March Minister’s Newsletter

Can We Begin Again? Let’s Have a Practice of Renewal

March 2017

Monthly Theme: Renewal

I love plum trees for blooming in February. An old gnarled plum tree grew on the other side of the pond below our house in rural Japan. February was the time of the “Dai Kan” or Big Cold when temperatures hovered below freezing and blizzard after blizzard hit our village. Just as we finished clearing the stone steps, three more feet would fall. We kept watch on the snow- covered branches of the plum tree and on one of those rare days when the sun came out (one year we only had one day of sun in six weeks), dark buds appeared like a miracle. Then suddenly, even if the sun didn’t show up, those buds burst into bright pink blooms. The blossoms were evidence that the Earth hadn’t died under the weight of several feet of snow and that the cycle of the seasons was undisturbed. We quietly began to feel a little more energy ourselves and put on our snow shoes and made a bee line to sit under that tree. One year on one of those energized walks, we heard frogs like they were laughing under an ice covered pond. Life was returning.

My life has its own times of winter, spring, summer and harvest, both as an individual and in my relationships with others. Together as a community, we have experienced all of these seasons too. I have found within me, out of sight, those urges towards growth and dormancy and I have also often found the need to “make” spring happen whether it was in tired relationships or my own tired heart. If you are a gardener, you know what I mean. You must put a plant in the window, or under a special light that encourages growth. That is how florists have such a bounty of tulips and hyacinths long before they sprout in our gardens. Even people of communities that care about each other and people in relationships as long as Lou’s and mine, need to figure out what that “sun” is for them. For Lou and me, it is sometimes getting ourselves to “lighten up.” A dog is very helpful with this because dogs do not like lugubrious people. We find ways to laugh. We also sit and talk about what is hard right now but not to each other, we face out into the room. We find a way to feel gratitude for anything. That practice has helped us manage to find renewal for 34 years.

As a community, let us look for ways to be grateful to one another. During February and March, we should probably stay away from critiquing what we think the other is doing wrong. When you have trouble, consider sitting and listening. I will take this advice too.

For our Stewardship Campaign this year, our theme is “Building a Sanctuary.” Our first year in Japan, I discovered that the Ise Grand Shrine, an amazing architectural masterpiece, was rebuilt every twenty years. In some ways, with our stewardship campaign, we are rebuilding our sanctuary each year. We are renewing our commitment, our feeling that our presence, our work as a liberal religion, a beacon of acceptance and hope is worth our effort. At this time, each of us renewing our commitments of time, talent and treasure, is like seeing those plum blossoms bursting out of a branch that seemed dead. We give each other hope. Our renewal inspires renewal.

May we find renewal as we build our sanctuary, star by star,

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