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I’ve posted my Easter sermon here on this blog, and also on UUCPA’s blog. It will soon be up at the church website.

In personal news, I did not keep to my Lenten practice of drawing at all. I drew on Monday mornings as usual, and besides that I did only a handful of drawings. I think I should just acknowledge that I’m at my limit for daily practices, between reading my Dickinson poem (today is #220, and next week’s sermon is on the journey so far) and exercising and following the various necessary family routines.


On this sacred day of choosing–with gratitude to those who entrusted us with this honored task, who struggled and suffered that we might have the power to choose–may we choose well.

May we choose love over fear, wisdom over cleverness, courage over cowardice, life over death, kindness over callousness, faith over cynicism.

May we know that we choose not just for today, but for many generations to come. May we know that we decide not only for ourselves and our own, but on behalf of all the earth, its peoples and creatures, the waters and lands in which they dwell.

We seek the humility to know our own shortcomings and uncertainty even as we accept the responsibility to decide the fate of others.

May we weigh our choices with full awareness of how precious is all we hold in our hands. As we ourselves are weighed and tested by the choices we make, may we be found worthy.

May we choose as leaders those who will strive to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly. And, grateful for our differences, may we find in each other qualities worthy of our trust and respect.

By the grace of the internet, I found this poem during a time of grief some years ago. The only consolation at that moment was the hope that the friend who had died, who had been in a lot of emotional pain, “divested himself of despair and fear” upon moving from life to death, and I was so moved and grateful to Jane Kenyon for having put this hope into words. In Mexico, I heard it said another way: the dead are happy because they have no more worries.

Happy Dia de los Muertos to the living and dead!

Notes from the Other Side
Jane Kenyon

I divested myself of despair
and fear when I came here.

Now there is no more catching
one’s own eye in the mirror,

there are no bad books, no plastic,
no insurance premiums, and of course

no illness. Contrition
does not exist, nor gnashing

of teeth. No one howls as the first
clod of earth hits the casket.

The poor we no longer have with us.
Our calm hearts strike only the hour,

and God, as promised, proves
to be mercy clothed in light.

My Christmas Eve homily from a few hours ago.

Read the rest of this entry »

photo by Emma Pease

Last night’s midweek service, which was about Hanukah, was preceded by a latke feast, and I invited people to come even earlier than that to join in making the latkes. Over a dozen did, and we had a great time.

I billed the dish as the World’s Best Latkes and then had to come up with an actual recipe, since the way I really cook these would go more like, “Buy twice as many potatoes as you think your family can eat. Peel and grate. Add enough grated onion to make it look right. Add enough egg for it to stick together . . . ” etc. Not very helpful, though my great-grandmother in the Old Country would approve. Attendees and cooks asked for the recipe, so here is what we did last night. The only way to improve on it would be to make sure you always have a dozen fun people to cook with.

I forgot to tell everyone last night that there’s a reason latkes are the quintessential Hanukah dish: you are supposed to eat fried foods as a tip of the hat to that miraculous oil. That’s what we call a handy theological excuse. Now, in addition to the miracles of a small army defeating a large one and the oil’s lasting for an extra seven days, do you suppose there’s a miracle by which the calories from oil in which latkes were cooked disappear?

Or let’s just appreciate this miracle, pointed out by Rabbi Brad Hirschfield:

that people dared to light that tiny bit of oil and trust that somehow things would work out. Perhaps the enduring miracle which Hanukkah celebrates is that there is always more light than we first imagine and that the fuel to create it is really there when we look hard enough and dare to trust its power.

Amen to that, and Happy Hanukah, everyone!

The World’s Best Latkes

Blogger Ginger Root posts about today’s holiday, Imbolc a.k.a. St. Brigid’s Day a.k.a. Candlemas and even Groundhog Day, a holiday that in her words is, “so very, well, in-between.”

It makes me realize how much we do need a holiday for that time when we’ve been in winter so long that we’re tired, but its end is still very far off. If I were in snow country right now, this would be the theme for our midweek service. Here in northern California, we don’t really have a meteorological analogy for the dreary gray mid-afternoon of the soul. But we do know what it’s like to experience the soul-tiredness of having traveled a long way in to a barren time, and knowing the other side is still a long way off.

Maybe it will be the theme anyway, and I’ll just remind everyone of how this time of year feels when you live in a place such as Imbolc’s originators lived in. Most of the people who will be in the room have experienced long winters; they do know what the literal February feels like, as well as the metaphorical February.

As a child, right now was usually the time for my re-reading of The Secret Garden. I didn’t plan it that way; it was just my instinctive reaching-out for assurance that spring was really on the way.

(#6 of 20 things I’ll miss about San Miguel)

In mid-June, San Miguel celebrates El Día de los Locos.  I haven’t been able to sort out exactly how it originated, just that it is rooted in two religious celebrations and has turned into something like Carnaval.  So many people participate in the parade that I was surprised that any remained available to be an audience–it probably helps that people come into town from all over the area just to watch.  We walked half a mile along the route before finding a tiny spot to squeeze into.

