Thursday, August 31, 2006

Whatever Gets You Through The [Dark]Night

[I submitted this to Rev. Sean, who is hosting this month's carnival. I think it's okay to post it here, too. But what I really want to say is that although my religious faith and practices are very important for getting through the hardest times, my sister and my mom and my friends and family are more important than any prayers. In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if Heaven winds up being a long phone conversation with my sister where, even though I start out the conversation a total mess, I wind up even being able to laugh a little bit and I know that I'm going to be okay forever and ever.- P.B.]

The UU Blog Carnival topic for this month asks us to reflect on what, religiously-speaking, gets us through the hard nights.

As a light sleeper with high anxiety, I tend to have my "hard nights" literally at night.
More than once I have referred to the lines of the old psalm and reassured myself that "weeping may endureth for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."

When I was in divinity school, a friend told me that 3 AM is the mystic's hour. I wasn't sure what she meant by that, but I had been waking up at just that time on a regular basis and feeling a creepy, haunted kind of pulse in the air. Maybe it wasn't creepy after all. Maybe I don't have quite the words to describe what it was. Thick. Charged. Slightly dangerous, as though the veil between the worlds might lift any moment and I might see things that my heart couldn't endure and my mind couldn't handle.

I don't wake up at 3 AM very often any more, but I certainly do have my dark nights of the soul, both on my own behalf and as a result of having soaked up too much suffering and fear from life in ministry. Sometimes I've just been dancing too frequently with Lady Death in my work lately and we need to have a few quiet nights awake together while I sit up against the pillows struggling to breathe deeply and she knits in the rocking chair next to me. I look over at her and think of those wonderful lyrics, "ole rocking chair's gonna get me." But not tonight, I tell myself. Tonight is not my night.

I have a very small bag of tricks from my religious life that work the miracle of getting me through the dark nights of the soul. The first is an ancient prayer that contains the line, "lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." This is my regular incantation and has been a mantra for several years now. It has taken me probably fifteen years of serious work with this prayer to own it and to allow it to own me. I know that whenever I recite the words of this prayer, and in whatever condition, someone else on this planet is reciting it along with me. Maybe they need my prayer for them even more than I need it. I pray it for us both.

I have prayed the Lord's Prayer in dreams when I was being pursued by demons who had my immortal soul in their teeth. This prayer is fierce! It works in dreams and it works in waking life.
For me, it works best slow, with especially long pauses where you might need them most that day or that hour.

I have a second prayer, even more ancient and more favorite than the first, that starts, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." This is the psalm I speak to myself as I walk down the corridor of the hospital, or as I ready myself for a funeral, or as I steady my nerves during take-off from the airport, or when I decide at 11:30 on a Saturday night that I HATE my sermon and I hate myself, etc., insecurity spin-out, so on. Not only is it one of the most beautiful literary pieces ever written in English (what does it sound like in the original? I have to believe I would love it just as much), it is, to me, the best spiritual trip you can take in about 24 lines.
"S/he makes me lie down in green pastures." Oh man, I can see that. It reminds me of a spring day when my mom and I were lying in the grass with sprigs of lilac over our faces at Bon Secours Spiritual Center in Maryland. My God MAKES me lie down in green pastures. For someone with anxiety issues, this is such a deal, let me tell you.

How dark can a dark night of the soul get?
As most of us know, very dark. No amount of faith can spare us some of those.
For those times, and God grant that they may be few or none at all, there is that commandment, "Thou shalt not kill." It occurred to me quite suddenly and recently that when we pray, "Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil," it is not only our outward-directed hatred and rage that can harm us. Here endeth the lesson.

What else? Love of the community. Understanding my place in the interdependent web of who we are, and trying to be accountable to it even in diminished condition. Accepting strength from those who freely offer it, acknowledging that living in covenant has a serious existential consequence in this lifetime, and even, if one of my dearest Universalist friends is correct, in the next. Rational thought and "heeding the guidance of reason," (in this context, making an appointment with a doctor if necessary, considering all avenues of help and aid, ruling nothing out).

In the end, it is salvific for me that Unitarian Universalism does not require or expect of its members a pious demeanor or humble mien. It requires honesty, intellectual rigor, compassion and acts of service. In my darkest hours when I rail against life and cynically declare that there is no meaning in any of this bleak exercise, I have the comfort of knowing, courtesy of my tradition, that my rage and my cynicism do not offend a judging God but are the legitimate rantings of a suffering human being who is, in some mysterious way beyond my comprehension, still held in the essence of love.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

"But" And "And"ers

I have shared church leadership with a remarkably talented and wise lady for the past two years who always says that she is working on being an "and" person instead of a "but" person. Very, very wise. We would talk about issues and where we were tempted to say, "but," we would replace it with "and" and enjoy watching opportunities pop up where obstacles had been.

(Sorry if I sound like a motivational speaker!)

I know we have a reputation for theological wishy-washiness, but I prefer to think that Unitarian Universalists are "and" people in a religiously "but" world.
If we aren't, we should try to be. Even though it's exhausting and we'll probably always be in the minority, I hope we will try to be.

When someone says, "I go to church, but I'm not sure what I believe about God," Unitarian Universalists can say, "I go to church, and I'm not sure what I believe about God."
Note the transition from insecurity ("but") to comfortable acknowledgement of ambiguity ("and"). Neat trick, huh?

When someone says, "I consider myself a Christian, but I don't really think Jesus was the same as God," a UU might say, "I consider myself a Christian, and I don't think Jesus is God." Where there was a sense of defensiveness in "but," there's a chance for theological refelection with "and."

I met two gals today at my hair salon. One was Catholic, and asked me to explain my faith tradition. I did so, challenging myself to avoid the word "but."
Suddenly, with the avoidance of that one little preposition, I was able to describe Unitarian Universalism not as an un-Catholic religious tradition (e.g., "The Catholics believe this but the UUs don't") but as it's own, legitimate thing. ("... and in my tradition, we affirm the priesthood of all believers.") It was a really nice experience, and it may have been because I was avoiding "but" that my usual verbal stumbling rolled out much more smoothly. (Okay, true confessions: I started out with a whopper of a negation, but it's the end of the summer and I'm out of practice. ::::beating self on head:::::)

I dare you preachers to schedule a sermon called "Let's Get Rid of Our 'Buts'."
No, I don't!
I was just kidding! I kid you! I'm a kidder!

P.S. I'd just like to thank everyone who wrote in about what happens for you during worship. I have been planning the worship year for my congregation and have found that your "witness" (sharing, riffing, etc.) has been an important inspiration for my process and a factor in getting really extra excited about this church year. Groove on, PeaceBangers. Thank you.

P.P.S. ********Project Runway Spoiler alert -- Spoiler alert*********

I am so ticked off by the results of tonight's challenge. Of course, like the rest of the nation, I hope Jeffrey gets cornered in a dark alley by a gang of chubby middle aged moms wielding lead pipes, but that's just my little fantasy that you don't need to know about. Because I'm a Christian woman and I don't believe in violence. In Jeffrey's case, I have to remind myself of this in firm tones every time I behold his smirking little pin head, but again, I digress.
No, it's the obvious gender bias on this show that really has me frothing this evening. EXCUSE ME, but Angela has had several very strong designs and while tonight's wasn't great, and really rather missed the mark, Kayne was a JOKE. A YOKE, do you hear me? And while I love Kayne, he has had a solid string of serious bloopers and should have been auf'd tonight. But have you noticed that when it comes down to one really lousy guy design and one really lousy gal design, the woman inevitably gets flushed? Like when Vincent made that heinous toilet paper dress and Alison's merely resembled a brioche, and all the judges flang heaps of ire on Alison's head because she should have known better than to design something unflattering for a woman's figure? I know flang isn't a word, but the point is, Vincent's model could barely walk the runway, and Alison got auf'd that night. And please tell me that Robert was more talented than some of those gals who were auf'd so early on in the season? I. don't. think. so.
So anyway, I love Tim Gunn forever and ever but I'm very angry at the producers. And when I think of Angela flying home alone (probably not first class return trip -- am I right?) having simply been driven through Paris just to get driven back to the airport, I just think this is too cruel. Even if the pants she made were so embarrassing I actually put my hand over my mouth when I saw them.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Big Papi, Be Well!!

Oh, what's happening to my boys!!?

To Joe Paczek, Thanks For Everything, PeaceBang

We are not a domestically gifted family.

My mother once hemmed my brother's pants measuring one side in inches and the other in centimeters. We had to run out to Bob's Sports on Elm Street for another pair of chinos so that he could graduate from the 8th grade without looking like an extra from "Big River."
I myself was photographed for my sixth grade class photo wearing a blue cotton jumper that had been mended with staples up the rear end seam.
Mom is a great cook, a talented writer, artist and singer. She makes the best birthday parties ever and she taught me everything I know (a lot) about cosmetics application and she is magical. But not so much the domestic goddess.

My dear departed father, worse. Useless. A trip up the ladder to change a lightbulb meant a fall off the ladder. Trying to lay sod one afternoon, he threw out his back so badly he was discovered crawling toward the house hollering for my mother. That he managed to grow Beefsteak tomatoes most summers filled him with excessive pride and joy. He once took three hours to install simple bookshelves. I know because I held the brackets in place while he attempted to use the cordless drill. After an hour of holding my arms up, I started breathing hard, prompting snappish and guilty remarks from Carl.
A Christmas Eve assembly of a Planet of the Apes treehouse for my brother almost brought my parents to the brink of divorce, and just about killed Dad. I understand. My brother and I recently assembled a large plastic toy item for my nephews, and we weren't a whole lot better.

