Thursday, October 1, 2015

Radical Compassion Centered Social Justice

Many within our CUUPS community spend a considerable amount of time fighting for Social Justice issues.  These efforts clearly reflect our principles as part of the greater UUA Community. What is not always as clear is how effective these efforts are.  Matters of personal responsibility and culpability stir great passion and animated debate not to mention defensiveness and retreat into a place where individual worldviews are not challenged.

As a white male fighting for these causes it is incumbent upon me to measure my actions, insure that I am speaking up but not over the voices of those who directly experience oppression in our collective culture.

Individuals who directly experience oppression have every right, maybe even an obligation, to speak forcefully and directly, calling out the oppressive actions and attitudes that they experience.  Doing so as an ally, however, often just causes an un-needed escalation that causes distrust, hurt feelings and little in terms of progress in important social justice actions.

When we direct words like racism, white privilege and sexism towards individuals we effectively establish ourselves as individuals willing to label a human being.  My argument here is not that the label does not fit, but that if those labeled as such do not see themselves as represented by the label our ability to engage in changing views and behaviors is shut down due to the defensiveness caused by our verbiage.

What I am suggesting is that we take compassion-centered approach, as members of the dominant culture all of us have had to confront our beliefs and evolve to a deeper place of understanding and compassion.  In what way then is it appropriate to engage in name calling and labeling of individuals who have yet to arrive at a more inclusive worldview?  Is it not our job instead to engage them with compassion, directly discuss our concerns about their views in a way that will be heard avoiding escalation that ends open discussion?

For me compassion is the centerpiece of effective radical social justice.  If we engage in “calling people in” too compassion based discussion instead of “calling them out” for unacceptable beliefs are we not being more effective in our social justice work?

For me this approach means using story telling skills about oppression that have the potential of opening the eyes of those listening. It also means direct and ongoing engagement in social justice causes, manifesting a center place where open discussion is not shut down by name-calling or hyperbole.

The majority of racism and discrimination that we encounter is perpetuated by individuals engaging in “adverse” racism. By definition these people have no insight into the racist undertones of their opinions. Painting them with the same brush as the overt bigot only further entrenches their beliefs.

As CUUPS members we can choose a more effective and compassion centered approach;  let us set the table of discourse with the language of compassion in the hope of effectiveness and the desire to reflect our belief in the dignity of everyone.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

I am guilty of Cultural Appropriation!

It is always an exacting experience to examine our own contributions to perpetuating oppressive cultural norms. What is personal inevitably triggers resistance to concepts that directly confront our own behaviors.  This is a process of evolution of belief and social understanding.  While my core beliefs have remained constant my insight into what those beliefs require in terms of actions and the compassionate support of others is in a constant process of maturation.

I am guilty of Cultural Appropriation. This statement does not mean that I embrace any such actions, only that my understanding of the concept has evolved over the years: nurtured by listening to the experiences of those whose beliefs have been trod upon by our privileged over culture of which I am a participant.

My spiritual journey began in the Hopi Lands of Arizona. In the Hopi I found a true feeling of peace, wonder and appreciation of nature. My young mind was overwhelmed with my sense of having found beliefs that reflected my worldview. For a number of years I embraced everything that was Hopi. Traveling to the Hopi lands often to just sit in silence and soak up the experience of being at a place that so filled my spiritual cup.

In time, I made friends at Hopi, individuals would share some basic beliefs with me and I was always honored.  Central to these beliefs are the idea that much of Hopi religion is held as secret knowledge by clans that one must be born into.  In time. I came to understand that I could have immense respect for the Hopi beliefs and societal organization only by holding their cultural norms as secret.  This understanding meant excluding my own spiritual quest from the framework of Hopi belief. 

It was the insight that honoring the beliefs of this culture is more important than my personal needs or desire for insight that began the process of moving from cultural appropriation to cultural appreciation.  There are cultural lines that it is disrespectful to cross.  These boundaries can only be learned by deep listening too and respect for those who are products of the culture. 

Does this mean that I have a clear understanding in all cases of what constitutes cultural appropriation?  No, it only means that I have developed a deep respect for others beliefs and cultures.  It means that I have surrendered my place of oppressive privilege in favor of respect, learning and honoring others beliefs and customs.