The traditional costume, apparently, is men in drag, but there is a tremendous variety beyond that.  This year’s official theme was the bicentennial of independence and the centennial of the Revolution; the unofficial theme seemed to be the World Cup; Mexico’s first game, vs. South Africa, was a couple of days off.

This man combined drag with support for Mexico’s team.  His old-woman-with-the-generous-posterior costume seemed typical, though we saw some very pretty young men as very pretty young women, too.

Now this would intimidate the South African team:

Joy took, I am not exaggerating, almost 300 photos (almost all of these are hers).  Here’s a tiny sample.

A couple of scary monsters on their way to the parade starting point.

Catrina, perennially popular

The contingent from Via Organica, the organic market, dressed as beneficial bugs.

I liked the decorations on this truck.

Oh, right, the theme! There were a lot of Pancho Villas...

...and other revolutionaries. Was the Revolución won with squirt guns, do you suppose? She also has the bag of candy that many participants carried. They threw what must have amounted to a ton of dulces into the crowd.

The parade went about an hour too long and at about 20 decibels beyond my comfort level; I was in the early stages of a flulike thing that ended up being a very persistent sore throat and earache.  (I had terrible tinnitus for a few days, which was probably caused by a combination of my congestion and the unbelievably loud music from the floats and, the previous evening, the dance music at the related church festivities.  Judging from San Miguel, Mexicans must all go deaf at an early age, because they don’t seem to believe in setting the volume at anything below earsplitting.)  But just the same, it was an event to remember.  If we manage to be in San Miguel for another Día de los Locos someday, we’re going to find a friend (or a stranger who wants to make a few pesos) with a rooftop along the parade route, and I’m going to bring earplugs, and I’m sure we’ll take another 300 photos and have a great time.

We’ve just returned from eight days in Mexico City, and boy, are our legs tired. No, we didn’t walk from there, on a variation of the ancient joke. We just walked around there, miles a day, it seemed. I ought to be losing weight here in Mexico, but I think in the battle between More Exercise and Lots of Cheese, the cheese is winning.

We got to the city last Friday evening after a full day Read the rest of this entry »

San Miguel is a great place for a religion junkie, a category to which I definitely belong. By all accounts, this town has even more fiestas and religious holidays than most places in Mexico. This week, Semana Santa, is peak season, but there’s a lot to celebrate even before Holy Week gets going.

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We deliberated for several days about what to do about Pesach this year. Our ideal is to host a Seder and invite friends, but most of our friends are 1500 miles away (or more), and we had trouble reaching the few we do have here. We looked into the San Miguel Jewish community’s Seder, but their response to “would a three-year-old enjoy it?” was not very encouraging. So we decided to just have a Seder for the three of us, with Joy cooking and me in charge of creating an abbreviated Haggadah.

Then, a few hours before the Seder, Joy saw an e-mail from a woman looking for a child-friendly Seder for her and her six-year-old son, K. We always have more food than we need, so we called them, they came, and we were so glad they did. They were really nice, interesting people; they’re UUs too; the munchkin and K hit it off (what a find, a six-year-old who’s happy to play with a three-year-old!); and having them here made our holiday complete. Eating dinner with just our family is lovely, but for the holidays it doesn’t feel quite right.

It was a funny business, creating the Haggadah. I’ve done it almost every year for several years now, for our church Seder, but having to really cut out most of it brought home to me what a crazy conglomeration and compilation it is. It shows all the signs of having been built by accretion; not just the recent, feminism-inspired additions like the orange and Miriam’s cup, but many elements, have been incorporated in response to some need or political moment that’s fallen into the obscurity of history. The four children, for instance; when did that come along, and why? All the lists and formulations, like the singing of the order of the Seder itself, and the “matzah, maror, pesach” bit—where did they come from? Why the four cups of wine? What does Chad Gadya have to do with Passover? Reading a typical Haggadah is like a walk through Jewish history. I’d love to see one that includes the works, with annotations about how each element entered the flexible canon that is the Haggadah.

What follows is what we considered essential and absorbable by our daughter. She has been to four or five Seders in her three years, starting with the one we held with close friends at home when she was a month old, but I don’t think she remembers anything from any previous ones. If she remembers anything from this one a year from now, I’m betting it will be playing with K, and the prizes they won.

(ETA that I notice a lot of people are finding this entry via searches for “unitarian haggadah” or “abbreviated haggadah” or the like. So if you’re wondering if you can use this, yes, and if your family doesn’t do “mad face” or blessings in Cat, adapt it to your own kids. Just please credit me, and make it clear to whoever uses it that it is drastically edited out of the vast realm that is the Haggadah.)

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