SisterBang and I definitely suffer from a condition we delicately refer to as "spatial retardation." If you don't believe me, ask L'il Flava, who in five seconds installed two shoe racks from IKEA that lay in useless piles of sticks after my fruitless hours trying to put them into coherent shape. She was too kind to even laugh at me.

So listen, you will forgive me when I tell you that it is with an inordinate sense of self-satisfaction and personal accomplishment that I SET UP MY NEW PRINTER TONIGHT. True, I bought it last June but it intimidated me so much I never unpacked it until this evening. It took me all of 25 minutes to get it going! I am an assembly genius! Even more impressive, I figured out how to make snazzy CD labels using a new program that I bought at Office Max yesterday. I wanted to make some music CDs for a beloved parishioner who spends three days a week at long dialysis appointments and who definitely needs some Jimmy Durante, Lena Horne, Cab Calloway, Judy Garland, Linda Eder, and Eva Cassidy at the hospital with her. Her CD is BEAUTIFUL! I MADE it!

My father may have been a domestic disaster (Mom used to call him "Inspector Klutzo"), but he wasn't any dummy. He used to hire a Polish man named Joe Paczek to do all our handyman and "honey-do" jobs around the house. We loved Joe. When Joe showed up, it meant that Dad had thrown in the towel and could go back to doing the things he did well, like growing tomatoes and playing paddle tennis.

Now you know why when people from church make things and fix things for me, I'm not just admiring, I'm downright worshipful. I missed a huge money-making opportunity a few summers ago when I painted my bedroom and my study: I could have video-taped myself and created epic works of comic genius! Like Buster Keaton, only not on purpose!

(I don't believe in petitionary prayer per se, but I will certainly be praying against that tropical storm tonight. It's hard to believe it's been a year since Katrina hit. Jesus Lord. Helluva job, Brownie.)


MotherBang used to have a condo in Cape Canaveral, Florida, where there wasn't a whole lot to do but walk along the beach and eat early bird specials at local joints. Of course we went to Disneyworld all the time ("Honey, don't you want to go to Epcot this time? Or Universal Studios?" "Um, okay! Let's go to Epcot this time." Then, after we got there, "Mom, let's go to the MAGIC KINGDOM!" Mom would snort and happily tromp around with me).

There was a river nearby where manatees were often seen, and I tried for a sighting several times with no luck. Mom always saw them, and loved them. During one particularly bad year, she sent me a postcard featuring a photo of a mama and baby manatee swimming underwater together, which I tacked on the wall over my computer and looked at when I needed a dose of mother-comfort. Those big, bumbling things looked so graceful in their element. I tried to remember that ministry was my element, and that my mother was swimming alongside me all the time, sheltering me with her big flipper.

One time we went to try to spot the manatees, and Mom just about rolled the car into the water. She would never admit this, of course, just as she would never admit that she's the world's worst, worst, worst ever driver, but when we drove up to the edge of the water and she made a three-point turn, she almost landed us in the drink. I was hysterical.

No manatees that day, and MotherBang and StepdaddyBang sold the condo a few years ago.

But I was cheered to see my big, lumpy friends featured in the NY Times today:

They refer to them as SEA COWS.
Of course this makes me exceedingly and irrationally happy.

P.S. MotherBang is safely home from England. She took off from Manchester airport the other day, and one day later, a flight was delayed from the same airport due to a bomb threat. I had an attack of vertigo last night and it may be that I'm just dizzy with relief.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Where Would Jesus Shop?

It just so happens that I got into a conversation about Wal-Mart this very weekend with some of my oldest and best friends, and it just so happens that there's a raging conversation going on about it at Making Chutney:

I want to stay away from Wal-Mart, but I find it creeping insidiously into my life. I'll go in for kitty litter and come out with curtains, toiletries, DVDs, six cute plastic bowls, and a Tinkerbell t-shirt.


Flipping through a book of devotionals today I came across a quote that said, "we can only understand what we love."

Quite a deepie. Been thinking about it all day.

Have a Nice Day

Originally uploaded by Peacebang.
Happy Back To School and Back To Church for those of you in those worlds.

Meditate on this lovely fleur when things get hairy. Remember: Christmas is coming.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Cruise Gets the Heave Ho

I just love that Tom Cruise got his come-uppance. It's not just that I'm mean, it's that he has been on an insane rampage for over a year and obviously believed himself to be immune from all consequences. Cruise has been the King of Schmuckland for a long time now, and I join the millions of people rubbing their hands in glee today and saying, "YAY for Paramount for dumping this egotastic freak job!"

We all know that Tom Cruise is always going to have bazillions of dollars to roll around in with his wife and daughter, that poor child. This isn't about money. It's about reputation and about someone in Hollywood saying, "Your crazy costs us money, time and prestige. You're fired." Note to star actors, athletes and other money-generating "personalities:" you're not an individual, you're an industry. People rely on you for their living. You need to show up, do what you do well, collect buckets of dough for it, go home and behave yourself. Lindsay Lohan, I'm talking to you.
(You know you're getting a bad rep when the lovely William H. Macy says you deserve an ass-kicking. That's real bad).

I still remember the bile that rose in the back of my throat when Cruise was being interviewed by Matt Lauer and in the most gently psychotic of tones, referred to psychiatry as a junk science. "It's a junk science, Matt," he crooned, and when Matt interrupted to ask a very simple question (which I believe was "But hasn't it legitimately helped people"), Cruise broke in with his eyeball-spinning messianic routine and said, "Matt. You're being glib. You're being glib, Matt." It was like, "Look into my spinning eyes and read the truth here, Matt." I was ne'er so creeped out in my young life.

Apparently "Mission Impossible III" only make sixty sixteen squillions of dollars instead of a hundred sixty sixteen squillion, so someone's head had to roll. I'm glad it was Tom Cruise's. Now can they do something about that totally insane glint in his eye. 'Cause it scares me.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

It's God's World, I Just Work Here

I just spent a week in Provincetown, reading, resting, and catching food poisoning. The weather was absolutely perfect. I prayed the Anglican rosary every night and read the Morning and Evening Prayers from the 1895 Universalist Prayer Book every day. I bored my condo companion silly (especially in the final days when I was unable to leave the house due to sickness). I ate a huge lobster that Paul murdered on my behalf. We saw an absolutely terrible Kander & Ebb review at the Provincetown Playhouse. I took photos of flowers. I was/am utterly content.

Much to my surprise, all my thinking about God this summer, and ruminating on faith, has led me to the conclusion that I do deeply believe in God. I have an old Chinese fortune in my wallet from a cookie I must have eaten years ago. It says, "You will become more passionate about your convictions."

I have indeed become more passionate about my conviction that this is God's world, and I just work here.

I no longer believe that God is just part of human nature.
I no longer believe that God is just something in Nature.

I believe in the God beyond understanding. My soul is satisfied with the God of Biblical tradition, as I understand more fully the human limitations in trying to interpret and enter into a mature relationship with this God. I have been studying the Ten Commandments this week. Can you believe I never have before?
Believe me, I know how stupid I sound when I say, "Whoa, man, those Commandments are, like, amazing!"

(I was, however, tremendously disappointed by Christopher Hedges' book about the Commandments, Losing Moses on The Freeway

I found his treatment of the Decalogue undisciplined and irritating. On one hand, he likes to dramatically critique white liberal privilege and distance himself from the talking heads at Harvard, and from his church-going past.
Yet he uses his Harvard education and his church-going past as the very foundation of his self-righteous moral pontificating.
Beyond that, his essays seem to be cathartic pieces that Hedges only barely bothers to connect to the Ten Commandments.)

I think it most luxurious to have been able to spend hours just sitting and thinking about the Ten Commandments. This is why ministers need vacations. This is not the kind of thing you can do between the other thousands tasks of ministry.

There is only one potentially serious problem arising from all this ruminating:
I still don't know what Unitarian Universalists are worshiping if they are not worshiping God or, in the words of the hymn, "hallowing the world God hath made."

If they are gathering to worship in the name of the Holy, in the acknowledgment that this world contains a spark of the sacred, I got no beef with that. If folks don't want to use the word "God," well, okay. Considering that "God" is the nickname most people on the planet give to that "that transcending mystery and wonder which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces and create and uphold life,"* it's kind of eccentric for us to keep avoiding it. But still, okay. Spirit of Life and Love, okay with me.

If, however, UUs are actually worshiping human potentiality, I have to admit that I just don't get it.
I am not offended by worshiping human potential, I just can't do it myself.

This summer has clarified the main question for me: are we worshiping human potential, however veiled, or are we worshiping a world that is imbued with the sacred.
If I know my people, their next question will be: "How do you define the sacred?"

You know what? I don't. I don't mean to be dismissive, or cycnical, or pious when I say that. I just don't. I have spent at least some portion of every day for the past nine weeks thinking deeply about God, and I can't define it. So I won't try. I am more amazed than ever, in fact, that any of us even try to live religious lives together around this Thing that none of us can define. I have recently discovered that I am almost as much in awe of that fact as I am in awe of God.