Recently the community has been struggling with the concept of cultural appropriation.  I urge those who resist the idea to take the time to investigate their actions.  If you feel the pull to honor a deity from another culture speak to a legitimate elder from that culture, determine what is respectful, what norms surround such actions and when personal desires and beliefs should be secondary to honoring the culture from which the divinity emerged.

As my Pagan path has evolved I have developed a deep respect for many belief systems and gods from other cultures. My home is filled with these images.  I have a deep regard for what I perceive they represent.  I humbly honor them in private moments in my personal practice. It is important, however, to recognize that I do not have the cultural context to shape public rituals around them.  Such actions would be disrespectful to the communities from which they come.  The lines between appropriation and appreciation can be malleable and unclear and we are not all going to agree on where they are drawn. What I ask, of myself and those I worship with, is to approach the subject with respect for other cultures, holding their experiences of appropriation above our own desires for participation.

Cultural appropriation is real. I cannot imagine how insulting it would be if I were to witness the Goddess I honor reduced to a cartoon character on a lunch box, or a corporate logo, or a sports team’s name.  It is not the business of the oppressor to determine what is cultural appropriation; it lies within the realm of the oppressed to make such determinations. We should respect their cultural norms and boundaries.

So today instead of “calling out” those who deny cultural appropriation, my intent is to “call you in “ too deeper understanding, deeper reflection and a more complex understanding of the damage that is being experienced by other cultures.

Monday, September 21, 2015

A Firefighter's Plea For the Earth!

It has been a long year for me as a Wildland Firefighter. Over the months I have witnessed Florida Panther habitat burning, fires encroaching on native peoples homes in Alaska, California ablaze and tens of thousands of acres of Idaho burning before my eyes.  Smoke filled the air to such an extent that I found it hard to breath, to sleep, to accomplish my duties.

Across America I have stood witness to the opening rounds of the conflict between our climate and those causing catastrophic damage to our environment.  This is direct experience, watching millions of acres consumed by flames during a UN presentenced season.

As things have calmed and I have returned home, I now stand witness to a debate as to the validity of climate change. I am sickened by the statements of politicians in defense of the corporate oil interests that finance them. Climate change is the #1 moral issue of our time.  It sickens me to witness people promoting policies that will ensure their grandchildren will inherit a world in peril for the sake of profit.

Let me be clear, as I stood among the flames I received a very graphic lesson in what is happening on our planet.

Do not deny science as I stand among burned homes and view vistas blackened due to irresponsible human activity.

Do not deny reality as thousands of firefighters struggle to breath within the firestorm.

Do not pontificate about not being a scientist when the reality of climate change has seen me grieving for the lives of more than a dozen sister and brother Firefighters this season.

Those who witness the damage know better, we will stand for our planet and the continued existence of our collective human community. Frankly I am over the  BS spewed by individuals who are willing to trade the future of humanity for a few more dollars in their pocket.  Their indifference is the closest thing to manifest evil that I see among humanity.

Having witnessed her desecration, I will stand for her healing, take action, demand accountability, confront misinformation and engage in civil disobedience when needed to call attention to their crimes against humanity and the earth.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


Editors note:  When my friend Byron Ballard named September “Women’s Voices Month” I thought long and hard about what I could as a man do to support the effort.  My decision was to offer space on my blog for women I highly respect to write on any topic they wish with` no input from me.  Below you will find a guest post from Amber Roth, whom I admire greatly!

When I started formulating ideas for this entry, I had a completely different direction in mind.  However, an accumulation of recent experiences make me feel I’ve been put in the middle of a mess that needs to be addressed to the greater community.  That subject is our approach to the mental health of our fellow community members.  No, let me correct that, to our fellow humans.

Let me start by saying that I am no psychologist, but mental health has been a passion that I have enjoyed researching on my own for quite a while now.  I’ll often see discussions about how we, as Pagans, need to help support our community members that are going through these psychological hurdles of mental illness laid along their path.  Yet, despite these wonderful, theoretical discussions, support is not what I see happening.  What I have seen is two extreme approaches that seem to be doing a great deal of harm.

The first set of extremes is the glorification of mental illness. There is a concept that seems to be gaining popularity, that the burden of suffering a mental illness is something that makes one closer to the Divine. Some people hold the position that mental illness is psychological stigmata that marks those the Divine has particularly chosen. This has even extended into advising those with a serious disorder, such as schizophrenia, to abandon medical help and instead view their affliction as a divine gift. An example can be seen in rationalizing the abandonment of helpful therapy for autistic or ADHD children by calling them “Indigo Children”, thereby invalidating the idea that they need to be able to function in day to day life and making help an unwelcome lack of faith.

