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Braver/Wiser Archive
Braver/Wiser Archive
Worship
  • Playlists of the Spirit

    “Doe, a deer, a female deer…” Many of us instantly recognize that as the first line of the song “Do, Re, Mi” from “The Sound of Music.” You might even be able to picture Julie Andrews (oops: Maria) telling the Von Trapp children that these notes are the “tools we use to build a...
    By Connie Simon | 5/23/2018
  • Building a Common Life

    Last fall, our weekly small-town newspaper had two stories I loved. One was a thank you note from the Animal Control Officer to several residents for rescuing a herd of five ponies and one goat. Apparently the goat figured out how to unlock the barn gate and liberated everyone...
    By Elea Kemler | 5/16/2018
  • The Story of My Birth

    When my eldest child was three, they* had almost no control over their emotions, and those emotions were fueled by anything from hunger to noise to too much fun. One day near the end of a holiday break spent in Michigan with family, they started sobbing over getting the wrong...
    By Mandie McGlynn | 5/9/2018
  • Blue Sky Returning

    Before I moved to Michigan, friends warned me about the long months of overcast skies. I’d lived in climates where winter came with snow and freezing temperatures, but also included plenty of sunshine and that sharp cobalt reserved for particularly cold days. Here, though, the...
    By Lindasusan Ulrich | 4/25/2018
  • The Strength That Defines Us

    My son was five when he announced that he would no longer cut his hair. He hated going through the whole process. He also liked his hair and was done. I agreed; I, too, was done fighting with him about haircuts. As time went on, I marveled at the beauty of his hair and the way...
    By Rayla D. Mattson | 4/18/2018
  • That They May Have Like-Mindedness

    As I was locking up the church after choir rehearsal, I was struck (not for the first time) by the engraved sign above the chapel door. It boldly says, “THAT THEY MAY HAVE LIFE.” Our historic sanctuary, which now serves as our chapel, has half a dozen or so such scripture verses...
    By DeReau K. Farrar | 4/11/2018
  • Putting the Pieces Together

    I love jigsaw puzzles. I love that moment of satisfaction when you finally find the fourth corner piece, and the smooth feel of the completed puzzle under your hand. But what I love most is seeing the picture emerge. How many times have I stared at the original mess of pieces —...
    By Amanda Poppei | 4/4/2018
  • God and Guns

    The first transcendent experience I had was with a gun in my hand. I was eight years old, maybe nine. I was standing just outside my back door, looking out across the yard to the edge woods beyond. There was a scrub oak maybe forty feet before me with a horizontal branch six...
    By Teresa Honey Youngblood | 3/28/2018
  • Kindling the Spirit

    I love watching people. While eating at a local restaurant, though, I saw a parent criticize their child’s artwork because they drew a car in the sky and cars don’t fly. The child was crushed. At the table on the other side of me, two friends were ordering lunch. One, who was...
    By Connie Simon | 3/21/2018
  • Opportunities to Say Yes

    For forty days, I refused to say no. Last year for Lent, I decided to say yes to any request. I had only two rules: the request must do no harm, and to keep the practice authentic, I couldn’t tell anyone about it until it was over. When I came up with this Forty Days of...
    By Nathan Ryan | 3/14/2018
  • Strangers at the Door

    Ding-dong. When my friend Beth answered her door one day, she found a pair of earnest Mormon missionaries: young men wishing to chat with her about their religion. Beth being Beth, she invited her visitors in, listened to what they had to say, and in response shared her “good...
    By Erika A. Hewitt | 3/7/2018
  • Faithful

    We were in the car when Kirk, my three-year-old son, said, “We don’t need guns in school. I know what to do—you have to hide and be quiet. That’s what Ms. Laurie says.” I thought I misheard him. One. Two. Three: I waited to figure out what to say next. At the parent-...
    By Robin Tanner | 2/28/2018
  • Another, Truer Song