I discovered this summer that I am definitely in the right business. There is no righter business for me to be in. In fact, there is no other business at all. My little tiny life, even if it ended today, would be remembered as a religious life. I have recently discovered that I don't care about any other accomplishment. That's a big thing to know. That's a big piece of blessed assurance pie to have at my table. "You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows."
You can have your anxiety disorder and bouts of depression. Or rather, you can have mine. That and loneliness and all the rest of the existential struggle. I got me some blessed assurance this summer. I hope it sticks. My God, I hope it sticks.

If this summer has made one thing clear to me, it is that I have something very intimate in common with the militant atheist:
For as perfectly dumb and irrational and nonsensical as it seems to the devoute atheist to worship an invisible, unproveable God -- whose very name and potential existence seem only to provoke bloodshed, hatred and enmity, it seems every bit as dumb and irrational and nonsensical to me to worship human potential -- a species whose past and present provide me no persuasive evidence whatsoever that I should place my faith in it.

* - from the UU first Source.

Monday, August 21, 2006

PB in P'Town

PeaceBang is on vacation in Provincetown this week.

She is reading three wonderful books:

A Long Obedience In the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson
Julie and Julia (about a woman who cooks her way through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking)
an anthology on writers and depression.

She is praying the Anglican rosary.
She is plotting sermons.
And sleeping late.
And laughing with friends.

She wishes you love and God's strength and wisdom as you prepare for the rigors of autumn.


Saturday, August 19, 2006

BrotherBang's Birthday Reflections

Just about thirty-seven years ago, I was playing paper dolls over at the Infertia's house when the car pulled in the driveway. I ran through the hedges (I remember getting stuck on a pricker) and up into the house.

Mommy was home from the hospital! She was home!

My Baba had a bundle in her arms, and I slowed down from skidding into the room and quietly approached. I totally remember this. I was 3 1/2 years old.
Baba knelt down and showed me what was in the bundle.

It was a tiny person with a red face. I looked and looked at it, and went deaf to everything around me. Something happened and I was aware of love for the first time. I didn't so much see that little baby's face as I just felt the essence of that little baby. I very simply knew I loved him and that my job was to protect him.

Soon after that he became the cutest baby the world has ever known, and this was an important factor in his not getting killed for making doo-doo art all over the walls of his nursery. There was something about those damp curls, pink chubby cheeks and those enormous, mischievous chocolate chip eyes that made you decide you probably shouldn't kill him just yet. Maybe tomorrow.

One morning I wanted to play with him but he was trapped in his crib, so I very carefully pulled the crib down by the slats until it touched the floor. I scooped my baby onto the floor and played with him there until one of my parents found us like that and started making noises like a fire alarm, all about how I could have killed us both, etc. etc. etc. They both ran around like headless chickens, wailing away. I didn't understand what all the fuss was about. I knew I would never drop that crib. The baby was unperturbed. I don't remember him crying much at all, actually.

That cute baby grew up to be my bratty little brother and then into a kid and into a young man and then a man and although I was never able to protect him from anything, I never stopped loving him. Eventually he participated in the creation of two more adorable boy children who have their own damp curls and naughty eyes (and doody dipes), and they made an Auntie out of me, which was just what I have always wanted.

It's his birthday on August 20th and I'll be on the Cape. In true family fashion, his card and present will be late, but that doesn't mean I don't love my Chimp.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Meet My Little Cow!

Originally uploaded by Peacebang.
I would like to announce the birth of my cow at 11:22 p.m. on Friday, August 18th. It does not have a name. It weighs in at 17 pages.

I love my cow.

The Cow

Remember the cow?

The cow is officially birthed!!

I am in the finishing stages of editing and I only have to put together the bibliography.

It was a painful paper to write, which is why it took so long.

It moved me to a final assessment of Ralph Waldo Emerson's contribution to Unitarianism as a fatal blow to the 19th century religion that I know and love through Channing, Ware and Clarke.
I had known this for a long time, but it wasn't until I studied it deeply this summer that I could see that RWE's total failure to develop a doctrine of the church along with his doctrine of the self would eventually kill classical Unitarianism. It's not his fault; he resonated with a lot of people and they beatified him and became Emersonians who called themselves Unitarians. They became the majority among us.
Unitarians were devoted to disciplined self-culture. Emerson, by the time of his 1838 "Human Culture" lectures, had given up the idea of discipline as the means to moral progress.

It's too complex to go into here, but I've learned two things:

1. My blogging is very much like RWE's journaling. I do it every day to talk to myself, but I'm lucky in that I have you out there to talk back, and he didn't have that.
2. I believe in my claim that, in the most recent iteration of the UU Principles, with their failure to refer in any way to a transcendent Source of love, their failur to mention love at all, and their entirely humanistic, horizontal orientation, classical Unitarianism literally, officially and irretrievably flat-lined in the 1980s.

There's a LOT more to say, and I will be happy to share my paper with those who want to see it. I think I will be, anyway.

Latest Culinary Obsession

Macarico Piri Piri hot sauce.

I can't believe this stuff is available on!!

It's from the gods.

Feeling Dead

I feel a little bit weird when people tell me that they heard my work used as a reading in church. Quoting me in a sermon is one thing, but using my words as a reading kind of creeps me out. What, you can't find some Scripture or something? You can't find something with more gravitas and eternal resonance? Some classic, perhaps?
Some broad who's alive and well and living in Massachusetts just hasn't stood the test of time, in my opinion. Bring back the classics. The people need to hear them.

This goes back to our earlier discussion(s) about how Unitarian Universalists put just about anything in a worship service where Scripture used to be.

I just googled myself (which you should do occasionally to see what mischief might pop up), and I see that a pagan congregation in Texas used one of my sermons in its entirety as the basis of one of their recent worship services.

I'm a little miffed by that.
Shouldn't someone at least have tried to get in touch with me as a courtesy to let me know that they were going to be reading my sermon?
Am I supposed to feel flattered? I mean, I am, but somehow I'm flattered and miffed.

A sermon lives in a particular context; that is, ministry to a particular congregation. If you're going to take my sermon out of context and deliver it wholesale to your own congregation, I'd like to know why, and what setting you're going to put it in. Also, this sermon is intensely personal. What makes you feel you have the right to deliver it in your own voice? I don't think I like that.

I suppose a sermon is public -- this one won an award a few years ago so it's more public than usual -- but I just don't feel good about this. It makes me feel like a dead person, for one, and it also seems like bad manners. If the author is alive, why wouldn't you at least contact her to tell her what you're doing, and to at least THANK HER for the use of her work? If we are in a covenanted relationship as members of member congregations of the UUA, aren't we supposed to have a better relationship than you just using my stuff and me finding out about it on Google?

From the looks of the congregation's website, this was an entirely lay-led thing. At least it wasn't someone getting paid to guest preach and then using my sermon. That would be really bad news.

Is this just about courtesy, or is it about something else? Intellectual property, perhaps? Emotional property?

PeaceBang in P'Town

When we were little kids, we took a family vacation to the Cape. It must have been around 1977.
This trip was famous in my little world for two reasons.
First, my sister sang "No Other Love Like Mine" in her sleep in a Chatham hotel room (including the piano "da da da daaa" between "you'll never find" and "another love like mine") and gave me one of the best laughs of my life. She was 12 or 13.

Second, my parents took us to Provincetown for lunch. Here's how I remember it. After we parked the car on some sandy outlying street, my father turned around to give the three of us a little talking-to that went something like this:

"Now listen to me. We are going to a get out of the car and go have lunch here, and you are to behave yourselves. This is a very different kind of place, and the people here are different than you're used to. You are not to stare, to giggle, or to make any comments, do you understand?"

We sat like three little owls.

"People come to this town to be themselves. This is their special place and we are the visitors. If I hear so much as one snicker from you, we are coming right back to this car, period, end of report. Is that understood?"

We looked at my mom. She made a little nod of agreement with Dad.
Whoa. We had NO idea what was going on.

After promising to be on our very best behavior, we cautiously slid out of the Oldsmobile. We walked along very softly and carefully, like we were hunting wabbits.

Within probably a block or two, we saw two tanned, slim, oiled up Speedo gents walking along with their arms wrapped around each other. Then we saw some more. We saw women in overalls, kissing. We were very well-behaved little owls and I don't remember the lunch but I'm sure it was tasty.

The thing is, my Dad was perfectly comfortable making a limp wrist on occasion and calling someone else "Bruce" in a lisping voice as a joke. He didn't do this a lot, but he did it. He also, though, tenderly sat me down when I was 14 years old and had a terribly painful crush on Chris Kondub (who was playing the Emcee in our production of "Cabaret" and was a wickedly talented 19 year old) and explained to me that Chris wasn't ever going to like me "that way." He explained to me that a lot of the guys I was going to have crushes on in the theatre just didn't like girls, and there was nothing I could do about it. And he grieved for me. His Daddy-sweetness about that particular issue got me through a lot of subsequent terrible crushes on gay men. His general term for boys who didn't return my affection was "loser" or "schmuck," but for the gay boys, never. It was just, "Oh honey, don't break your heart on him. It's not going to happen."

My mother, of course, has always been 100% down with the homosexuals.

So I'm going off to spend a week in Gay Mecca, and as I drive into town, I will certainly remember Carl D. and the infamous talking-to of 1977. Many of the Speedo gents of that era are long gone, bless their souls, as is DaddyBang. I wish he had lived to know that his daughter performs gay weddings and advocates for civil rights for gays. I could trace it all back to that moment in the car. And he'd probably say, "Honey, that's great. But you're not still getting crushes on them, are you?"