Those that defend this position often state that they are only accepting the diversity of the divine. Or they may insist that classifying the person’s state as a mental illness is a gross misdiagnosis meant to strip our children of their spiritual connection. 

There are a plethora of valid concerns surrounding some concerns about misdiagnosis; to even begin to deny this would be ignoring a very real problem. However, what we, as laymen, seem to forget is that the world of human health in general is a highly complicated realm and our comprehension of the brain is still very new. Our knowledge is constantly growing and changing and those that have dedicated their lives to the study of the profession are still only human no matter their level of passionate devotion. There will be times when our medical theories are turned on their heads, times when a patient reacts poorly to medications, times we may face a less than adequate professional, and times when even the best will make mistakes. But we should not let the fear of such things scare us into not facing the reality of mental illness.

It is a beautiful fantasy to believe that all those with mental health obstacles are divinely gifted instead of burdened by difficulties for the entirety of their lives. I can understand why people choose to believe in such things.  Isn’t it only human to want the best for our loved ones?  We should not be relying on fantasy and hope to help our loved ones, and we are fortunate to live in a time where we are not limited to those options.  Would it not be a greater act of love to take the time to learn what our loved ones are facing and find how we can best help them instead of placing them inside our bubble of hope?  What we don’t realize when we place them inside that bubble, is that we’re unintentionally blocking them from the help they desperately need.

In the same vein, instead of looking objectively at unusual experiences, many that defend this concept take a position of extreme, unconditional acceptance. This may be relatively harmless at times; experiences or beliefs that in no way affect the person’s ability to handle life.  Other times, there are strongly held beliefs about an individual being divinely chosen and led can result in unnecessary and irreparable harm done to themselves and others.

None of this is saying that the Divine doesn’t have the ability to touch and guide our lives, or that strange and supernatural occurrences that defy what we understand of the known world are always a work of mere imagination. Many of us have had such undocumentable experiences and feel confident in the existence of things beyond our current understanding. The presence of those experiences do not take away from the fact that by refusing to examine an unusual belief, we risk enabling delusion that could potentially grow to endanger others. We need to discard the idea that challenging beliefs in a conscious and respectful way means we are turning our backs on spiritual entities and experiences.

The second set of extremes is the level of judgement of those in our community trying to deal with their individual complications. This includes verbally attacking those sharing their experiences or reaching out for help. Statements suggesting they “get over it” or “stop complaining” are common. Struggling individuals are often bombarded with quick fix style tips of diet and exercise plans, comedy links, or pictures of cute kittens so they can just “cheer up”. According to professional knowledge about combating mental health issues, patients recover or cope best with a network of friends and family to help support them, along with beneficial therapy and/or medication. Despite this, demanding and dismissive utterings are more common than the support most say they know is needed.

Those that defend this attitude often say they are just trying to help by providing a distraction or refusing to let patients focus on the negativity in their lives. Many state their own unresearched beliefs on how long it should take for someone to recover from a particular affliction. Others use their own experiences with acute stressors as a gauge to how someone with a mental disorder should act and react.

This is not rational. How can we say that we want to help people when the first words we respond with are about how they shouldn’t talk about the things we asked them to talk about so we could help them? It’s quite easy to sit in judgement and say how we would handle their situation. We do it all the time in the news or on social media; hearing a story and then passing judgement on the actions of the people involved. But we forget in those moments that we’re not them, and we do not live in their minds. We do not experience the paralyzing condition that prevented them from doing something as simple as getting the mail or taking out the trash, so we condemn their inability rather than try to comprehend. Can we not see that we are pushing them away by slapping down the hand they hold out to us?

I can understand the frustration of those on the outside. Who wouldn’t want to see their loved ones able to enjoy life to the fullest? Sometimes we do try to help, only to find our efforts do nothing to make sense of the twisted kaleidoscope they see the world through, leaving us feeling helpless, confused, and embittered. But no matter our level of frustration, we need to remember how frustrated those struggling with the mental illness we’re attempting to help with must be.

