Rev. Valerie's Reveries

This blog contains personal reflections from Unitarian Universalist minister Valerie Mapstone Ackerman.

Monday, July 31, 2006

My sermons might be available--someday

From time to time requests are made for copies of my sermons. Unfortunately, I usually don't have copies.

Nearly all of my sermons are preached in the oral tradition--extemporaneously using limited notes.
There is no text to send. Sending the notes would be useless as they are an amalgam of venn diagrams and flow charts. Even I don't always know the original intent when I look back at the page. And there are always tangents that don't show up in the notes. I try to record my sermons on tape, but the quality is poor. Creating transcripts is time consuming and I just can't use my time making them. Sorry.

Perhaps it is time to invest in a digital recorder---great excuse to buy an iPod!!! Then I could post them somewhere online? or send audio files? or podcasts? I don't understand the technology!

Stay tuned. I'll do my best to reproduce the sermons in accessible form.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Due to the disturbing nature of recent posts by "anonymous" (which have since been deleted) I've decided, sadly, that comments to this blog need to be moderated. For those of you not technically literate (like me!) that means any comments you make will be read and approved by me before they get posted.

I started Rev. Valerie's Reveries as a forum about my ideas, ideals, experiences and hopes for a better world. I do not expect every reader, or any reader, to agree with everything I write. I am happy to read thoughtful disagreement and will post such comments.

Further, it would be most informative if all commenters would have the courage to sign a real name. Of course the internet being what it is, I now understand why so many people feel the need to post with an obscure name. One never knows when someone who appears to be obsessed about a relationship that existed only in his fantasy life (25 years ago!) might decide to google your name, find your blog and post seriously disturbing "memories" (inaccurate as they may be) to your blog! Creepy!


Friday, July 21, 2006

Rev. Valerie's itinerant preaching schedule

Some of my friends have asked me to post a list of preaching dates, so here they are:
July 23-- Stillwater OK (on contract for the 4th Sunday)
July 30-- Wichita KS
Aug 27-- Stillwater OK
Sep 24-- Stillwater OK
Oct 15-- Lawrence KS
Oct 22-- Stillwater OK
Nov 26-- Stillwater OK
Dec 10-- Houston, TX: Bay Area UU (tentative)
Dec 24-- Stillwater OK

I'll travel far and wide on Sundays to spread the gospel of peace,
justice, equity and compassion---that is if I get paid and travel expenses are covered! I still gotta eat.


Reveries blog parameters changed

dear reveries reader-

As I am new to blogging I still don't know the finer points of set-up. I THINK I have changed the parameters so that you do not need to become a member of blogger to make comments about my posted writing.
I appreciate knowing your responses which unfailingly expand my view and challenge me. Type away!


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Please indulge me a bit of shameless self-promotion. AND a bit of promotion of my Unitarian Universalist ministerial colleagues as well as my alma mater.... Meadville Lombard Theological School recently published its inaugural edition of an annual reader featuring writings by students, faculty and alumni. My essay "How to Name Your Farm" was included, officially making me a published author! For the record I received absolutely no remuneration for the essay, nor do I receive any royalty payments for the book sales.
The book is called "In Time of Need"
You can buy a copy through or the UUA Bookstore.

ALSO, because I patch together income from many sources, I thought I'd mention here that you can take an online course I am going to offer from Sept - November through the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Larger Fellowship. The cost is merely $40 per person!
Check it out!
Go to
select religious education
select online courses
select enter online learning center
select Becoming the Change You Want to See in the World
you'll need to create an identity with the CLF to proceed and get further information.

I hope I'll see some of you online and I hope you'll buy the book!


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Never once in all of my days as a dissenter from the policies and proclivities of our national government have I ever been tempted to stomp upon, burn or otherwise mutilate an American flag. Lately I've been wondering why I have not considered engaging in this symbolic act. Now that we are one Senatorial vote away from having an amendment conferring sacred status to an icon of American patriotism (virtually every state legislature is already on record of support for such an amendment), I've been reflecting on my emotional relationship with the symbology as well as the republic for which this particular symbol stands.

Sometimes I get a bit queasy when the iconic cloth (usually made from polyester and made in China by VERY poor people) is flying in close proximity and I feel edgy when I see them draped across caskets and dangling from large buildings. Post September 11th flag-flying--an emotional outpouring of angst at the horrifying actions of the terrorists (using terrorist in its ultimate and proper sense, not the new term which carries the meaning "anyone who disagrees with me") seemed appropriate in the short-term. Sensitive people needed a way to identify with the victims and flying American flags provided a substitute for tears.

