Wednesday Messages from Rev. Brooks
As human beings struggle to find their own identity, often society pressures us to conform. Yet each person is unique and, as Unitarian Universalism teaches, to be respected for their inherent worth. Society’s conventions often assume there are only either-or choices: the message is that you must be either “this way” or “that way.” Rev. Jaye Brooks invites us into a marvelous poem by Lyra Jeannot, “Cereal or Fruit,” from the anthology Arcane Perfection. The poem is a story of self-discovery—in keeping with this month’s learning and worship theme, “Story.”
During May our learning and worship theme is “Story,” so this week Rev. Jaye Brooks shares one of her favorite true-life stories, Alice and the Mountain. What inspires us to do difficult things? Why are we even here? Today’s message is about a little girl named Alice who finds the answer to one of life’s deepest question. And: completely true.
"Counterfactual" In today’s message, Rev. Jaye Brooks explores the April learning and worship theme of “Becoming” with a poem by Black American author and educator Clint Smith. As a child, we may understand the behavior of parents or caregivers in a way that’s different from our understanding as adults. This difference, which allows empathy and appreciation later in life, is part of how we grow, learn, and become. The lessons, though, are quite different for children of color. In his poem, Clint Smith shares both a childhood experience and the insights that he has now as an adult—and highlights for all of us the need for change in our society.
In keeping with our April learning and worship theme, “Becoming,” today’s message lifts up the human need to be able to live an authentic life. In our society, some inherent human characteristics are “othered” and demeaned, so that good people feel compelled to hide aspects of themselves. Unitarian Universalists long to create a world where people are cherished for who they truly are. Rev. Jaye Brooks offers the poem “Blessing for Kin” by Sean Parker Dennison, who extends as a wish and blessing the hope that every person can have a unified life, one in which the outside face and inner self can be the same. May it be so.
In today’s message and throughout April 2021, Rev. Jaye Brooks explores the theme of “Becoming.” How does a human being become who they are? What combination of culture, genetics, and upbringing forms the human personality? And what of the human spirit, the soul—what inspires the soul’s growth; what turns the soul to its path of greatest potential? Today’s message, “Mystery Births Us,” is a poem Rev. Brooks wrote for the ordination of UU minister Rev. Jim Lewis. What is your soul’s path?
Today’s message from Rev. Jaye Brooks is for all those people who have been longing to hug a loved one and who, for a year, have exchanged hugs only online. It’s especially for grandparents who cherish the little ones they love and miss. And it’s for all of us who both hope and know that love lasts even beyond life itself: “No ID Required” by Nikki Giovanni.
In today’s message, Rev. Jaye Brooks offers “Let Astonishment be Possible,” a poem by Unitarian Universalist minister Rev. Gretchen Haley. Sometimes we focus on our worries, or our expectations, about the future. Yes…and we might also make space to be astonished, thrilled, inspired, empowered. The mind sometimes closes down all possibilities except the worship outcomes. Let us, instead, open ourselves to wonder, to astonishment, to hope.
Isn’t it time for some hope? In today’s message, Rev. Jaye Brooks offers a poem by UU minister Rev. Theresa Soto from their book of meditations, Spilling the Light. The simple dandelion, which many would call a weed, has much in common with the tenacious and beautiful human being. Titled “Teraxacum” (the scientific name for the dandelion), today’s message encourages us to remember and celebrate our strength, resilience, and capacity for growth.
A year of pandemic: how can we find inspiration and encouragement? Rev. Jaye Brooks offers “A Litany of Gratitude” that honors the courage and perseverance we’ve discovered amidst the disruption and loss. Yes, there is reason to hope.