For those that have no personal experience with mental illness, it is an exceptionally complicated thing to endure. It’s a much more elusive affliction than a purely physical ailment. We rely on our minds to process the world around us just to be able to live day to day in the reality we see, yet mental illness creates illusions and insists that they are accurate. Much different from an acute stressor, these fractured interpretations of the world are not fleeting or temporary, and will not just “go away”. Comparable in a way to a food allergy or diabetes, no amount of hopeful or positive thinking will allow someone who’s allergic to shrimp to be eat them without being sick, and just sticking to a diet for three months will not cure one of diabetes. With similar varying degrees of severity, mental illnesses take time to learn to manage properly and often require a lifetime of strict adherence to those management tools.

It is true that we can only help those that are willing to help themselves, but mental illness is rarely something people can help themselves with alone and without professional insight. It is also true that there are fine lines between helping , enabling, and abandoning, and those lines can be confusing. But why are the most common approaches that we take in such conflict with what is really needed? Whether out of fear or want for comfort of mind, intentionally or by acts of ignorance, we continue to turn our backs on the people that need our love most of all.

So many of these people are caught in between the proverbial rock and hard place. If they reach out and ask for help, they risk the harsh treatment and criticism from loved ones and community members.  If they do reach out, they still have to be careful they don’t reach out too often or they may get scolded and rejected for being perceived as an attention seeking drama queen. If they don’t reach out for help, their illness spirals downward towards rock bottom. If others realize it reaches rock bottom before they reach out, they get lectured for how irresponsible they are in not reaching out for help earlier.  Some groups will exclude those who undergo therapy or treatment from ritual or celebrations. There is also the problem of a person sharing or discussing the professional help they’re getting, and undergoing an unwanted barrage of corrections to a treatment that has already been proven to be helpful. Or suggestions for treatments that have been determined to be useless to their personal mix of personality, biochemistry, and disorder(s). In what part of that are we helping them?  Where in these common approaches to a person suffering from a mental illness are we supporting their journey towards healing? Instead, what we are doing is creating an environment of fear and hesitation where we hinder our community members to want to get necessary help for fear of rejection.  These blows are even more severe to those that suffer disorders from the anxiety and depression spectrum where their mind already creates convincing illusions of abandonment by friends and family.

To change such a dysfunctional environment is a difficult task, and requires people who are willing to change. Instead of relying on assumptions and questionable information, we need to take the time to learn at least the basics of the relevant mental affliction from credible sources or face that we lie when we say we truly want to help. But as we each go through the paradigm shift, let us also remember that the level of difficulty we’re experiencing is with a neurotypical brain, with no fractured kaleidoscope to further refract our views through our trial. May we remember that our mental turbulence is only temporary, that it will pass in a short time. Most of the mentally ill people we’re doing it for would be relieved to be able to say that. When we consider that, do we not owe just a small bit of effort to learn and change ourselves before we even contemplate insisting on change in others?


All Lives Do Not Matter

A Letter to My CUUPS Sisters and Brothers,

The title of this letter is bound to cause some discomfort. Such a statement, if held as true within our culture, shatters many of the beliefs in fairness and justice that we were all reared embracing.

Let me invite you to sit with that discomfort for a moment. Imagine that your experience of life is fully reflective of the above statement.  In this moment of reflection attempt to accept that there are people who are trapped in the reality that our culture behaves in ways that prove daily that All Lives Do Not Matter.

A young mother sends her pre-teen off to school each day in fear that he will be assaulted, killed or arrested based on the attributes that he was born with. Imagine with me this fear, apply it to your children or grandchildren, and sit with the discomfort, the sadness and the terror.

In our nation people of color are being killed and jailed in alarming numbers. Most persons of color in the criminal justice system face penalties more than three times as harsh as whites for the same offence.

Please stay with me here because I am about to use a phrase that has many in our country developing a defensive posture.  It is exactly because “All Lives Do Not Matter” that the #BlackLivesMatter movement is so important. For generations cultural norms have been passed along to Americans that perpetuate a system that devalues people of color.

As a white American I am very uncomfortable with this situation, my inner being so wants to accept the myth that with hard work, a great attitude and a little luck everyone can succeed in our nation. Of course I want to deny a system that gives me an unfair advantage, after all I worked for everything I have.

After several high profile killings of young men of color the #BlackLivesMatter movement was born. The realities of how inner city police departments treat people of color were broadcast to the world. Desperately, Police Public Information Officers began to spin the news in ways that discredit the messenger in order to not face the reality of policing in America.