No, Dad. I'm not. Although you should know that they've been the most loyal, affectionate, supportive and loving men in my life, all my life since you've been gone.

Disturbing Double Faced Cat!

How could this BE?
How can a cat have TWO FACES!??

I am going to have nightmares about this tonight.

Get a closer look here at

[Blame your heebie jeebies on Planet Dan and on the fact that it's 2:21 a.m. and I've been rearranging my study bookshelves for too long]

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Favorite Podcasts?

So what are your favorite podcasts?

I download Ebert and Roper movie reviews, the NY Times front page, ABC News Daily Dish, American Experience, a wonderful little show called "Hidden Kitchens" (always totally spellbinding), a second favorite cook show called "The Splendid Table," American RadioWorks (great audio documentaries), APM Speaking of Faith, Bon Appetit Audio Podcast, Coverville, New York Times Restaurant Revies with Frank Bruni, NPR Books, NPR Food, NPR Movies, NPR The Diane Rehm Show, Open Source, Piano Jazz Shorts, Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, and Steve's Ten Dollar Wine Challenge.

What can you tell about me from this list?

That I'm a music and movie-loving, religious foodie with an interest in politics and American history and culture?

Sounds about right.

more on "Vague Buddhism"

Joel Monka on the "Vague Buddhism" discussion:

Which makes me wonder, is UUism just a "generic religion" for unchurched folks who want something spiritual but not specific for their kids?

Pressure To Consume

We are having a HUGE discussion about the meaning of clothing over at Beauty Tips for Ministers, with a guest writer from the South weighing in (nicely) on how misguided I am, and me retorting with much fun and vigor.
It's a great discussion and you should check it out at

The Rev. Sean Parker Denison writes that he doesn't like fashion at all because he sees it as part of a big cultural pressure to consume. I think he's absolutely right.
However, PeaceBang very secretly thinks that the expectation that all adults (and especially women) in this culture should have -- or even should want to have -- children is a far more insidious pressure to consume.

When I thumb through the pages of In Style and entertain myself looking at all the goods for sale, it has often occurred to me that considering a new pair of Bandolinos is a lot less of an indulgence than carting myself to Babies 'R Us and piling my SUV with huge plastic stuff I think my kinder and I need to have.

I remember a female acquaintance who sneered at me when she saw my vanity table full of cosmetics. "Wow," she said. "Conspicuous consumption, huh?"

And I responded, without missing a beat, "Oh yes. And so much more an expression of consumerism than your living room full of Fisher-Price toys and your entertainment cabinet stocked with 400 Disney videos."

We stared at each other.
"My child will contribute something to the world," she said.
"He'll also consume a tremendous amount of natural resources," saith I. "And as far as contributing anything, let me interview him in thirty years and give you an objective assessment of his contributions."

And then I went and petted my lipsticks and said to them, "There, there. The mean lady is all gone now."

Thanks, Sean, for reminding me of that.

Just Thanking You, and More On "BUUdhism"

Dear readers,

I just want to thank you all for reading PeaceBang and for leaving comments, and want to say one more time that I do read every single one of them -- even if not as thoroughly as I would like -- and am truly grateful that you participate in this little cyber-salon. Thanks for your letters of appreciation and thanks for your comments. I wish I had the time to respond to each one personally.

If you haven't read Jeff's latest contribution to the discussion about UUism and Buddhism, do travel back to that post and catch up. He's writing in all the way from Japan, for heaven's sake! How cool is that!? He and CK have a terrific exchange here:

If You Can Follow This, You Get a Gold Star

Let me just say this about romance, because I know whereof I speak.

Many of you have had a First Love, a wild love, a love that tore your heart to shreds and taught you a whole lot of what you needed to know about how hard you can fall and how intensely you can need someone.

Maybe you wound up in the lifetime relationship with that person and they're sitting on the couch across from you now with their toes all corny and every inch of their body as familiar to you as the cushions on that couch. You love this person dearly but you can't for the life of you conjure up the initial passion of your first years together. It morphed into something warmer and more solid than the original heartthrob.

Maybe you didn't end up in a lifetime relationship with that person. If that's the case, there are two options that can occur when you see them again after some time has passed:
1. You can feel nothing much at all and think, "Wow, that sure was a lot of passion over someone I don't even feel a twinge for anymore." Or, conversely, you can think,
2. "Wow, even after all this time there is no question why I was madly in love with this person."

If it should happen that you feel the second option, (are you still with me?), you have two MORE options from there. You can either think,

1. Dang, this is tragic. I will never love me any honeylamb so much as I loved this big galoot, and now I must plot and connive how to get this babe back in my life.
Or, you can think,
2. Dang, I will never love me any honeylamb the way I loved this big galoot, but you know, we just couldn't live together, and that's a fact, Jack.

And you just sit there considering that maybe the essence of spirituality is to let go of creating unnecessary storms in your soul. You could, and you'd have every good reason to, but you decide not to because God has better things for you to do.

If you weren't able to follow, the moral of the story is just this:

Just because the people on the e-Harmony commercial all got to marry their soulmates doesn't mean you'll get to. Sometimes your soulmate (or you) marry someone else, and it's just fine. Just pack waterproof mascara in case the force of that reality hits you all at once while you're walking in Times Square.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Night Owls Are Respectable, Too!

Just back from NYC, where I had a lovely time with my Ex and with SisterBang.

I find my mind has slowed a lot, and I'm piecing together my Back To Church Resolutions, the first of which is to try harder not to be a Night Person. I make this resolution every August, and keep it for about twelve days.

Night people are just not as respected in our culture as are Bright Early Morning People, who are automatically assumed to be more together and industrious. My main evidence for this is that the typical working day is 9-5, not 6-2 a.m., which would work a lot better for me. And don't tell me that the working day is tied to the daylight hours and agriculture or something, because who needs daylight to get their work done anymore? Hardly ANY of us, and I am happy to let them be Morning People.

One of the most sorrowful things about living in the suburbs is that just when I'm ready to start really rolling, everything's closed and all the good people of suburban America are tucked into their beds watching late night TV. That's why I need to go to New York every now and then: to be with my peeps who aren't asleep by the crack of 10:45. In New York, you can get Chinese at 1:00 a.m. and the place is packed.

Most of my family are night owls. Left to our own devices -- that is, without the expectation that we'll be functional in the morning -- we will stay up 'til about 2:00 a.m. and sleep until 9 or 10. As a kid I never thought a thing of this. I'd go to the theatre in the summer, do a show, change out of costume and make-up, go out with my pals, and get home at 3 a.m. My mom would be up at the kitchen table, smoking Merritt menthols and writing in her yellow pad. "Hi, sweetie," she'd say, "How was the show?" Then we'd sit up for another hour while I debriefed her. The world was quiet, I was home safe, and I'd go to bed feeling very wholesome and happy. We'd get up at 11:00 a.m. and never feel like slackers, because we weren't. We were just night owls.

I have learned since those sweet years that the world generally regards Night Owls as a little bit nefarious, as in "What in the world could you be doing at 2 a.m.?"

You mean aside from dealing crack? Well, let's see: Reading, cleaning house, doing laundry, planning a sermon or a paper, writing a newsletter column, e-mailing friends or congregants, blogging, petting the cat, cooking for the next day. Gardening (I kid you not. I like to garden at night), playing the banjo.

There's a lot of neat things you can do at night that aren't illegal or immoral. I get a tremendous amount of work done between 11 p.m. and 2:00 a.m., but somehow I feel slightly sleazy for admitting that. If you're not fresh as a daisy by 8:-00 a.m. and admit that you went to sleep at 2:30, most folks will assume you didn't so much go to sleep as passed out in bed with all your clothes on.

I have NEVER fallen asleep with my clothes on. I sleep only in white pajamas in all white bedding, and no matter how late it is, I always wash my face and moisturize. I am a very wholesome night owl.

I do a very good Fake Awake Voice, of course, as do all professionally successful Night Owls who live in a Morning Person world. I can go from fast asleep to Totally Alert in 0.5 seconds, even poised with pen and paper to take down important information. I may even remember it later.

So on the cusp of another church year, I vow to work harder to alter my circadian rhythms and get to bed by 11:30 and up by 7:30. I always feel more virtuous when I do, like I'm Normal, and although I feel well nigh dead by 4 pm and need a nap (which I never do when I follow my own inner clock), I am bound and determined to be a Morning Person.

My goal is to be up by 7:30 a.m. with all the other Virtuous Normal People, and either work out or spend the next two hours studying and praying. I will do one three days a week and one four days a week.
I will succeed! I can do it! And this year, by the grace of God, I will finally wring the neck of my inner Night Owl!

But not tonight.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

PeaceBang's Jetting Again

I'm off to NYC, with a pit stop at SisterBang's in Connecticut tonight.

I'll be seeing this on Tuesday afternoon:

The cow is on hold, but mostly done.

Another County Heard From

Oversoul has some reflections on the Vague Buddhism/Humanist question over at

The Gnostics

As you can read over at BeautyTips, the Gnostics are trying to recruit me.

I read about them over at and was so ticked off to discover that they have a community in MADRID, SPAIN. I was just in Madrid in January and I am kicking myself to have missed a visit to them. I could have had tapas with the Gnostics, and I didn't. Curses.

It says on their web site that according to the Vatican, they're "valid but illicit." And that's hot.

