Thursday, March 19, 2015

Holding the Days, Loosely

Monday is my Sabbath and this past Monday was an exceptionally beautiful day. Like an eager puppy, my soul nipped around my heels, clamoring to go for a walk. “Okay, okay,” I said, pulling on comfortable walking shoes, some sunblock, and my hat. I went down to the water, as I like to do, and walked along the bank.

It was such a beautiful day – in just one week, the brown and brittle cold had given way to warm, lush green bursting forth. I walked along through all the greenness, peering into the water here and there, pausing to savor a delicious breeze, to look up at the trees which were shedding their winter brown as young, bratty green leaves nagged for their time to hang out over the water.

I found myself wanting to clutch the day fiercely, to hoard it, because I know that what is coming means heat and bugs. Summer in Texas is often like the photo negative of a Boston winter – they hibernate from the snow and frigid cold; we move sluggishly from air-conditioned home to air-conditioned car to air-conditioned workplace.

I have this instinct for hoarding, I have to admit, not only with beautiful days, but with happy times in general. My father says, “I don’t trust happiness,” and I suppose I have some of that attitude in me. Life teaches us that. We can one day be thrilled with how wonderful things are; we blink and we’re in an ambulance with a loved one, or getting a serious phone call.

I think it’s understandable, this desire to hoard the good days, this fear that even while enjoying the day, makes us look around suspiciously – “What is going to try to steal my happy?”

I walked farther on, finding more and more treasures. A mockingbird landed close to me and began singing loudly, protecting a nest I could see in the branches. 

I walked to the end of the trail and turned around to head back, the way that I came. I took a few steps and saw something small, amongst all the greenery I had walked past. A tiny spot of blue.


I looked closer. It was the first bluebonnet of the season. Suddenly, my eyes opened with recognition that the waves and waves of green I had been walking through were the familiar star-shaped leaf clusters of the bluebonnet. I had been walking through fields of bluebonnets the entire time. They’re not in bloom yet, but they’re there, they’re ready to go, the late freezes didn’t kill them.

This entire walk, I had been walking not through fields of green that are beautiful now but will turn brown at some point, I was walking through fields of potential. In just a couple of weeks, it will be even more amazing, more beautiful.

I realized that “Things are so great … when are they going to go bad?” can be traded in for, “Things are so great … and they may get even better.”


And so I was reminded to hold my good days with gratitude, but to hold them loosely, knowing that I may need to open my hands to hold even more happiness. My hands runneth over …



Thursday, March 12, 2015

Nurturing and Feeding the “Pet Projects”

First Published on The Lively Tradition, http://www.tomschade.com/2014/09/go-forth-and-serve.html Sept. 11, 2014



When did “pet project” become an insult in UU churches?

A person has a charity or a cause that they’re passionate about. They devote time and money to it. They talk about it at their church or – horrors! – ask for support. 

“Oh, that’s just their pet project,” says someone.

We don’t want pet projects. We want Church Programs. We’re fine with making the world a better place, but it needs to be done here, through the proper channels, something we all feel the same amount of passion for. Which may be virtually nil, but at least we all feel nil about it. We’re not spending the church’s energy on someone’s pet project.

I used to buy into that. But not anymore.

I knew someone who had a passion for a particular issue. At her workplace, she mobilized others. She wound up with 200 people helping her “pet project.”  Her church did something similar and wound up with a not insubstantial 40 participants – good for their size. 

But let’s just think about that.

What if, rather than trying to get 40 participants for one program, we instead equipped and empowered 40 members to go out and each one follow their own passion? Maybe we gave them meeting space or maybe even a little seed money. Maybe all we did was cheer them on, and offer them the shared wisdom of all the other church members who were changing the world in their own particular calls.

40 x 200? Heck, 40 x 10 would still be pretty impressive, wouldn’t it?

The balance to this is an understanding that the church is not going to adopt anyone’s pet project. Because instead, there’s an expectation that every member is called to find what lights their soul on fire. And as a church, we’re going to find the ways that we can support all these different “burning coals” within. 

Pets need to be fed, given love, have people they can trust.


So do their owners. Let’s work on that.