For White Americans it seemed that a full on assault on our most cherished public servants was occurring. Talking heads attempted to convince us that to be pro #BlackLivesMatter was to be anti police. Nothing could be further from the truth, the movement simply calls for police departments to live their creed “To Serve and Protect” without regard for race.

Recently, a couple of assaults on police officers have been used to whip up fear that our nation is turning on its’ police officers.  In fact, assaults on police have been trending down nationally for five years, a pattern which is continuing in 2015.

Still uncomfortable?  So am I, just as my grand parents had to face their discomfort with inter racial marriage in order to manifest a more just world, so must we sit with our discomfort and continue to work for a day when Black Lives Do Matter as reflected by our collective culture.

The Covenant of Universalist Pagans will soon be considering a national statement concerning social justice and support for the #Black Lives Matter movement. The statement is listed below this letter, I urge you to support this statement. Please join me in accepting that our collective discomfort is a clear indicator of why this statement is so important.  Empathy is a reflection of understanding, may we collectively understand how important this statement is to the very values we hold as CUUPS members.

Respectfully submitted for your consideration,

Rev. Peter Dybing

The Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans, Inc., affirms the intention of all members and friends to be in solidarity with those seeking justice and an end to violence. We are called to dialogue, action and maintaining a "a strong voice" to end systematic dehumanizing of anyone due to race, religion, or the prejudicial thinking we put between ourselves and others. We honor all members of the human family on our beloved planet called Earth.

We, the members of CUUPS, Inc., are witnesses and call on members and friends to act as partners in the work to create more justice in our broader communities.
We wish to express our deep sadness and outrage in the wake of the numerous and ongoing deaths of black and brown people. None of us can be truly safe or free when some lives have value and others don't. The sacred value of a human life is not superficial.

We must each find the way in which our own gifts meet the need of the world. For some that will be participating in protests on the streets. For some that will be supporting the protesters through concrete or emotional means. For some it will mean writing and talking. For some it will mean getting educated further about unlearning racism. For some it will mean doing research into root causes or effective ways to create more justice; or creating safe spaces for the anger and rage and violence within to be expressed and released. For others it will be providing training and learning opportunities for others.  In particular, we call on every white person to boost the voices of people of color, to renew soul searching for the dimensions of your own white privilege, to find the ways you are called to interrupt the culture of racism, and to take action.

Those of us who look to earth-based or Pagan spiritual sources have particular resources to offer. We offer the soul-enriching connection to earth. We offer ritual and pageantry. We offer theo/alogies of celebration of difference. Whatever the shape of your calling, follow it. Let us remain faithful to the work that must be done and dedicate ourselves to building a world where injustice is only a memory. We urge all siblings in the human family to return to the sacred sources that feed our deepest selves and remind us that we are beloved children of the divine, woven into one tapestry. Our world can be a better one. We must do the difficult work to make it so. #BlackLivesMatter

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Why CUUPS is a Deep Expression of Paganism

Many of my friends have asked me why I have moved towards CUUPS as a central part of my Pagan identity?  Most view the organization as “Pagan Lite” somehow lacking substance.  My experience however is exactly the opposite; within the CUUPS community I have found the deepest expressions of Pagan values I have ever witnessed.

For years I have participated in “major Pagan organizations”, been in service positions and stood at the forefront of attempting to manifest a Pagan ethic that makes a positive impact on the world.  Frankly, my personal experience is that most of these organizations are so moribund by efforts to perpetuate their place in the Pagan community that they do very little to impact the world in a positive way.

I AM AN ACTIVIST; belief in change is central to my spiritual experience. If my beliefs don’t urge me to make a positive impact on the world, I would question the beliefs themselves. In CUUPS I have found a place where we embrace our diversity of belief and quickly move on to how we can make a meaningful difference in the world.

This is deep Paganism, evolved beyond the identity debates that are rife in the Pagan community.  Values put into action reflect belief, not ritual tools and dogma that is self-serving. 

Debates in CUUPS occur around how we can best be of service to humanity beyond the spiritual boundaries of our community; I am blessed to be part of a community that has evolved beyond our collective need for legitimacy towards real service.  My personal experience is one of deeper spiritual awareness brought on by service and a desire to see all of humanity as incredible vibrant examples of divinity.

While I have great respect for many who participate in organization that have been around for years, I disagree with their perspective on CUUPS.  My personal experience is that CUUPS and its’ values are a logical next step in Paganism becoming a more fully evolved major religious movement.