Today’s message, “I Catch on Fire” by Sister Helen Prejean, is the poem from which our March 7, 2021 worship service takes its title. Rev. Jaye delights in the poem’s combination of light-heartedness and serious metaphor based on the true story of Sister Helen’s mistake in front of a class of fourth graders (she literally caught on fire). The physical “fire” stands in for the metaphorical fire of commitment, which emerges in Sister Helen’s life-journey of spiritual deepening. How does a human being's inner life, spiritual life, impel commitment? What lies deep within? What inspires each of us to ignite in service to a purpose greater than ourselves?
One of the things many of us long for after nearly a year of pandemic and social distancing is time with our far-off beloveds. In today’s message, Rev. Jaye Brooks offers a poem that reminds us to cherish the good memories—not only memories of times past, but also the memories we’re making every day. The poem is “Mothers” by Nikki Giovanni, who inspires joy and hope with a short reflection on memories of her own mother.
Today’s message asks about decisions we don’t regret. Rev. Jaye Brooks invites us to consider “Eve Remembering,” a poem by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison. Eve bit into that apple—and as Morrison tells it, lived on to look back and not regret that decision. In this time of pandemic it’s particularly meaningful to look back at key decision points in our lives and consider the difficulties, and growth, to which they led. Rev. Jaye says: “I would eat that apple.”
Today’s message explores what to do when feeling lost. Rev. Jaye Brooks offers a poem from 20th-century poet David Waggoner. It’s called “Lost.” Though the poem is set in a forest, which is especially meaningful for anyone who has ever been lost in the wilderness, that setting is a metaphor for any time or place. A human being can feel lost anywhere, even in a studio apartment in the middle of a big city. Feeling lost? Be still. Reach out with all your senses...
In this time when we’re dependent on technology for connection, we spend a lot of time staring at a screen. Inside. Away from the natural world. In today’s message, Rev. Jaye Brooks offers Sigurd Olson’s The Singing Wilderness, an evocative reminder that—despite our technology and what we call civilization—there is an emotional part of the human being that longs for and searches for something more. Something the wilderness sings...
Rev. Jaye Brooks offers a thoughtful and inspirational message from lifelong Unitarian Universalist John Mercer. His poem, “Preparing for a Hike,” emerged from his participation in the UU adult faith development curriculum “Spiritual Autobiography.” Using the metaphor of preparing for a hike in the woods, Mercer encourages us to prepare for all the challenges life brings us—especially now, in this era of pandemic. His poem reminds us that life does often diverge from what we’ve planned and so our spiritual preparation for life must include planning for the unexpected and remembering that life and the journey through it are connected to the spirit and to the natural world of which we are always a part.
On this Inauguration Day, Rev. Jaye Brooks offers words that teach and inspire. Turning again to America’s 23rd Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, a member of the Muskogee Nation, today we hear seven questions “For Those Who Would Govern.” As Americans today celebrates once again our tradition of the peaceful transfer of power after an election, let us hope for elected representatives who have good answers to Harjo’s seven questions.
In her Message following the first week of January, 2021, Rev. Jaye Brooks shared a poem that offered both hope and solace in difficult times. This excerpt from “The Dawn Appears with Butterflies,” by US poet laureate Joy Harjo, reminds us of the ordinary and beautiful realities of daily life that connect us to each other, the Earth, the wider Universe, and all the mysteries of life, love, and Spirit.
In today’s message, Rev. Jaye Brooks reflects on this moment between Hanukkah and Christmas with an excerpt from a poem by 20th century American poet Adrienne Rich (1929–2012). The poem, “Natural Resources,” reflects Hanukkah’s message of courage and faith and the Christmas message of peace and goodwill to all. Rich’s own Jewish and Christian Protestant lineage, her commitment to justice and peace, and her activism (against war, for black lives, and for women’s rights) led her to an awareness of the way that ordinary people have, do, and will “reconstitute the world.
Today’s message is a poem from the ever-inspirational Maya Angelou, “Amazing Peace." Rev. Jaye Brooks offers this poem, which celebrates the spirit of Christmas in all the world’s traditions. The year 2020 has been challenging—with sadness, fear, and loss. Maya Angelou’s message of hope and peace, which are longings in every human heart, invites us into this season of promise and possibility.
