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Showing posts from 2006

The Keeping of Days

I'm sitting here next to a baubled, gleaming evergreen tree, with a skirt of environmentally-obliviously wrapped gifts swirling around its feet. Neither as a Quaker nor as a Pagan is this supposed to be my holiday, but here I am. And I'm _not_ wrestling with deep philosophy, so much as I am waiting for my daughter to wake up and come downstairs so we can open all the pretty boxes... Neither my desire for Pagan purity nor my Quaker leadings toward simplicity have saved me from really, really wanting to open up the presents, and the fact that my daughter is now of an age where I need to wake _her_ up to unwrap gifts is as unwelcome to me as the fact that my in-laws have the self-control and patience to eat breakfast first. This is especially ironic given the fact that, only a few years ago, I wasn't celebrating Christmas at all. Before my daughter reached the age where school was not to be missed, and before both my husband and I took jobs that make taking time off befo

Messages to be Shared

Messages in a lively Quaker meeting often have threads. Life has threads, the blogosphere has threads, and some of them have been flowing my way lately. Richard M, at A Place to Stand wrote a recent post on the importance of eldering, in the sense of nurturing gifts when, like volunteer seedlings in a garden, they crop up unexpectedly. Though I'm not 100% sure I agree with everything he had to say (for instance, I question whether a lack of positive feedback from elders at meeting regarding spoken ministry can be taken as meaning that the messages we gave were not right to be shared. I think that there are a lot of indicators of good vocal ministry, and that feedback from elders is only one of them) I did really like the post. He writes that good spoken ministry will "resonate with what is going on within some of the Friends listening." I think that's so. So I was heartened to read, in a recent comment from Plain Foolish , that my post on Grace had spoken to he


So. The thought/message that came to me in MFW this week (it didn't rise to vocal ministry, but it had that SMACK-into-the-baseball-glove feeling of a message at the time) came up something like this. As I was centering into worship, one of our members, a mom whose warmth and integrity I really admire, came into the meeting room. As she crossed to her bench, I noticed how lovely she was--regal, almost. And I felt a sudden fierce tenderness toward her (if that makes sense) that made me so glad: glad she was there, glad I was, glad she is a kind and caring human... I don't know. Just... glad. And it came to me that, when I look at _you_ and I see God, that is grace. When I look at you and see God. That is grace. (Pagans distressed by my terminology, see the comment below.)


I keep thinking the word, "faithfulness," and thinking about it. It's a running theme in my head, in meeting for worship, but also at other times. For instance, in the second of the Lord of the Rings movies, there is a scene in which Gondor has just come under attack. Hundreds of years have passed since Gondor and their old allies, the Rohirrim, have had any meaningful contact, and Theoden, the King of Rohan has just barely survived a catastrophic invasion, with no help from Gondor. The scene begins with a fire kindled in a watchtower in Gondor, signalling for aid... and the camera pans over mountain after mountain, rushing over snow and rocky summits, so we see fire after fire lit, on distant peaks, as one after another, men set to keep watch see the signal, and respond. Finally the signal reaches Theoden's citadel, and Aragorn, who has been trying to persuade Theoden to answer Gondor's appeal when it comes, rushes into his hall, taking two immense stone steps

A Really Excellent Pagan Blog!

It has been a complaint of mine for quite some time how few really wonderful, spiritually reflective Pagan blogs I have found. There are good Pagan travelogues, news and political commentaries, podcasts and so forth... but very, very few blogs that discuss personal spiritual experiences in real depth. So I'm so happy to have found Diane Sylvan's Dancing Down the Moon . What a terrific blog! Some of her entries, like her most recent, where she explains "Why the Rest of the World Thinks We're Wierd" are funny, but others, like her discussion of why her altar is arranged as it is , or the poetry she features, are really resonant for me. Here's an excerpt from a recent poem : "In the name of the sun and its mirrors and the day that embraces it and the cloud veils drawn over it and the uttermost night and the male and the female and the plants bursting with seed and the crowning seasons of the firefly and the apple, "I will honor all life-- wherever a

A Comment From Chef Michael

The following is the text of a comment left by Michael H---, beloved chef at the retreat center where our Nameless Group has met for many years. It's posted here rather than as a comment so that I could edit out personal identifying information, and with the permission of Michael himself. I think it's important to share this, both because Michael is so loved by the members of the community (Stop blushing, Michael! It's just the truth...) and because, on the day that all people of faith have hearts as open to one another as Michael manages to have, whatever Spirit or Spirits there are that love the world and the men and women in it will be glad, and the human race will be very close to learning how to live in peace with one another... This was the first year Michael stayed (after a _long_ hard day of work, too) to attend our main ritual, a harvest blessing. We were so moved that he was there... Michael is a deacon in his Lutheran Church, and a man who takes his spiritual