In general, though, it's all too esoteric and fancy for my Puritan little heart. If I get more Witchy and eccentric again in my old age (a definite possibility), I will certainly join their merry band. From what I can tell, they have a fun sense of humor and drama, and some of their priests are babes. Also, some of them have an actual communal plan for solvency in old age, and I think that's terrific. The way I feel now in the UU fold, it's every man or woman for himself and no one in my geographic area (where housing costs are statospheric and will certainly stay that way for the forseeable future) has a specific plan for how to maintain a decent standard of living beyond retirement. They're all too busy scrambling like I am to contribute to their 403Bs to assure that they themselves don't wind up in some rat hole.

Plus, if I affiliate with the Gnostics I can be Christian AND outlaw, which really appeals to me.

Jeff Wilson On "Vague Buddhism"

PeaceBangers, I'm very excited to highlight for you this wonderful and informed comment on the subject of "Vague Buddhism" by Jeff Wilson, weighing in on the subject from Kyoto!!

"Hi there, this is Jeff Wilson writing from Kyoto. I've been researching this subject for several years and could provide a lot of info, but unfortunately since I'm in Japan until November I can't really do so at this point.

Suffice it to say that Buddhism is a major source for contemporary UU sermons, meditation manuals, and adult RE activities. It also shows up in our Sunday School materials. Most often, it is Thich Nhat Hanh (originally from Vietnam, but living in France for many decades at this point) or the Dalai Lama who are referenced, or some (often uncredited) "Zen master" from ancient or modern China, Japan, or even the USA. These are the Buddhist thinkers/traditions that are most assimilated to upper-middle class American culture, so it's no real surprise their adapted versions of Buddhism appear in our pulpits etc most often.

I have recorded not dozens, but hundreds of instances of UU sermons in the past several years that draw on Buddhism in some form. In some churches the ministers are personally interested in Buddhism (either as a meditation practice or a way of thinking) and it is virtually impossible NOT to hear about Buddhism on any given Sunday. I'm talking abstractly here but actually I could name names very easily.

I myself do not go in for the "vague Buddhism" of UUism. I prefer my Buddhism to be Buddhism, which is why I mainly go to actual Buddhist temples on Sunday morning (my form of Buddhism is more devotional than most and is universalistic in attitude: i.e. it is about expressing gratitude since Amida Buddha liberates beings without exception). When I go to UU churches I seek out those that do not contain vague Buddhism. I prefer my UU churches to be actually churchy, to tell the truth.

That said, however, I'm not really down on vague UU Buddhism. I don't mind too much the appropriation of Buddhism by UUs. I do just wish people would take it more seriously if they're going to do it, to really think through what they are taking, what they are leaving out, and what justifies their appropriations (as well as investigating why they think some things should be left out--UUs always talk about getting rid of the "cultural baggage" of Asian Buddhism, which strikes me as flat-out racist in many cases). And this is not meant to harsh on the many UUs who are deeply involved in a real Buddhist tradition and have demonstrated self-reflexivity. I think someone mentioned James Ford, I would definately count him in this latter group.

I am slowly collecting material for a forthcoming (academic) book on UUism and Buddhism. The thesis will argue that in the nineteenth century there was a net movement of ideas from Unitarianism into Asian Buddhism, especially Japanese Buddhism. Japanese Buddhists even proposed a merger of Unitarianism and Buddhism as a new religion of the future, but Unitarians balked because they considered themselves part of the Christian tradition. The middle of the book charts Unitarianized Japanese Buddhism's subsequent success in America, where it was perceived as authentic, original Buddhism rather than a pre-packaged, post-contact liberalized modern Buddhism. The final argument of the book is that by the end of the 20th century and into the 21st the arrow of influence had decisively changed, so that now there is a net movement of influence from Buddhism into UUism.
In part, I argue that this 180 change comes because UUism lost much of its willingness to remain in the Christian fold and, lacking a central focus, eventually became available for infiltration (not used in a judgmental way, please note) by alternative forms of religion with more positive associations in liberal circles, such as Buddhism.

This comment may be too long or inappropriate for this forum. I apologize. But I have to warn you, debates about UU vague Buddhism are potential fodder for my work! Random note: Peacebang, if you haven't seen, you might find it amusing based on your Beauty Tips blog. "

PeaceBang here again, thanking Jeff for his wonderful contribution to this discussion. Jeff, godspeed in Kyoto (what are you doing there?) and we'll all look forward to reading your book when it's published. Very exciting work, and we're grateful for your research and your insights!

Saturday, August 12, 2006


Everybody's writing tips are very good. I am taking a break from the cow, though, because it just got to be too much, and it doesn't need to be.

I'm taking what I call a "normal person's weekend," a rare opportunity for clergy. Going to see The Temptations on the Esplanade tonight and heading to my sister's tomorrow evening, then NYC for a couple of nights.

Trying not to get too upset about Mom planning to head to London on Tuesday.

I did open the box for the new printer. So that's a start.

Friday, August 11, 2006

From The Cow

"In short, Unitarianism in its classical form became all but extinct by the mid-20th century, with most of those claiming to be Unitarian actually practicing a religion more accurately called 'Emersonianism.'"
Here comes the cow! The cow is coming!

The Cartoon Bubble Over My Head Says...

The cow is still not birthed, and I am officially miserable and entering into that existential crisis that comes when a paper just can't get written.

My life stinks, I am angry and nonproductive, I don't WANT to write this, I am not passionate about it, therefore I hate my doctoral program, I don't want to work this hard, I am grieving the end of summer, I'm wicked lonesome, the light is fading and autumn is coming, therefore I'm going to die soon, I should start worrying about Christmas, my stomach is churning, I want to go out and have some dinner and relax, I can't because I have to write this paper, everyone is out tonight having fun but me, I'm never going to get my office cleaned, and I still haven't opened the box or set up the new printer that I purchased in JUNE of 2005, therefore I am a loser and a failure. Therefore I should just go have sushi, come home and play the banjo, and moo sadly like a cow until bedtime comes and I can wake up the next morning and hate myself some more.

The only good thing about being a cow is that they have very long eyelashes, so when you look sadly down at the ground and moo, your eyelashes brush your cheeks.

(I got this photo off a web site called "People For the Beautification of Cows." I think they are seriously confused.)

One Last DaVinci Snipe

Reading some letters to the editor of the Christian Century about an article criticizing The DaVinci Code, I am reminded of how irritating it was, when that book came out and I blew razzberries at it, to be smugly told by liberals,

"Well, we don't know what happened, and since we don't know what happened, we should be open to a variety of interesting theories about what happened."

I would try, as gently as possible, to explain that to be a liberal religious person does not mean being a willfully credulous naif just because some theory or another personally appealed to our desires and imagination. I would explain that even non-fundamentalists have a few academic standards regarding Biblical history. This generally caused a lot of head scratching.
Before the Code came out, I had never met so many people who actually think that there's two kinds of Biblical scholarship. 1. The fundamentalist conservative type and 2. The "Make Up Whatever You Feel Like 'Cause We'll Never Know" type.

Pastors, are you offering Bible study this year?

Pickin' PeaceBang

The paper ain't written yet, but I can play "I'll Fly Away" on the BANJO with THREE CHORDS and EIGHT CHORD CHANGES, plus one FLAT NOTE.

I also added seven CDs to my i-Pod.

And now it's time to give up and hit the hay.

Dang. Sure was a musically productive evening of procrastination.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Birthing A Cow

I do a lot of writing for my work, and I have found that blogging helps a lot in keeping my writerly brain revved and ready to go. People who read this blog might think, "My god, where does she find the time to blog?" But truth to tell, all this writing is a really good warm-up for my other writing responsibilities. I zoom from one to the other.

I blog instead of smoking (haven't had a bit of 'baccy in a year), instead of pacing nervously, and instead of talking on the phone or writing a lot of long-winded e-mail to my posse. The time I used to spend doing those things goes into blogging instead, and I imagine my friends and family might be somewhat relieved of the burden of being the constant repositories of my verbal mania. Even my congregation should be grateful that I can discharge some of my verbosity as PeaceBang rather than subject them to it.

I think that the amount of time I spend on other aspects of my work (thinking, planning, praying, researching, counseling, mentoring, supervising, witnessing, etc.) has remained steady since I began blogging. In fact, my passion for some aspects of ministry is enriched by the exercise of blogging and being part of the UU (and beyond) blogosphere. The day that changes, PeaceBang will be over and out.

Interestingly enough, since I started blogging I also started a doctoral program, became a teacher of seminarians, and began a regular regiment of exercise at my health club. Could it be said that blogging gives us more energy or focus? What do you think?

But this paper I'm trying to write is definitely kicking my butt and blogging isn't helping.

This thing is like birthing a cow out of my butt. Seven pages over two days.

My point is, I'm just procrastinating this time. Ain't no higher call or anything noble about it. Blogging apparently does not help in birthing a cow out of your butt.

PeaceBang Family Terror Alert

Oh, man.
My mom is planning to fly from New York to London on Tuesday.

She says she's going to go. She says she won't even need a tranquilizer.

I'M going to need the tranquilizer.


This is my mom, though.
She freaks out if I tell her I got into a man's car without doing a full background check, but she'll fly to London from New York knowing that a major terrorist plot to blow up planes flying between the two cities was just thwarted like twenty minutes ago.