As Hanukkah approaches, Rev. Jaye Brooks offers as today’s message a moving and inspirational poem by 20th-century Jewish poet Charles Reznikoff. His life’s work shows concern for the plight of those who are “othered”—refugees, immigrants, asylum-seekers, and all who are marginalized because of their religion or ethnic background. His poem “Hanukkah,” from his longer work Meditations on the Fall and Winter Holidays, connects the lasting courage of the Macabees to his own “flickering spirit.” The ultimately hopeful message of this poem is the spiritual strength that even the most lonely and powerless human being can discover.
As we approach the December holiday season, today’s Message from Rev. Jaye Brooks is a reminder of the often-hidden congruencies that link different religious traditions. Today’s poem, “Mary and the Baby,” is based on Book 19 of the Qu’ran, the Book of Maryam. This evocative passage of Islamic scripture has a mystery and poetry of its own that inspired Rev. Jaye to re-work it as a poem in English. It is a blessing for us all as well as a reminder that Islam honors the birth of Jesus with an entire chapter of the Islamic holy book. Peace on Earth and goodwill to all people—what could be more welcome, more hopeful, than this message arising from a baby’s birth?
Perhaps the World Ends Here - Rev. Jaye Brooks offers today’s message, especially for the day before Thanksgiving: a poem by Joy Harjo, America’s Poet Laureate and a member of the Muskogee Nation. Harjo’s poem offers a moment of grace, of quietude. The poem invites us to consider all those times we’ve gathered with family and friends around a kitchen table. Moving, inspirational, and poignant, the poem starts with the sentence, “Life begins at a kitchen table” and ends with the poem's title, “Perhaps the world ends here”—as if these moments together around a table, sharing a meal, are the moments in life that we cherish and most want to remember. What’s your favorite Thanksgiving memory?
Rev. Jaye Brooks shares the poem “Gird Thyself.” In today’s message, UUA Director of Congregational Life Jessica York offers an interesting take on the role of hope during life’s difficult times. Her poem, “Gird Thyself,” invokes knights donning armor as they prepare to face their challenges. The inspirational message of this poem is that we can find tools—sometimes tools we know we have, sometimes tools we come across unexpectedly—that equip us to take our troubles and transform them.
Today is Veteran’s Day, when we honor the contribution and sacrifices of America’s service members. In today’s message, Rev. Jaye Brooks offers a moving and inspirational poem set during the liberations of Italy in World War II. By Jeremy Bruno, “Hands” tells of an American GI’s moment of connection with an elderly Italian woman whose hands he clasps—a woman whose last name is the same as his own. War is hell, and veterans know it, but there can also be moments of connection and deep purpose.
As a tumultuous election season draws to a close, today’s message offers a calming reminder that all people need and deserve what is good. Rev. Jaye Brooks shares this traditional Hindu prayer, which UU minister Rev. Abhi Janamanchi translated for the book Voices from the Margins: An Anthology of Meditations by Mark D. Morrison-Reed and Jacqui James.
"Theme for English B" by Langston Hughes
In today’s message, Rev. Jaye Brooks offers a less-often-presented poem by Black American poet Langston Hughes (1902–1967), “Theme for English B.” Langston Hughes was one of the central Black voices of the 20th century—and his poetry retains its vitality and immediacy today. In “Theme for English B,” Hughes takes us into the mind and experience of a young Black man who deftly asserts his perspective in a paper for his college English class.
Rev. Jaye Brooks offers as today’s message “Bless This Land” by US Poet Laureate Joy Harjo. These days, with the challenges facing so many Americans, this restorative poem rooted in Harjo’s Muskogee Nation heritage brings both hope and gratitude. We are the land. Bless us.
