A companion shares the ordeal and helps you through, provides opportunities or a supportive hand. And if necessary, will carry you when you can’t make it on your own.

Who wants a “God is my Companion” bumpersticker?

Into That Good Night


It’s been a very long time since I posted something. My apologies. And I’m afraid this one will probably be depressing for any readers still out there. I won’t be offended if you read no further. It’s why I’m opening with this paragraph. And if you’re the type of person who thinks sharing to work your way through a tough time is merely complaining and whining, please leave. Now.

I almost walked out of choir warm-up today. Choir, church, community, there’s supposed to be a feeling of inclusiveness, yet everything we sang, warm-up pieces or service music, emphasized and re-emphasized my apartness, aloneness, and loneliness. It is really hard to sing with your throat tight with tears.

I tried to come up with an affirmative meditation for candle lighting. I failed.

This flame is a beacon, a call, a summons
To all who can hear.
It is a flare, a warning, an alert
That all is not well.
It is the light of hope, of community, of healing
That in me has been extinguished.

Transition is Difficult

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I didn’t actually get a chance to light a candle today. The choir provided the candle meditation music (“Cantique” by Faurre). But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t going through the motions in my mind during the reading. Without the candle and flame directly in front of me, I had to work at the words which usually come easily. This week’s meditation is at the end of the post.

On this day of transition, I’m spending time thinking about the effort it takes to move from one state to another. Today is Easter, the day of the ultimate transition in Christianity. And yet transition is with us every day. The forming or breaking of a relationship. A drastic change of mood. A switch of careers. Transitions bring pain, and yet there is promise of a new life with each. Keep in mind, I am not talking about the simple changes that life forces upon us. I’m talking about alterations in the very foundations of character and personality.

The day my last relationship ended, I died. The period of transition was hard to work through, and yet looking back at it, I do not regret it. Change hurts, but the penalty for not changing is the death of spirit. With every transition, two forces fight within me: the transformative force wars with the impulse of stubbornness. Thus far, with every major transition, I have been able to change and accept it…though rarely without a struggle. It is that struggle that causes a transition to be so painful.

And yet after the transition, there is a sense of completeness. Not happiness or contentedness, but a feeling that something has definitively ended for good or ill. Whether that ending is positive or not, it provides a solid foundation on which to continue life. When the ending is negative, it is often extremely difficult to begin building again. It is tempting to keep that chapter open and keep writing, hoping for a happier ending. But in doing so, the foundation for continuing life remains in flux, and the impossibility of building a future is overwhelming.

Transition can be broken into three broad periods: the initiating event, the interregnum, and the resolution. Sometimes the initiating event can be predicted, sometimes it can’t. I could predict that my last relationship would end (though the timing of the actual event was a bit awkward), but the request for a divorce several years ago came as a complete surprise. I’m not sure which is worse. I don’t think I really care. In both cases, it launched a period of wailing and gnashing of teeth, which eventually led to a period of self evaluation and exploration as I sought to reestablish my foundation. In the case of my divorce, the resolution occurred after years of the interregnum; but when it came, it came suddenly, like the breaking of a fever. After the more recent relationship, the interregnum was much shorter, but the resolution came slowly, like the healing of a broken body.

I look around and see people in all three periods of transition. Given my personal history and propensities, it is no surprise that it is very easy for me to see which people are still reeling from the initiating event, or are still on the downswing of the interregnum. It takes a little more effort for me to see when people begin the upswing, but there are fewer pleasures more poignant than being with someone (or even helping them) as they reach their resolution.

I saw one person in church today who appeared to have just gone through an initiating event. I won’t use exact words, but when I asked if this person was okay, s/he thanked me for my concern but couldn’t yet say that s/he couldn’t talk about it, much less actually talk. Given what I know about this person, I have a couple of guesses I think are pretty close. In any case, my thoughts, my love, and my prayers go out to this person in transition.

Today’s Meditation:

Let this beacon burn bright.
Light it be a guiding light
To those who seek.
Let it be a shelter
For those without peace.

Let this beacon burn bright.
Let it give warmth
To those in the cold.
Let it give strength
For climbing from the valley.

Let this beacon burn bright.
Let it promise hope
To those in despair.
Let it promise life
To dying souls.

I Have Had Enough!

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“Self-righteousness is the root of all bad behavior.” –Meg Barnhouse

And the words of meditation just keep on coming. This weeks words that came to me during the meditation time seems to invoke the unseen strength everyone feels from time to time.

May this flame of a single, fragile point
Join the wall of fire
And forever burn
In friendship and love and hope.

May this flame upon a tiny candle
Be strong enough to light my way
Through turbulent darkness
And bring others with me.

May this flame of delicate light
Shine endlessly in the storm
That I may help others
When they reach for shelter.

Today’s sermon topic was “enoughness”, a Quaker concept of balancing lack with acquisition. With such a topic, one would expect the sermon to boil down to: “Seek moderation, stop buying what you don’t need, and be content with what you have.” But no. We are Unitarian Universalists. Our sermons are never that easy. “Enough” is a concept that varies from person to person. How much is “enough”? How can you tell too little from too much? These are questions that everyone needs to answer for themselves.

What “enough” is not is complacency, apathy, neutrality. Enough is the balance each person must find in order to put forth the appropriate amount of effort. Enough provides both a motivation and a solid foundation from which to act. Enough is the amount of action necessary to achieve a goal…however much that might be and whatever the goal is. Enough is a solid center a person can rely on without being smothered with a surfeit. I am reminded of a quote from Marry Poppins: “Enough is as good as a feast.”

As my words of meditation may indicate, there are some things I have had enough of. I have had enough of darkness. I have had enough of pain. I have had enough of doubt. I have had enough of the storm. I say this not as a frustrated cry. I do not regret what I’ve been through. I see it as a necessary series of events. When I say, “I have had enough!” it is a simple statement of “enoughness.” I have no wish to enter the danger of wallowing in pain and doubt and darkness, so I say, “No thanks. I have had enough.”

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Guess what? As a writer, I write the occasional obligatory poem. Here’s the rough draft of one, though it still needs a title. (remember, the key word is “rough draft”) For those who don’t like free verse…maybe I’ll do a structured one in the future. For those who don’t like poetry at all, sorry. The next post won’t be poetry.


I went to the sea to catch a ship filled with laughing people.
They laughed, and danced, and sang, and beckoned me onward.
I ran across the beach, the sand slowing my efforts.
And when I reached the water, the ship had sailed,
Echoes of laughing people beckoning me on.

In haste, I built a coracle made of hopes and dreams,
And set to sea to join the beckoning crowd.
I paddled hard, in my boat of dreams,
And the ship grew ever distant
And the coracle of hopes began to leak.

I looked behind to see my path.
In the distance, I saw another ship
Loading on board laughing, dancing children.
The ship, it set sail, and followed my wake.
Its passengers hollering and beckoning.

And while I paddled my way to stasis chasing the first,
Yet the second fell behind.
And from both horizons, echoes of merriment called me on.
Then, as my boat spun confusing each direction,
The echoes dwindled and faded beyond hearing.

And I, in my coracle of leaky dreams, sit
Awash with the waves of a growing storm.
I struggle to keep my hopes from sinking,
Yet as I look for a new direction,
I find myself lost between generations.