Minister’s Column January 2022

Dear Ones:

Our Ministry theme for January is living with intention. I was struck by a quote from Katie Covey, who serves as Director of Religious Education for Soul Matters. (Soul Matters is the independent UU resource center that provides theme-based worship and religious education materials.) She said that living with intention is different from setting goals or resolutions. Living with intention “pulls us into” who we truly are. Goals and resolutions “push us out” into future possibilities. While I’m not sure this distinction works in all cases, I find it very helpful. Do we want to change some aspect of who we are? Do we want, in essence, to be different from our current self? Do we want to fix something we don’t like about ourselves? If so, then let’s set a goal or make a resolution. And, with discipline, let’s work to achieve it. That’s how I understand the point of the traditional New Year’s resolution.

However, if our longing is to become more fully who we are—if we want to hone or deepen dimensions of our self that we like, dimensions that give us a sense of meaning and purpose, then let’s practice living with intention.

The poet David Whyte tells the story of a visit to a remote monastery high in the Himalayas. In the darkness, while waiting for one of his traveling companions to find a flashlight, he bumped into a carved statue, smiling, beaming with compassion, a temple guardian or Vajrapani. There were easily 100 of them in that dark hall. The encounter was very moving, an invitation to vulnerability. In response he wrote the poem, “The Faces at Braga.” Here’s an excerpt:

If only our own faces / would allow the inevitable carver’s hand / to bring the deep grain of love to the surface,

If only we knew / as the carver knew, how the flaws / in the wood led his searching chisel to the very core,

We would smile too / and not need faces immobilized / by fear and the weight of things undone….

If only we could give ourselves / to the blows of the carver’s hands, / the lines in our faces would be the trace lines of rivers,

Feeding the sea / where voices meet, praising the features / of the mountain and the cloud and the sky.

Perhaps living with intention is like this—allowing the carver to bring the deep grains of love to the surface. Not trying to overcome or master our flaws, but allowing them to teach us self-acceptance and love for who we truly are. It’s not setting a goal to become someone different. Rather, this living with intention is more a process of listening inwardly, looking inwardly, discovering our core, and, over time, letting it manifest outwardly.

What grains of love might the carver bring to the surface of you? And if the lines in your face traced rivers feeding the sea where voices meet, what features would they praise? What features of you matter most to you? I invite you to ponder these questions as we embark on 2022. In doing so, may you live with intention.



With love,

Rev. Joshua Pawelek

Rev. Josh