In today’s Message, Rev. Jaye Brooks offers the words of friend and colleague the Rev. Dr. Rebekah Savage, minister at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Rockville, Maryland. Despite the challenges we face daily, each of us can be a steward of hope. "We do have time. There is always today to do the right thing. To live out our faith. To practice courageous love. To remember and to remind that every breath and every act can be for the greater good."
One of the common experiences of life, especially during this time of pandemic, is the way that things can suddenly go wrong. In today’s message, Rev. Jaye Brooks offers the encouraging and hopeful poem “Reversals of Fortune“ by Rev. Theresa Soto, senior minister at the UU congregation of Oakland, California. The poem is from Rev. Soto’s 2019 book of meditations, Spilling the Light.
The Rev. Jaye Brooks shares "The Elephant" by Sufi Muslim poet, Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi. This poem tells a truth about perspective, offers a moral lesson, and is a great story.
In today’s message, Rev. Jaye Brooks shares the poem “Moonshine” from A Long Time Blooming by UU minister Marta I. Valentin. The poem is an invitation to come into the light of love and sacred inclusion—to cherish the glorious “polyrhythms” when every voice is heard.
Rosh Hashanah, which begins Friday, September 18, 2020, is the Jewish celebration of creation. Yet as we anticipate this celebration of life on Earth, wildfires burn unchecked on the West coast. In today’s Message, Rev. Jaye Brooks shares a Wendell Berry poem that invites us to assess humanity’s role in the damage to our planet’s climate, “Massachusetts Avenue at Rock Creek Park.”
Today’s message from Rev. Jaye Brooks is an excerpt called “Human” from a longer essay by Margaret Renkl. The entire essay was published on August 31, 2020 as an Op-Ed in the NY Times; it’s titled “Hawk. Lizard. Mole. Human.” Margaret Renkl, who contributes a weekly essay to the NY Times, is also the author of a book called Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss. Margaret often writes about the wildlife she sees around her and connects the natural world to her own life. In this essay, she reflects on what she sees in her own backyard—and encourages us to see ourselves in a different way.
"Poison Ivy," the poem, is from Love Like Thunder, a book of meditations by UU poet Jess Reynolds. Throughout the book there are poems that use a variety of images, genders, and activities to explore the idea of God. The picture that emerges is very different from stereotypical conceptions of God. In “Poison Ivy,” God is male—but not much else matches the stereotype. as poets often do, Jess Reynolds challenges us to reconsider our own ideas about God (no matter whether we believe in God or not).
Today's Message is in the form of music, excerpted from the July 5, 2020 virtual Worship Service presented by the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock: "Answer Now To Life," Music by B. Elder; Lyrics by Rev. Jaye Brooks. Performed by the UUCSR Choir, Stephen Michael Smith, Music Director
Rev. Jaye Brooks offers as today’s Message, “My Heart Has Become Capable” by the 12th century Sufi poet Ibn Arabi. He lived in the Islamic city of Murcia, located in what is now Spain. Ibn Arabai was born in 1165 on the 17th day of Ramadam. This poem expresses his understanding of the way he grew spiritually and in understanding. It’s also an invocation to tolerance and love.
The Rev. Jaye Brooks shares with us a poem called A Riff, written by UU minister the Rev. Mark D. Morrison-Reed. It is from a meditation anthology by Mark D. Morrison-Reed and Jacqui James titled "Voices from the Margins."
The Universe sings to itself, wrote Rev. Brooks, in her poem "Calling." Rev. Jennifer Brooks (Rev. Jaye Brooks) is Developmental Minister at Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock (UUCSR), where she focuses on congregational areas that lie at the core of our collective being.
In times of trouble, we humans may feel as if our dreams are “mud-caked“ or that we’re about to fall on our knees in hot, sharp sand. Then comes “This Prayer is for You” with the blessing of a cool stream and a clean deep breath; a promise of singing in harmony with our own most needful songs. Rev. Jaye Brooks shares this poem by Jess Reynolds, from their book Love Like Thunder: Meditations. Jess is a Unitarian Universalist active in the UU Society of Sacramento, California.