    I first visited a children’s psychiatric unit twenty-two years ago. The boy’s mother and I stood facing each other in the hallway by the locked door, not saying a word because there was nothing to say. He was ten years old and seemed not to want to live. He had been putting...
    By Elea Kemler | 2/21/2018
  • No Longer Claiming "Divorced"

    I used to be very conscious of the fact that I was “a single mom” — so self-conscious, in fact, that I would add that I was “a divorced mother,” as if this extra piece of information somehow made things better; as if people would judge me less if they knew that I did, in fact,...
    By Rayla D. Mattson | 2/14/2018
  • Lean in to Life

    I recently found myself in a Kundalini yoga class with a new teacher. I'm a UU, but Kundalini Yoga is my spiritual practice. I’m wearing my white cotton clothing, my head wrap, sitting on my natural fiber blanket, moving contently through the exercises with care and focus and...
    By Tara Humphries | 2/7/2018
  • Good Enough

    I call myself a recovering perfectionist. People usually laugh when I say that, not realizing how serious I am. Perfectionism has robbed me of joy and kept me from being present in my life. I remember a chamber ensemble concert in high school, for example, when we played a...
    By Lindasusan Ulrich | 1/31/2018
  • Telling a New Story

    I thought about my first tattoo for a long time, but when a pregnancy test unexpectedly came back positive, my ink research took a new direction. I didn’t cancel my trip to the tattoo parlor; birthing this baby at this moment would harm everyone involved, and I knew that I would...
    By Mandie McGlynn | 1/20/2018
  • Wanting to Break Free

    I'm often accused of being “too reserved,” and there’s truth at the heart of that. On the spiciness scale, my expressiveness is on the mild end. I’m sure that stems from my disdain for being the center of attention. Still, I'm frequently advised to "loosen up," and offered the...
    By DeReau K. Farrar | 1/16/2018
  • Mrs. Cash's Oranges

    I grew up in a three-bedroom, cinderblock ranch style house with a two-car garage and a mess of tiger lilies and saw palmettos in the front yard. There was a lake at the end of the street — one of the few in Central Florida left unspoiled, because its proximity to the railroad...
    By Teresa Honey Youngblood | 1/10/2018
  • Stopping to Help

    Why is it that some people stop to help and others just keep going? In my adult life, I’ve happened upon a number of memorable car accidents. In one, a mother was unconscious while her small child was screaming in the back of the car. My friend and I raced to pull the child...
    By Rayla D. Mattson | 1/3/2018
  • The Possibility of Redemption

    “Is your congregation handicap accessible?” “Yes, it is,” I replied. “Great. I'll see if my wife will bring me on Sunday.” There he was the very next Sunday. Over the next few months, I learned a lot about John. A Vietnam veteran who returned home to serve as a police...
    By Robin Tanner | 12/26/2017
  • Messy, Wildly Imperfect Love

    If I were going to write a book about my life as a minister, there would definitely be a part about last Christmas Eve, when I lost my sermon. My sermon was about big things coming undone, like our country, and the theory that when everything is falling apart around us,...
    By Elea Kemler | 12/20/2017
  • Wired for Connection

    It’s a familiar scene each holiday: no matter how meticulously the strings of lights were put away, they always seem to come out a tangled mess. What happens to them all through the year as they wait in their boxes? And so the tradition of untangling the lights begins. We...
    By Erin Powers | 12/13/2017
  • Tender Places

    Many years ago, I spent a week visiting a musician friend of mine in Brooklyn. Alex and I had started a recording project together before he and his family moved away from San Francisco, so I took vacation time and flew cross-country to wrap things up. While his wife went to her...
    By Lindasusan Ulrich | 12/6/2017
  • An Adequate Christmas

    You ever read those magazine articles about how to "survive Christmas"? As if Christmas were some kind of endurance event? To me, that all seems just a little extreme. Then again, it can come from the other side, too—all those jangling jingle bells, with people wanting to put...
    By Jake Morrill | 11/29/2017
  • I Ride Bus