I am currently reading Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking. I love the way she understands that extreme grief can be a kind of mental illness. I had never heard any intelligent person state that so matter-of-factly before, and I found it it to be a great comfort. I have myself, in times of extreme grief, felt my mind unhinge; almost observing it from someplace beyond myself. Didion reports the same phenomenon, and I will turn to her for solace the next time a big, killing loss comes along.

It is a fearful thing to love what death can touch. I don't know where I heard that -- it was part of an NPR report years ago on the death of a famous pair of spouses in history (Clover Adams and her husband? I don't remember), but the reporter used that quote. I have never forgotten it. I say it all the time to myself.

I am not going to draw a deep breath until Mom comes home safe.

Humanism or Vague Buddhism, Part II

The comments on my first post on this topic have been very thoughtful and interesting. I encourage you to read them.

I added this just now:

"Jaume has spoken most directly to what I am trying to get my finger on specifically, as has the Enforcer. I would like to have Ogre's optimism but I don't see the evidence to support it; specifically, I don't think that our emphasis on 'show me' religion is much different than any muscular version of Judaism or Christianity, or any other engaged faith tradition.

Furthermore, if we truly believed in the religion of treating people well, our congregations would provide evidence for that, and they don't. I would very much like to believe that UUs deeply and passionately embrace the ethic of incarnating Love above all (as Ogre says, it's a radical idea), but I don't think we are. Again, our level of in-fighting, congregational conflict and mediocre hospitality proves that this is not, in actuality, our religion.
If this is the 'new, solid and crystalline' ethic of our future, I'd like to see evidence of that somewhere.

The Dalai Lama said, 'My religion is kindness.' I think all UUs can respect and resonate with that. ALL of us. If that's true, I ask again, what are the spiritual practices & disciplines, devotional materials and worship resources and teachers that we agree would guide us there, since we so clearly have a long way to go?

Hence my question about 'vague Buddhism.' I suspect that we are, in fact, moving to a consensus that the religion of kindness and action is our raison d'etre, and away from worrying or caring how to articulate the theological foundations beneath that religion of kindness and Doing. We move into 'vague Buddhism' because we can't just get together on Sundays and read poems and talk about how good we're trying to be. Our rich heritage of Protestant worship is still too much with us to allow that (although some UU congregations or groups probably do something close to that as their 'worship').

We have a liturgical tradition, and since most of us have omitted prayers to God, Bible readings, confession of sin, and Communion from that liturgy, we seek to put something worthy and inspiring in their place.

What I was wondering was whether or not we were mostly putting Buddhist teachings and readings and quasi-spiritual practices (like 30- second 'meditation') where Christian instruction and ritual used to be. I continue to wonder this, and am curious as to whether our congregants are getting a lot more Buddhism than classical Humanism in their worship services and ministry of spiritual formation.

It would be fascinating if all UU ministers and active laymen and women reading this would offer a brief comment reporting how much Buddhist teaching and spiritual guidance they are using in worship and Adult RE offerings. I would also be interested in knowing how the prevalence of Buddhism (albeit watered-down Buddhism Lite, as Jaume warns we are probably propagating) compares to the prevalence of specifically Humanist sources (don't ask me how to define "Humanist" sources. I don't think I want to tackle that. Maybe one of you would like to try). "

Again, my intention is not to determine whether or not Unitarian Universalists really understand Buddhism (or even one specific branch of Buddhism), but to gather more information about our current sources for spiritual instruction and faith formation. I suspect that the majority of UUs are ingesting popular American Buddhism at a far higher rate than they are any other specific religious tradition, and that ministers are using Buddhist readings and sources (or even quasi-Buddhist readings) on a very regular basis in worship.

If I haven't made it clear that I don't think this is a bad thing, I hope it's clear now. The only bad thing about this would be if we remained largely unconscious of it, uncritically engaged in Buddhism (if that's the tradition we're borrowing from most liberally nowadays), and unwilling to acknowledge that many our members who identify as Humanist are turning more frequently to Buddhist sources for their spiritual formation than specifically humanistic ones. If this is the trend, we should know it, talk about it, understand it, be responsible about it, and use it for the common good.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Humanists, or "Vague Buddhists?"

I have a controversial idea.

It occurred to me this morning that perhaps Unitarian Universalism is seguing into a vague Buddhism as its primary religious identity.

Think that sounds crazy and stupid?

Hear me out for a moment.

As of 1985, with the passage of the entirely non-theistic Principles, we became an officially godless religion. Although many of our members are theists or even agnostics, our public statement about ourselves fails to mention any divine reality beyond ourselves.

I have been insisting over the past few years that in creating a public identity that is bereft of any God/Transcendent Referent, Unitarian Universalism is the only mainstream religious movement I can think of, besides Buddhism, that retains the practices and intentions of religion yet denies that God is the ground and guide of that religion. Despite what we individually believe, our public materials intentionally avoid making any theistic claims whatsoever. Within the Protestant context whence we derive our foundations, it is certainly unheard of to meet in churches for worship services on Sunday mornings, to offer religious education, to be tax-exempt, to have ordained clergy, and to sit at the table of inter-religious dialogue without any communal statement of belief in God or broad theological consensus at all.

We generally believe that we're Humanists, and like to say that we are a humanistic movement. However, I would argue that Humanism is not a religious identity in and of itself, but has always been a qualifier throughout history to a majority theistic tradition. Even the Greek philosophers were writing within a context of polytheistic faith practices and mystery religions. From the medieval era to our own time, Humanist philosophers and writers wrote out of their own Jewish, Christian or Muslim contexts, creating a philosophy of mankind to counter vehemently transcendent theologies of their time.

(I know this is a gross simplification. This is a blog, remember. It's not a religion conference and I'm not a scholar of Humanism.)

Unitarian Univeralists today who claim to be Humanists mostly only know that a Humanist is someone who believes in the potential of humankind alone to redeem the world's errors. They are mostly unacquainted with the great tradition of Humanism and are as uneducated in Humanism as they are in Biblical traditions. They don't have time, they don't have a theological education or philosophy degrees , and probably no one in their church has thought to guide them in a study of the Humanist tradition.

Therefore, I cannot think that Humanism in any meaningful sense is the future of Unitarian Universalism, although I have no doubt whatsoever that individuals within the movement, and the movement as a public entity, will continue to define itself with just that term.

Let me move now to why I believe Unitarian Universalists are actually embracing what I call a "vague Buddhism" as their most common theological identity, however unconsciously.

Buddhism, though non-theistic in the strict sense, is concerned with spirituality and the inner life, which are subjects of tremendous interest to today's UUs, especially recent come-outers. UUs, who may shun the concept of prayer as uncomfortably theistic and supernatural, have no compunction whatsoever at being invited to "meditate" during their worship services.
I don't have statistics to back this up, but I am guessing that our clergy include readings or sayings of Buddha and Buddhists at least as frequently (if not more so) than they include Bible readings or other offerings from religious traditions.
When they look for spiritual guides and devotionals to study and reflect on at home, I am again guessing that Unitarian Universalists choose Buddhists such as the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh at least as often as they choose Christian or Jewish sources, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Rumi, or Mary Oliver. Why? Because they are looking for spiritual teachers and teachings, not just spiritual suggestions, and they find inspiration, healing and direction from popular Buddhist authors.

For the record, I myself turn frequently to Buddhist sources for devotional material and spiritual guidance. I have noted that as my own orientation turns from seeker to (Christian) disciple, I am more appreciative of spiritual masters who offer not just ideas, but instructions.

As for self-professed humanists, are they studying Humanism in any disciplined way? If so, what are they reading? How is Humanism specifically shaping their faith life and their ethical commitments? What do Humanist religious education offerings in our congregations look like? I am under the impression that such offerings are either rare or non-existent. I think Humanism as a topic for serious intellectual inquiry is limited to our clergy, and is otherwise a broad term used to describe a non-theist who has little or no use for Bible study, the classics of Christian spirituality, or conversations about the nature of God or Christ (or if they are interested in the latter, it is not for the purpose of developing a liberal theology, but mostly to gather ammunition against traditional notions).

I don't think the average Unitarian Universalist has been even elementarily acquainted with a deeper definition of religous humanism than can be defined in one sentence. At this point in our history, while we have bloodied ourselves battling over definitions of "God" and "Christian," we have not yet dared to deconstruct what the hell it is we mean when we say -- as a denomination- that we're a humanistic tradition. We have been content to land on that word as a safe zone and lie there panting with relief, rather than to pick ourselves up and go on to create a vibrant religious movement based on a clear, mutual understanding of humanism.

Until Unitarian Universalists develop inspiring and accessible religious education materials for a deep understanding of Humanism -- including working definitions of religious humanism that every Unitarian Universalist layperson can understand and clear and explicit applications of Humanism to our lives as Unitarian Univeralists -- we are simply using "Humanism" as a blanket term to lump together all the non-theists and non-theistic spiritualities in our movement.

If Unitarian Universalists really want to become a strong religous humanist tradition, they should have it out once and for all, agree together that this is their identity, ask the Christians and other adherents of specific religious paths (including the pagans) to either stop asking to have their own beliefs reflected in worship and religous education or find spiritual homes elsewhere, and set about teaching our people what it means to be a religious Humanist. There are some very talented and learned clergy and laypeople who could lead the movement in this direction, and if the UUA believes that it is best and most accurately defined as Humanist, those leaders should be recruited and put to work immediately.