Friday, September 11, 2015

I’m too Busy For Your Gods!

Once again I am subjected to post after post about the emerging conflict between hard polytheists and those who see deity as an archetype manifestation.  My dirty little secret is that I just scan these tirades’ that seek to make arguments on one side or the other of the argument.  You see, while I support  individual’s commitment to deities, as they perceive them, I am a little too busy attempting to live my faith through my actions, words and commitments.

Frankly I hold the Deities I worship in high esteem and have barely a passing interest in which Gods others worship.   My interest in others Gods Is confined to seeking mutual understanding, areas of mutual interest and opportunities of interfaith action in the here and now.

I’m busy,

Fighting the effects of climate change

Seeking rights for women across the world

Confronting my own measure of privilege

Seeking a form of government that does not oppress its’ people

Protecting the rights of indigenous peoples

Supporting Black Lives Matter

Bringing compassion into my own views and actions

Seeing divinity in all that surrounds me

So excuse me if I treat your posts as if they have little to do with walking a Pagan path.  I’m a  little too busy attempting to put my beliefs into action to pay much attention to what others believe, my interest is in what their beliefs cause them do upon this planet.

Daily I struggle to live a life that honors the deities I believe in, I choose to leave your Gods for you to honor.  Living a life of faith is not easy, and frankly, "each to their own" may be the most valuable concept we can embrace when it comes to divinity

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Politics, We Will Not Surrender Our Voice

Yesterday in a news conference, Donald Trump stated that Americans pay "the highest taxes in the world", which could be true of one discounts all of Europe and Canada as not "part" of the world.  This individuals loose grasp on reality and tendency toward exaggeration have endeared him to a conservative base that, lead by Fox News, gave up any attachment to reality long ago. Conservatives, over and over, state that they like him because he "speaks his mind"; frankly so do the drunks I work with in my job at a Detox Unit, which hardly qualifies them to be President of the United States.  For now the clown show continues and the Republican establishment is loving it. As long as Trump eats up media time, Democrats are left with little hope of getting their message out.

Former Senator Clinton is also relishing the opportunity to engage someone so far out in his ideas and policies that he can hardly sustain a serious run at the Presidency. Conveniently, she avoids the credible candidates within her own party also seeking the nomination as long as the Trump show continues.  She can run to the center all she wants, yet when the electorate follows the money, it becomes clear that she is the candidate of big banks, big money and the establishment. Lets be clear, her candidacy represents maintaining the establishment's lock on power and influence.  While I respect her as an individual, she is so deeply immeshed in power politics that she herself cannot see how she violates the very values she espouses.

As the media feeding frenzy continues in response to Mr. Trump, left out in the cold is a serious candidate with ideas that seek justice, equality, fairness and environmental responsibility.  Bernie Sanders is rapidly converting even life long conservatives to his cause. He just makes sense, speaks clearly and has policies that are routed in his long experience fighting for the average man.

My turn to speak clearly, I fully endorse Bernie Sanders.  For anyone who believes in social, economic and environmental justice there is no logical alternative. I choose to ignore those who call on me to ignore my beliefs and values with their call to support "an electable candidate". Frankly if Americans stick to their values, Bernie Sanders is the only electable candidate now in the race.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Pagan Plea From Within The Fire Storm

Aggressive walls of flames roar across the landscape and 30,000 fire fighters stand their ground. Here, within the firestorm, there is heroism, individuals band together to achieve herculean tasks beyond mortal ability.  First among them are the local volunteer Firefighters who with limited training, funding and resources face the elemental monster encroaching on their own homes and communities.

I am in awe at the efforts of my brother and sister Firefighters. Nature is so out of balance that the element of fire has become a behemoth storm of destruction and consumption devouring everything in its path, yet my comrades manage to save town after town. I am honored to stand among them to witness the very best of what humanity can manifest

Yesterday we lost three of our own to this hungry regional firestorm, we collectively grieve for a minute and return our attention to the task at hand, stopping the fire, saving more communities, standing as the last line of defense against an incredible power.  Our grieving is brief, our determination re-enforced.

This is a historic fire storm, I can think of no better community to call on than mine, educated in elemental power, thousands of Pagans across the nation can collectively send their magic, healing energy and prayers to assist in this effort.  This is my call, do all that you personally can to manifest safety for communities, firefighters and all involved.  It is my plea that you do not ignore this request, pause even if only for a moment and send what you can in support.