    My three-year-old is almost completely nonverbal. Every day when she gets off the bus, I ask her the same question: I ask her how her day was, and every day I get the same answer: ”Momma, I ride bus.” I ask her what she had for lunch and who she played with. I ask her if she...
    By Rayla D. Mattson | 11/22/2017
  • The Dynamics of Silence

    Silence is dynamic: it does things. When silence becomes a living character in our personal narratives, it’s often an accomplice to power. When I was a new seminary graduate still short of the red-tape requirements for ministry, one of my mentors, who was married,...
    By Erika A. Hewitt | 11/15/2017
  • Someone to Listen

    It was the middle of the night and she wouldn’t stop screaming. The woman was swearing and crying and upset and the nurses couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her. Did something hurt? Did she have a bad dream? She couldn’t calm down to answer them. One of them finally...
    By Connie Simon | 11/8/2017
  • Holding Space for Truth to Bloom

    Content Warning: This reflection refers to the loss of an infant. There is a moment—a moment when all eyes turn to you: the minister, the lawyer, the teacher, the surgeon. It will happen thousands of times in a career. Years in, I surely can’t count how many. But no one...
    By Lisa Bovee-Kemper | 10/25/2017
  • Making Space for Our Doubts

    The Christmas Eve pageant had been beautiful and sweet, but as a stressed out director of religious education, I will admit that the best part about it was that it was over. I sat myself down at the community potluck with my hot cocoa and relaxed for what felt like the first...
    By Becky Brooks | 10/18/2017
  • Squandered Divinity

    The song starts, “Is this how I die?” It's sung by Josh Groban in a Broadway musical I know absolutely nothing about. The combination of all these things was enough to make me immediately check out for the next 5 or so minutes when I heard it recently at a piano bar for...
    By DeReau K. Farrar | 10/11/2017
  • Pulled by a Fragile Thread

    5:00 a.m. A child is stirring… and up. Now I am, too. We call out to one another in the dark hallway. Call and response, we find one another. She crawls into our bed babbling about a turtle, then requests Cheerios. My phone buzzes with alerts. I pick it...
    By Robin Tanner | 10/4/2017
  • Between Wonder and Fear

    A few years ago, when we’d been married only a short time, my husband asked me what I wanted to do on our trip to Sedona, Arizona. I thought a minute and then asked, “Could we go on a hot air balloon ride?” He made the arrangements. Once in Sedona, we got up at 5:00 a.m., saw...
    By Elizabeth Harding | 9/27/2017
  • Multicultural Joy

    My second daughter got married in April. I had never been in such a place filled with Asian Americans. My husband and I are from Japan, and the groom’s parents are from Taiwan. Most family members and their partners looked East Asian, and so did most of the couple’s friends....
    By Yuri Yamamoto | 9/20/2017
  • "Change" Is a Word on Wheels

    Every Sunday morning, the church choir and I spend time in reflection and silence before we begin the first worship service. I often offer my thoughts on the day's theme or the state of the world, providing context to the message we bring. On a recent Sunday, I said to the...
    By DeReau K. Farrar | 9/12/2017
  • Faith in Small Actions

    When I first learned about the Chaos Theory during the summer before my 8th Grade Year, I never expected it to have such a profound impact on my spirituality. Meteorologist Edward Lorenz first “discovered” the Chaos Theory when he realized that one small, infinitesimally...
    By Tim Atkins | 9/5/2017
  • Meeting the Monstrous Beast

    There they are, by the hundreds, by the thousands, wading in chest-high water, holding backpacks and babies and plastic bags aloft. Rescues in bass boats and small drenched dogs and soaked teenagers piggy-backing grandmothers down what is usually a street, the current strong...
    By Teresa Honey Youngblood | 8/30/2017
  • Love Showed Up