In the 10th grade I decided to stop engaging in the dutiful ritual of standing and saluting the flag in my public high school. My three older brothers were merely lottery numbers away from being drafted, of becoming cannon-fodder in Vietnam, and though I was unaware of the nuances of the politics of the day, I was aware that this was not a good way to lose three brothers. This fateful decision gained me the ire of homeroom teacher Mrs. Simmons who then black-balled me as was her right as the sponsor of the National Honor Society, precipitating a disengagement from my former scholarly ways spinning me into depressive teenaged ennui which developed into some less-than-wise decisions regarding birth control and voila! by the end of junior year I was pregnant, married and in grave danger of dropping out of high school. I got married to Mr. Wrong on June 14, 1974-- which dear reader you surely know is Flag Day. (I am NOT making this up)

Thus I started young adulthood already bound in this rather sickening relationship with the stars and bars. The beautiful and brilliant Mrs. Simmons never gave me the chance to explain that my loyalty to the country was not in question (though it is now) and she never let me explain that I held the Constitution in great esteem and found the Declaration of Independence pretty darn inspiring and that I had memorized the Gettysburg Address in the 5th grade and could recite that on the spot though not without crying. She never let me assert my constitutional right to NOT believe in the God tacked onto the Pledge before my birth (other gods might have worked, but not THAT god). Mrs. Simmons had no interest in hearing my logical argument against the wording which requires one to pledge allegiance to the symbol first and the entity it represents second; never mind the fact that the pledge is in fact a sham most days, when liberty and justice are clearly not available to ALL.

Allied to the anti-war sentiments fueling my difficult relationship with patriotic gestures is a struggle with the nature of using symbols when the real thing would suffice. When the symbol becomes loaded with connotations of an either/or conflict I have to ask, what is the content that we are avoiding? If I can't burn a flag as a way of resolving a teenaged conundrum (an honest therapeutic action perhaps in my case), then what does such a flag actually represent? Or, to get to the core, if I can't burn a flag as a political statement of dissent (I still place flag stamps upside down on my letters) then may I dissent at all?

On the day that the USA proudly announced the slaughter by bombing of a particularly inept (symbolic?) bad guy in Iraq I was preparing to do my patriotic duty of spending money as urged by our president after 9/11/01. In other words I was in my car at an ATM. Suddenly I hear a voice calling out, "Hey tree-hugger lady, aren't you happy they got Zarquai?" [interesting epithet considering I have several peace-related and religious bumper stickers but no ecology-related ones. hmmmm] Craning my neck and looking behind, I saw a man craning his neck out of his car window and gesturing at me. Through my rear-view mirror I saw that he had a cross dangling from his rear-view mirror. So I shouted back, "You need to go to church mister." I finished my transaction and pulled away to finish a phone call with my daughter. Preparing to leave the parking lot, I noticed the car was still at the ATM so I pulled up on the passenger side and gestured to open the window, which the reluctant female passenger did. I then asked the driver where he went to church. He gave evasive answers. I said, " I just want to know because I wonder what Bible your minister preaches from because apparently he hasn't told you that the Bible states that vengeance is the Lords' not man's." My interlocutor sputtered something about planes flying into buildings. I said, "So didn't Jesus tell us to turn the other cheek?" More sputtering about not letting them get away with it. I said, "And Jesus taught us not to return violence for violence. Sir, your disagreement is not with me. Your disagreement is with Jesus." And I drove away.

Somehow the RELIGION of patriotism (as my friend Gay pointed out on Sunday) has taken precedence over a shallow form of mis-labled Christianity in the hearts and minds of many Americans. The words of the man upon whom the religion supposedly is based hold no power among the "believers." They have turned their secular anger into religious zeal. While holding onto the Christian symbol of the cross (an instrument of torture I'd like to point out) this "new" Christian has thrown the baby out with the bathwater. A new form of Christianity has been adopted in the churches in this strand of the Bible Belt: Christianity without the inconvenient teachings of Jesus. All the symbols are intact: the flag draped over the cross, but now the meaning has shifted toward the vengeful angry god of old--the one who smote with joy and impunity--and away from the Prince of Peace. Damn. and just when I was starting to warm up to JC again. Prostituting and bastardizing the symbols of democracy and faith is ugly, ugly business.

Oh god! I have such an overwhelming urge to go burn something!

This time I'll burn some incense on my prayer altar and light the candle in my smiling Buddha's hands. Maybe that'll work. Symbols of peace, tranquility, compassion and love. Yep. That'll work.