During the pause in human activity during pandemic lockdown, the skies cleared and city streets lay empty and quiet. Pollution levels dropped. For the first time in human history, humanity’s harmful impact on our planet became visible simply by stark contrast.
In “Waters of Earth,” a paean to water, the source of all life on Earth, Rev. Jaye Brooks invites Earth’s human inhabitants to take up our role as part of the Earth’s power of renewal. “Our task is to love the Earth, but not merely to love it."
What do you do to demonstrate your love of the Earth?
Rev. Jaye Brooks reads this message, which is an excerpt from the Buddhist monk and teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. The passage, on “Stillness," is from his 2017 book The Art of Living. Thich Nhat Hanh suggests that one of the best ways to still a restless mind is to listen to the rain.
Rev. Jaye Brooks wrote, "Independence Day reminds us of the Principles that form the idea of America: people are equal, their rights are inherent, and our government is created by the people to serve the people. These ideas resonate with our UU Principles: the inherent worth of every person; justice, equity, and compassion in human relations; the use of democratic process in our congregations and in the world. These Principles, clearly stated, carry with them an implicit promise that we will act together to make them live vibrantly in our national public life."
Read by Suzanne Viverito, Tina Manko, and Gary Mitchell. The words date back 500 years to the European roots of Unitarian and Universalist values, It combines the thoughts of 16th-century theologian Frances David, the text of one of the first religious freedom proclamations in human history, the 1568 Edict of Torda, and a traditional Hungarian house-blessing that traces back to the early Unitarians of Transylvania. These ideas shaped history. They became our Unitarian Universalist roots. When we use our reason to understand, when we find love in our hearts, when we open our minds to influences beyond what we now know, these roots anchor us—but they do not limit us. Instead they guide us to new ideas, new “revelations,” and new understandings of the issues of the day. Our roots run deep.
Rev. Jaye Brooks reads “Jazz People” by Black American poet Regie Gibson (http://www.regiegibson.com/) The poem is based on the stories he and his daughter Jamila made up when she was little and together they imagined people who chose to be music so they could live in harmony.
Regie Gibson's website describes him as a poet, songwriter, author, workshop facilitator, and educator, who has performed, taught, and lectured at schools, universities, theaters and various other venues on two continents and in seven countries including Havana Cuba. Regie and his work appear in the New Line Cinema film love jones, based largely on events in his life. The poem entitled "Brother to the Night (A Blues for Nina)" appears on the movie soundtrack and is performed by the film's star, Larenz Tate. Regie performed "Hey Nappyhead" in the film with world-renowned percussionist and composer Kahil El Zabar, composer of the score for The Lion King musical.
Kurt Vonnegut said, "Regie, when you perform, you are supersonic and in the stratosphere, where you can see that the Earth really is a ball, moist, blue-green. Regie, you sing and chant for all of us. Nobody gets left out."
The Rev. Jaye Brooks presented this poem by Rev. Angela Herrera following months of quarantine due to COVID-19, and weeks of unrest following the murder of George Floyd.
The Rev. Herrera is Senior Minister at First Unitarian Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico.The Rev. Jaye Brooks is Developmental Minister at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock, in Manhasset, NY.
The Rev. Jennifer Brooks delivers brief and timely messages weekly on Wednesdays at 2:00 PM on uucsr.org/connect/messages, on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. Also on Wednesdays, at 2:00 PM and 8:00 PM, all are welcome to join Rev. Jaye in live conversation on Zoom at the twice weekly "Wednesday Conversations."
Monday Meditation and Poetry-Rev. Dr. Fenimore
Wednesday Messages-Rev. Brooks
Thursday Contemplations-Alia Shinbrough
Friday Meditative Moments-Rev. Brower
Soulful Songs and Stories
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