    What is your heart doing right now? “Remembering. Remembering!” —from Mary Oliver's "When Did It Happen?," in Felicity Patricia was our hospice patient for three years. She had lung cancer, and by the time I got to know her she had beaten all odds. Patricia was...
    By Elizabeth Harding | 8/23/2017
  • Who We Can Turn To

    Sometimes, being on social media is actually good for my self-care. In the days leading up to the white nationalists marching in Charlottesville, and during the weekend, and since, I have found myself comforted and empowered by being part of a community that stretches beyond...
    By Aisha Ansano | 8/16/2017
  • Blessed Curses, Cursed Blessings

    In the summer of 2002, my partners and I found the best apartment in the entire East Bay. It was on Harrison street in Oakland, just a short jog uphill from Lake Merritt. We had the whole top floor of a triplex, with garages at street level. The living room facing the street was...
    By Becky Brooks | 8/9/2017
  • Grateful to Our Teachers

    I had been at sea for ten days. I’d visited this city before—but not on a Sunday, so I’d never been to the UU congregation there.  On Sunday morning, I walked into the sanctuary where a greeter recognized that I was a visitor and welcomed me with a friendly greeting....
    By Seanan R. Holland | 8/2/2017
  • Nourishing Our Whole Selves

    It had been a long week, and I was so. tired. After being cooped up at work all day, my partner and I decided to take a walk to a local burger place to grab some tasty food that didn’t require much work on our part. As we were getting ready to walk out the door, I realized that...
    By Aisha Ansano | 7/26/2017
  • Love's Pronoun Is Plural

    My son, Caleb, and I went to Starbucks on a recent Saturday morning. We often do this as a prelude to the weekly grocery shopping. It sweetens the deal, which is important, as he is about to be 14 and on the autism spectrum. Both of these factors contribute to his resistance to...
    By Elea Kemler | 7/19/2017
  • Love Always Protects

    I have some problems with Paul, the writer of this letter. I also have some problems with the translations in the New International Version of the Bible. All that aside, there’s something deeply moving for me about the idea of a love that will always have my back. "Always"—...
    By DeReau K. Farrar | 7/12/2017
  • Becoming a "Real" American

    When I took the Intercultural Development Inventory* assessment in 2014, my trainer told me that I had some issues with my own cultural values and practices. It’s called Reversal Orientation, she said. I responded, “Why do you think I came to this country? I hated it there!”...
    By Yuri Yamamoto | 7/5/2017
  • Life Tips from a Pottery Wheel

    Over the past couple of years, what started off as a hobby has turned into a true spiritual practice: wheel thrown pottery. I would love to tell you that I picked it up immediately, that I’ve become an expert potter with showcases and gallery openings and… okay, I can’t stop...
    By Tim Atkins | 6/28/2017
  • Green Beans

    I want to tell you something about the June garden. Not about the knee-high rainbow chard or the hot pink zinnias, though both are splendid. Look closer: beneath heart-shaped leaves, hiding parallel to their own twining vines, are the humble treasures of early summer: the green...
    By Teresa Honey Youngblood | 6/21/2017
  • Do the Next Thing with Love

    By the time Karate class rolled around Monday evening, I was still dazed. The day before — June 12, 2016 — my kids wanted to know why the parents were so sad. I told them I was crying for a really big group of people who had died in the night: fifty people. We got out their...
    By Becky Brooks | 6/14/2017
  • Keeping Our Connections Strong

    I feel like I'm on a constant hunt for hope these days. I have to be: every time I look at my phone or open my laptop, I’m overwhelmed by stories of violence, disrespect for life, greed, and selfishness. When I listen to my friends and loved ones or to conversations in coffee...
    By Sean Parker Dennison | 6/7/2017
  • To Be Suspicious

    As a born traveler, I love the novelty of discovering a familiar thing in a new setting. And what’s more familiar than a white clapboard church building on the town green? On my time away from the pulpit I often go for long drives in the hill country around my home in central...
    By Daniel Gregoire | 5/31/2017

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