From The Fire Line


Thursday, August 6, 2015

Seeking Divinity in Darkness

Dawn at the Hayfork Fire Camp

It is pitch black in Fire Camp and I am awake at 0415 a.m.  All is silent; the firefighters sleep just as they were doing five hours ago when finally I lay my head upon the ground. In this space I can connect with the sacred, slowly and intentionally I am able to sense my place as just a single note upon a magical sheet of divine music.

Up early I sacrifice an extra hour of sleep but I am also able to focus on the powers that transcend the effort I am involved in.  My mind is able to reconnect with compassion, insights well up and I am comforted: energized even.

When urgency for the mission at hand overwhelms my ability to connect it is critical that I find the time to seek the Goddess, sit with her in the darkness and refill my spiritual cup. It is not so much that the experience is profound; it simply returns me to a place where my actions and reactions are based upon my core values.

There are more than a thousand firefighters here, if I am to do my part in assuring their safe return to their families it is incumbent upon me to bring the best that I am to the table.  It is the compassion that my morning time with the Goddess manifests that fuels my passion for service and ability focus.

Time for me to go, the fire camp stirs, soon the sun will rise and a multitude to tasks will distract me, yet she will be with me, ever my guide along this journey.

My daily practice is brief, yet critical to compassion based service to humanity! 

In Her Service, from the fire line,


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Boy Scouts Still Full Of Hate For LGBT Community

We awoke to great news The Boy Scouts Of America (BSA) have reversed course and have voted on a new policy that allows members of the LGBT community to be scout leaders.  From far and wide leaders of social justice focused organizations have published statements in support of this profound change in BSA policy.


Upon close inspection the new policy does not require troops that are excluding LGBT leaders to change their policy.  By creating an exception for troops sponsored by Catholic and Mormon churches the policy re affirms the right of troops to discriminate.  With more than 60% of BSA troops based at these churches the new policy allows the continued wholesale discrimination that has long been a center of BSA policy.

Essentially all the new policy does is say, those who wish to continue to discriminate have license to do so.  The only change is that troops not sponsored by these religious organizations no longer face sanctions if they have a gay leader in their organization.

Progress is not made by reaffirming the right of organizations to engage in homophobia. Progress is not made by continuing to disallow LGBT scout leaders to assume their rightful place in more than 60% of scout troops.  Progress is not made by engaging in a PR effort about BSA's inclusive policy while sweeping under the rug the continuation of hateful policies by the majority of scouting organizations.

Those posting their support for this new policy are well meaning people who want to see progress. They simply don't see how this effort is a sham designed to lesson the political pressure on the BSA while effectively making no changes in the core policy of the organization.

Simply stated scout troops are free to continue things as they always have been.  My sisters and brothers in the LGBT community deserve better.  It is my belief that liberal social justice organizations should reject this false "change" and continue to press for full inclusion as BSA policy.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Discovering UUA Principles in Alaska

Being in Alaska is disorienting, living with 22 hours of sunlight brings one to appreciate what feels like a relentless Solstice.  Surrounded by boundless expanses of green it feels as if Gaia herself is holding onto the light; letting summer continue to hold sway upon the land in a never ending dance of joyous divinity.

All that grows stands at the foundation of mighty glaciers that remind those that behold the sight of a basic truth of nature, that the darkness arrives before the light in perpetuity.  Here the divine expressions of nature wash over the observer in powerful undulations that nourish ones understanding of the sacred.

This land holds her people as minor expressions of creation upon a landscape of powerful spirits that exist within its’ herds and wonderers of extraordinary size and power.  Here the bear is not simply a wild animal but the acknowledged master of a sacred expanse that stretches beyond the inner vision of even the most gifted shaman.

 Rivers teem with water spirits ever engaged in an annual journey that ultimately nourishes all the expressions of the Goddess that walk the land. To journey by water is to reach back to a time when this earth existed as divinity intended to manifest it.  Mountains stand century upon seashores that have existed since long before humans started to worship the achievement in grandeur that surrounds bountiful seas. 

There is humility here for humanity. One is overcome with a sense that it is we who have distorted nature: repurposed it for our own destructive and immoral benefit.  It is in standing among the dense forests of green that humans can truly grasp our small place as a single thread in the cloth of diversity that the Goddess has woven.