I don't think this will ever happen. I believe that Unitarian Universalists use the term "Humanist" to describe an approach to religion that prefers spiritual seeking to finding, honors musing and debating over deciding, and that promotes browsing through the teachings of various masters over choosing one and following him or her. I think what we mean by "Humanist" is simply that while there may or may not be a god, the present and the future is entirely up to us.
I believe that Humanism has far more complex definition and application than this, and that Unitarian Universalists are uniquely poised to find it, but that they will not.

Meanwhile, I believe we drift toward vague Buddhism. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Whatever it is we are and whatever it is we do, we should know those things, and be willing to honestly assess their goodness and usefulness for both individual members of our association and for the whole.

Before you comment, I invite you -- as a spiritual exercise-- to spend at least as much time reading and thinking about what I've written as I did writing it.
I spent 40 minutes composing this entry.

If you have a significant opus to contribute, I hope you'll do so on your own blog and post the link here.


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Proctor & Gamble's Offensive Ad Campaign For "Secret"

Ouch, check it out!!

Secret anti-perspirant (a crappy product in the first place) has a new ad campaign that I just saw in "Lucky" magazine.

Let me share the misogynist magic with you:

The copy reads,
"Strong enough to share your SECRET?"
Then, under a photo of a smiling, young, pretty African American woman with a big 'fro:
"MY SECRET - I think your boyfriend's an idiot" -- Christa, friend
Next to that photo, another pretty young African-American woman, smirking:
"MY SECRET - We're engaged" -- Misa, friend

The next page shows three gorgeous Indian women, all smiling or laughing. From left to right, the copy reads,

"MY SECRET - I'm moving in with my boyfriend next week." - Nisha, daughter
"MY SECRET - I have a favorite child." - Mira, mother
"MY SECRET - Your cat didn't run away. I let it out." - Aruna, daughter

Are you getting sick yet? The side of each page, by the way, reads "CELEBRATING 50 YEARS OF STRONG WOMEN"

But the fun's not over yet.
A third page features a pretty blonde girl wearing a diaphanous white top and a heart locket. "MY SECRET - When we were kids, I took your pink sweater, dyed it red and gave it back to you as a gift." - Emma, sister
Next to her is a laughing brunette, also wearing diaphanous white garments. Her text reads, "MY SECRET - When I was seven, I broke your necklac and let our other sister take the blame." -- Frida, sister

Isn't that a delight?
So according to this ad campaign, women's deepest secrets are that they're duplicitous, betraying bitches who don't tell their friends the truth, that they love one child better than the other, and that they habitually destroy one another's property and let someone else take the blame.

Wow, that's a really moving tribute to fifty years of STRONG WOMEN, Proctor & Gamble. I wonder what 100 years of STRONG WOMEN would look like. Matricide and grand theft, maybe? As a STRONG WOMAN myself, I can't wait to see.

Meanwhile, I won't be letting your lame product anywhere near my pits.

Write your letter of complaint to

The UUA Principles

I'm writing a paper about how Unitarian Universalist narcissism and individualism (exemplified in our egotistical interpretation of our first principle) can all too easily lead us to shallow forms of worship.

For purposes of comparing a stronger, more explicitly religious Unitarian Universalism with today's blobby "Yew Yewism," I am posting a copy of the Principles that I believe preceded the current principles. They are found below, but I don't know their exact origins. A colleague thinks that they were written in the A. Powell Davies era, but I don't know. I could pull down a lot of books and look it up, but I honestly don't remember seeing these in either The Premise Or the Promise or any other UUA histories. Can someone enlighten me?

If you're wondering how I came upon these -- I found a beautifully framed and calligraphied version way in the back of my office closet at the church and it now hangs in the bathroom of the parsonage.

For what it's worth, I far prefer these principles to those written in the 1980's. If it had been up to me to revise them, I would have made the language gender-inclusive and called it a day. I obviously love that these principles make us a religious organization concerned with "love to God and love to man," and that they call us to strengthen liberal religion. They're broad without being so non-specific that they could serve any civic organization.

Drumroll, please...

In accordance with these corporate purposes, the members of the Unitarian Universalist Association, dedicated to the principles of a free faith, unite in seeking:

To strengthen one another in a free and disciplined search for truth as the foundation of our religious fellowship;

To cherish and spread the universal truths taught by the great prophets and teachers of humanity in every age and tradition, immemorially summarized in the Judeo-Christian heritage as love to God and love to man;

To affirm, defend and promote the supreme worth of every human personality, the dignity of man, and the use of the democratic method in human relationships;

To implement our vision of one world by striving for a world community founded on ideals of brotherhood, justice and peace;

To serve the needs of member churches and fellowships, to organize new churches and fellowships, and to extend and strengthen liberal religion.

To encourage cooperation with men of good will in every land.

The Transfiguration

I do believe that last Sunday was the Feast of the Transfiguration, which I believe is Boy In the Band's favorite religious holy day. Happy Transfiguration, honey lamb.

This is one of the more obscure and most mysterious of holy days, commemorated in chapter 16 of Matthew. Or maybe Chapter 5 of Luke. The point is, I have no idea. As I understand it, Jesus is hanging out with the disciples when suddenly he says, "Hey, get a load of this!" And then a huge white fluffy cloud appears and covers everything and then it clears and Jesus is revealed to be standing in a stunning white bugle beaded robe, and Moses and Elijah are next to him, singing harmony to "This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)".
The voice of God is heard to say something very important, but no one can hear it over the music.

When the vision clears, Jesus says to the disciples, "Now you know my true nature." And the disciples fall on their face and worship him.

That's how I heard it.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Sunday, August 06, 2006

You Can Be In Love Any Time

And sometimes I have lovely dates.

Sometimes I have a great time, great conversation, wonderful chemistry, lots of laughter and sparks, mutual respect and interest, a great meal/show/movie/walk in the park/concert/chill time in front of the tv/museum or pub crawl/trip to the zoo, etc.

Sometimes the men I date are gorgeous people, real gentlemen, gracious and smart and totally impressive and delightful to be with. Sometimes I get to have deliriously fun dates with married friends or with gay friends. Those are romantic too, in their own platonic way.

So that happens too. I've had no shortage of romance in my life. Sometimes I'm walking along with my Mom in New York City and holding her hand, and my heart swells really huge in a way that makes me think it might burst. That would be a nice way to go. Or I'm holding my nephews in my lap smelling their hair and listening to them chirp about a book, or talking on the phone with my sister or her dog, and I feel very much in love with my life. That's romantic, too. Romance isn't just about the Big Woo Woo. I often fall in love with dogs, for instance, or howler monkeys at the zoo, and not in a way that makes me want to start an affiliate organization called Unitarian Universalists for Human-Animal Love.* Just in a way that makes me feel totally in love with them.

Because have you ever seen those little monkeys with the tiny cranky faces? How could you NOT fall in mad love with them?

I just wanted to say that.

*for a full story of the man who really DID want to start an organization like this, you'd have to ask Adam Tierney-Eliot, not me.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

A Lovely Gift And Breathing

A reader of this blog sent me an absolutely beautiful Anglican Rosary as a gift, and I am thrilled and so grateful. I have a little book called "Holding Your Prayers In Your Hands: Praying the Anglican Rosary" by Kristin M. Elliott and Betty Key Seibt that provides simple instructions and many prayers, and I'm going to start using it again.

Since my anxiety symptoms usually kick in just as I am drifting off to sleep (damned annoying, but I'm used to it by now), I think I may try to reprogram my brain a bit by praying the rosary just before bed.

Last summer I bought a two CD set of breathing exercises by Dr. Andrew Weill. I have yet to listen to the entire set. What I think I might do is load them onto my i-Pod and take them with me on a quiet retreat somewhere, because I can't seem to sit still long enough to get through many of the exercise. My problem is that I always get fits of the giggles when I think about the stupidity of having to learn how to breathe. That's what I think, then I get Bugs Bunny type images in my head, then I crack up, then I lie on my back breathing from the diaphragm because I gave myself hiccups.

I'm a little high strung.

Perhaps Dr. Weill might recommend a stiff shot of Bombay Sapphire before breathing lessons for persons such as myself.

For those of you with anxiety disorder: do you ever find yourself starting to get anxiety symptoms when you read about anxiety? Ain't that a kicker?

You know what the best thing is for anxiety?


And during the vacation, you should spend as much time as possible floating in the water, preferably while a close friend or family member sits within waving distance on shore or on the dock, reading a book and feeling like a very safe parent who will never let you float away. You can bob around on a noodle or just body surf, or maybe flop on an inflatable raft.

Don't forget to put sunblock on your back. Mine is very pink right now because I went out in Big Mama Ocean today and didn't want to get out to put more sunscreen on. Of course as I was paddling around looking like a big happy manatee in my bathing suit, I ran into a congregant! Right out in the middle of the ocean. I was darned happy to see her, too. She had a very cute yellow bikini and we giggled and rode the waves.


I have a newsletter column due tomorrow and am feeling the strain of having to commit to sermon topics for the month of September -- or for at least the first few services of the program year.

I often wish I could dispense with this "Coming Attractions" kind of thing, as I think it panders to the consumeristic approach to church-going, i.e., "I'll go to church if the sermon topic is sexy enough."

But I do it myself, of course, as I did only a few weeks ago when I saw that the Park Street Church was offering a sermon series on the Church Fathers. The preaching minister kindly sent me an e-mail with a link to his sermon so I could hear for myself what kind of a "yawner" I was missing. I haven't had a chance to listen yet, but I do plan to attend his church in the morning.