Here one can stand in full awe and awareness of one of the purposes of the UU community. “Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life”

Upon this landscape one understands that the “forces, which create and uphold life” are so expansive that a right relationship with nature includes an understanding of how humans must return to their intended place as just one of Gaia’s creatures.

I am Blessed

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

UUA’s Future Lies With CUUPS

Gazing around the circle in my local CUUPS group I see an amazing diversity of ages represented. Young people fully engaged in seeking truths that transcend the values of our over culture. My heart is warmed

Paganism is growing, with each generation more people become engaged in the many paths that encompass our collective identity. Young leaders emerge and set their sights on a spiritual life that has meaning beyond the experiences’ of their parents.  These seekers embrace our non-hierarchal approach to relationship with divinity.

Fast Forward to Sunday Morning

As I sit in my local UUA congregation it is evident that the membership is predominantly retired individuals. Across the US churches are experiencing the same demographic shift in membership.  It is not so much that membership is shrinking due to less young people attending but the fact that people become more religious as they age. As the Baby Boomers age the population of individuals joining congregations is shrinking. 

According to ABC News  “The biggest gap is between the oldest and youngest age groups. Sixty percent of people age 65 and older report attending religious services at least once a week; among 18 to 30-year-olds, just 28 percent go that often. Previous ABCNEWS polls, similarly, have found that religious belief and practice increase with age.”

All this got me to thinking about the tremendous responsibility that comes with being an emerging demographic within the UUA fold.  If our institutions are to flourish and survive we collectively have a responsibility to become active, engage the wider congregation, bring to the table our ability to expand what full UUA membership means to include support of those who have so openly welcomed us among them.

 Without CUUPS and other groups that attract younger followers UUA congregations will shrink while maintaining their established infrastructure continues to be more costly.  Is it not our responsibility as spiritual sisters and brothers to support those who have provided us sacred space and honored our beliefs?

So I urge you my fellow CUUPS members, become active within your hosting church, demonstrate that we collectively understand how important we are to the future of Unitarian Universalism.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Alaska Wildfires, A Fireline Pagan Experience

My mind is muddled with images as I drive through Willow Alaska on my way to a new assignment. Images of lost Pagan land and all the energy expressed there affect me deeply. While I never visited what local Pagans call "the land" I know well the deep and sacred connections our communities develop with these sites that are filled with the energy of rituals and drum circles manifested by our honored ancestors and current community members.  The sight of the burned trees reduced from proud centurions of nature to burnt toothpicks brings tears to my eyes. I have seen many such places in my life, yet this stand of trees, being connected to sacred space stirs emotion.

The seven hour drive from the Yukon to Anchorage was a long one. After two weeks as part of the effort to suppress the Aggie Fire, now 20,000 acres, I am exhausted.  As of today the fire still burns and another team has taken command of the effort.  The tasks undertaken in support of our firefighters have been complex, the dynamic changing environment of wildfire makes logistical support of the effort like trying to fit together puzzle pieces from a vast array of pieces left on a preschool floor. Even determining where it is safe to feed the firefighters on a given day is a moving target dictated by fire behavior.  The Aggie Fire ran another 5,000 acres two days ago, homes were evacuated and fire resources were stretched to their limit.

Fire behavior in stands of Black Spruce is extreme. Even after days of rain, with just a few hours of drying, the inferno explodes and consumes more of the dense and lush forest.  It is always humbling to witness the power of fire and the heroism of those who respond.  Yet, there is always sadness and a flood of inner tears for those who lose homes, places of employment and sometimes entire villages. This work both nourishes my spirit and erodes my ability to focus on other aspects of my life. Driven by compassion for the land, it's people and the broader impacts of fire, I often find myself mentally and spiritually exhausted.  There is something unique about being a Pagan firefighter. it is almost as if I can hear the land crying out, demanding that humanity collectively do something to address the damage we continue to do!  Gaia weeps and my desire to act is watered by her tears.

Willow Fire

The smoke plums are intense, each night the smoke settles in fire camp and we all attempt to sleep in an environment of 24 hour light and choking smoke. My passion for this life is intense, yet the shared hardship bands us together in an effort to accomplish something beyond individual human ability, tame a miles long swath of fire manifested as if from a dragons mouth.

My drive ended with a new assignment working for the state wide logistical command center. For now, I am away from the flames, yet last night I fell asleep worrying about my sisters and brothers still on the fire line. Won't you join me in sending energy and prayers their way. This fight is long from over and any and all spiritual and magical support can only help!