When I look back at the past two years of so of preaching topics, I am really proud of their depth and creativity. I am gratified that I prayerfully chose every single topic out of what I deeply believed would bring the best ministry and challenge to my congregation. I did not avoid the things I would rather have skipped, and I did not speak on matters I felt incapable of tackling because of ignorance on the subject. I am not afraid to admit to my people that sometimes I need to "stew" on a subject for quite awhile before I dare speak at length about it. I have heard too many shallow screeds myself to inflict that on my congregation.

I think our Homecoming Service theme will be Home. Home as an archetype, Home as a spiritual goal, Home as a call to stewardship and understanding. Home and hospitality.
I am aware that there are more exiles on this planet than there have ever been throughout history. Some exiles have been stolen into slavery, some have been cast out of their homes because of famine or war. Adam and Eve were exiles. It seems to be part of the human condition.

Jesus said that foxes have their holes and birds have the sky, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. During the years I moved state to state, apartment to apartment, and dreamed heartbreaking dreams of my childhood home in Connecticut, Jesus' sad wisdom gave me much comfort.

Where is your home?
What makes it home for you?
If the Earth was imperiled in some way that required immediate evacuation to another planet, would you get on the ship to go? Or would you choose to perish with the Earth? I know I would.

I'm Smokin' Over At Beauty Tips!

I haven't had much to say here, but plenty over at Beauty Tips For Ministers!

Perhaps you'll find some rumination material there at
I wrote a long thing about my frustrating but active dating life but decided to save it was a draft because I wasn't sure if it was appropriate or on topic.

Although just about everything is on topic on PeaceBang.

However, after having seen Kevin Spacey on Letterman let me just say that my problem is that I can't find a man with the wit, intelligence and talent of Mr. Spacey. Kevin Spacey, don't you want to be my boyfriend?
I'd make you laugh, and I'd actually be a brilliant secret advisor on all your Old Vic shows.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Rules Is Rules

So Keith got kicked off of "Project Runway" for breaking the rules.

According to a phone poll, 11% of the viewers thought he shouldn't have been booted.

People, they're called RULES. He egregiously broke them. What seems to be the problem here? Who are you, you 11%? Can you spot a pathological narcissist when you see one?

You must be all the parents who thought that when I said your kid had a research paper due on Thursday at the beginning of class, I really meant that the paper was due at the end of hockey season, because I couldn't possibly have known that the team would do so well.

You must be the bride and groom who insist on having a 2-year old flower girl when I explicitly state in my materials that I won't work with children under the age of 5.

You must be the driver who zooms past the yield sign on the way to the highway and cuts me off, and gives me the finger when I honk at you. Hey, if a traffic law is inconvenient, it's optional. I understand.

You must be the mother who comes into the store licking ice cream cones with her filthy, chocolate-covered child, swinging in past the sign that says, "No food or drink" while Johnny or Jilly runs through the place leaving fudge on everything. Aren't children so beautifully irrepresible?

You must be the guy standing on the T platform smoking under the sign that says "No Smoking," and tossing his smoldering butt on the platform, because the world is just one big ashtray to you.

Hey, you're special. The rules don't apply to you. Because, you know, this whole world is so fockin' UPTIGHT and REPRESSED, and you're a free spirit. Just like Keith said. "It's a tough competition here, and there's always going to be a scapegoat."
You're all victims. I understand.

Maybe in that alternative universe you all live in, Keith can design your little scapegoat wardrobes. Meanwhile, the rest of us will bid that smirking little prince auf wiedersehn with great relish.

Bodies At the Museum

Would you go to see this exhibit?

I don't think I will.

I also haven't had the courage to fill out a donor organ card yet, although I could probably be persuaded to do so if I spent some time with the appropriate person.

What do you think?
Wondrous, fascinating, educational, or just grisly, inappropriate and gratuitous?

Letter To a Wounded Christian

[I received a letter offline from a reader of this blog, responding to my post about how much ministry I have received as a visitor at other churches. She said she moved to the Bible Belt and has not been feeling good about her church, and has stayed away. However, staying away has hurt her, and so she is searching for a community but having a hard time finding one that doesn't preach a highly tarnished gospel. Below, I share my response to her.
- PB]

Dear [Name],

I'm so glad that you wrote, and reached out to me. I feel honored that you've done so.

It hurts me to hear you say that you're hearing so much hatred spread in the name of Christ, but I have no doubt that that is exactly what you're hearing and experiencing. Happens all the time. Breaks all our hearts.

I think about this a lot: it's hard to be a member of the Christian family when there are so many sick and f&*d up members of that family. We are baptized into one Body, and sometimes there are limbs we'd just like to cut off.
But we don't get to. That big love dork named Jesus tells us we're supposed to pray for each other, and even love one another.

I know for myself that I cannot bring myself to love many of my Christian brothers and sisters -- except in that really distanced, "I-love-you-because-you're-one-of-God's-children-and-I-know-God-needs-me-to-love-you" kind of way. Meanwhile, I hold a hard heart against them, even in my prayers. I feel we are in a battle, and I want my side to win. Period. That's the Unitarian Universalist part of me, perhaps: to feel able to discern what is right and wrong through the divine gift of my own conscience and consciousness. I know I'm wrong about many things, but dammit, THEY'RE more wrong!!


I think it's very important NOT to worship with sick Christians, and to find -- if not a group of perfectly loving brothers and sisters in faith -- at least a congregation of pretty decent eggs.

This is what I've felt again and again as a guest in other houses of worship this summer: "Oh my God, look at how much the same we all are in our churches. Look how simple and how unbelievably precious this is, that we gather to worship, that we struggle with the tradition, that we limp toward Bethlehem trying to be born, that we do our best to listen to and care for each other, and that we line up to take Communion each lost in his or her own thoughts of sin, fear, need, gratitude, concern, petition, and awe. That we come away one people again."

I believe that God wants us to be together in just this way. I believe that God is waiting for us to achieve a new wisdom of how the world works to match our brilliant understanding of how the world works. I believe this, and meanwhile, I KNOW that Jesus wants us to be together in just this way. That much is clear.
So I go, and I am ripped open again and again by the beauty of it, the silliness of some of the things we do, and the hope that it is through these communities -- communities of faith, whatever they may be -- that we actually glimpse God's Wisdom, and are able to live it, just a bit, day by day.

So my heart goes out to you, my friend. I say, drive and drive and find you a church you can give yourself to, that doesn't offend and disgust your spirit, and that is filled with people you can sit your tushie next to Sunday after Sunday and grow to feel kin to.

You may have to drive a long way. You may have to take the risk to visit all kinds of places -- hey, it may be the Disciples of Christ who feel like a true community, or it may be the little Science of the Mind group meeting in a basement (although I doubt it, given where you live), or it may be Episcopalians or maybe an ethnic Orthodox church that has a surprisingly open attitude (they do exist!). Keep taking that risk. Keep walking through open doors. Be willing to drive and explore. Armor yourself in the Holy Spirit for those times you observe abuses of the Christian religion and are hurt by it. Breath, and let nothing harm you. Don't be afraid to walk out of a sick environment.

If your soul hurts for the lack of worship, then you know where God is calling you.
Remember what he said. "Be not afraid. My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives, but the peace of God."

Lots of love from PeaceBang.

PeaceBang Loves "Toy Story"

You know how I've been complaining that I haven't seen very many really memorable or moving movies lately?
(Hafidha, thanks for your recommendations!)

Well, I had a date with a 3 year old boy last Friday night and we watched this,

and I just adored it. I think Buzz Lightyear is the most touching character I've seen since Ennis Del Mar in "Brokeback Mountain," and I ain't kiddin.

Ottawa, Chill-Town

Originally uploaded by Peacebang.

I spent two nights in Ottawa recently. It's a great little city.

This is the Parliament building, where we sat on the grass and watched a multi-media light show and presentation on Saturday night that was hilariously low-tech and just plain endearing. Thousands of Ottawans sat on the lawn watching, very peaceful, very civil. They got up and I'm pretty sure they left the lawn cleaner than it was when they gathered.

There is a wonderful outdoor market and great restaurants: we ate at a wonderful little Greek place, a wonderful Jewish deli, and picked up the most heavenly poppy seed strudel at a bakery. I brought two loaves home.

Maybe best of all was our afternoon visiting the cows, sheep, lambs and goats at the Experimental Agricultural Farm in the middle of the city. We saw the cows being milked and learned that three of the goats are named "Plip Plop," "Rock Jumper" and "Balls."
(Yes, you can tell "Balls" from the rest of the crowd for the expected reason)

We saw our first angora goat. They have little curly perms and tiny curled horns and they're the cutest things EVER.

I still don't like pigs.

We went to St. John the Evangelist 45 minutes late for service on Sunday morning, because we thought it started at 11:00. A lovely young woman gave us a smile, handed us programs, showed us where we were in the liturgy, and later specifically told us we were welcome to take Communion, an invitation that brought tears to my eyes.

It's a super congregation, and I felt more ministered to by the last 20 minutes of their service than I have many places. One of their priests told me that they practice radical hospitality, and it shows.

Here they are, with their open doors (which, had they not been open, would have caused us to stay respectfully away due to our lateness):

While we were in Ottawa, that Gay Games had commenced in Quebec. It was a terrific time to be in Canada.

P.S. Miss Fleas is so happy to have me home she's purring so loudly I can't hear myself think.