From the Greenwood

We live in a strange and lovely world... I am typing these words from my laptop, sitting outside the tent we're sleeping in in the middle of a hemlock wood in the Catskill Mountains. Let me describe the scene for you. I hear the soft, sweet soughing of the wind in the leaves over my head, a late-summer cicada very slowly marking time, distant shrilling of frogs, and a thread of flute music drifting in from across the stream very much like the leaves that are drifting down from the canopy over my head. I look around me and I see two... no, three other tents, a high, savagely grey ledge of stone, carpeted over with fallen leaves, and the stained-glass contrasts of yellow maples and hornbeams punctuated by green-black hemlock trees. Beside me is a rotted stump that is as textured and intricately carved as a Georgia O'Keefe skull... The last of the afternoon sun is slanting through the forest giants atop the ridge, and I can see that same sun warming the sides and roofs of the


Wow... I knew that posting was going to slow down once the school year began, but I had no idea twelve days had gone by since my most recent post. On the other hand, I've been very busy indeed at my classroom website and blogs. The teaching is starting to feel more manageable this year, and the tweaks and adjustments I've made to the weekly assignments seem, so far, to be keeping the grading load down to a manageable one. I suppose that isn't a very "spiritual" line of thought, in some ways. On the other hand, the biggest challenge I've faced, since becoming a teacher, is managing the business of daily life and still having time for friends, family, solitude, and exercise. For the last two years, it was time in Pagan ritual and in Meeting that got cut, a luxury I don't think I have this year, having agreed to serve on Ministry and Worship . This is the part that scares me most about having said yes--everything else can be learned, but keeping up wit

Worship or Cakes?

It seems like cheating to have a big part of my blog entry be about another person's blog entry, but Liz Opp has posted two in a row that really speak to me. Her post on Quaker Blog Ettiquette resonates with me a lot, though I must admit that I don't entirely live up to some of her ideas as fully as I might--especially when it comes to seasoning my remarks, both here and in comments on other blogs. I think that's because though some of my entries come from a spirit-centered place (and, like Liz, I think those are the blogs that speak to me the most, as well as the entries of my own I'm happiest with) other entries are more like a wave hello to friends (and fFriends) who may be stopping by. I guess it's as if some of my entries are like a worship-sharing, and others are chatting over coffee during fellowship. I know that, in Wiccan circles, I often felt that there was a way in which the most important thing we did was share that warm connectedness over cakes and

Life is Sweet

I totally forgot how utterly exhausting teaching school can be. It's 8:30 on a Friday night... and I'm going to crawl into bed now. I can't believe how tired I am already... Still. A great two days. The third year of teaching is much, much, much easier than the first two... Not only that, but: my class sizes are small, almost private-school-sized small (two sections of 17 students each and one of 24); I have, temporarily at least, a work-study aide who has graded my first two sections of pretests; the kids are actually _listening_ to me (huzzah!); and, best of all, at the end of the day, one of our master-teachers came by my room to pass on a comment she heard from one of my new kids, who says I'm cool and they're glad they are in my class. It does _not_ get much better than this. (Though the stamina to have a personal life wouldn't be terrible...) Good night, blogosphere!

What makes us Quakers? (Peter)

The recent discussion of Christian language (precious to some and toxic to others) feels like a single conversation, but it has been rambling over several different blogs. I've found myself writing much more on other people's blogs than on my own this week. Kwakersaur is trying to organize his thoughts about Quaker tolerance , laying down some of his basic assumtions to serve as a springboard for discussion. I'm hoping to engage him, not in a debate, but in speaking and listening deeply that may lead to some degree of unity between us, even standing as we do at near opposite poles on the Chritian language issue. Lynn Gazis-Sax, on her blog Noli Irritares Leones ("Don't annoy the lions"?) posted about God, language, and triggers . My response to her has begun to focus my thoughts on what all Quakers--different as many of us are--have in common. Today was day two of a week of inservices before the students come back next Tuesday. I'll try not to disappea

Syncretism and the River

Recent posts on Quaker blogs , discussions with Pagan friends, experiences in meeting for worship, and a new book I'm reading by Wiccan writer Christopher Penczak , are all causing me to reflect on what shape my spiritual life has right now. Marshall Massey , challenging my comments on the relationship between programmed and unprogrammed Friends in NEYM, asked a question I think he meant as hypothetical: whether I was "ready to change my actual religion?" But this question is not hypothetical, is never hypothetical perhaps, for those of us who practice blended spiritual paths. Maybe it's never hypothetical for anyone with a listening spirituality. In Quaker terms, isn't that what ongoing revelation implies? As the UCC puts it, "God isn't done speaking yet." In Pagan terms, hey, if the Gods talk to you in circle, trance journey, what have you, what are you _supposed_ to do if They tell you to add or change or eliminate a practice? The word &quo

Techno-Spiritual Crazy Quilt

Peter's back at work, and the end of the summer not only is here, it _feels_ like it's here. My own teaching schedule starts after Labor day, and I've had three typical end-of-summer nightmares in the last week. (My favorite: almost all the students are off on a field trip, leaving only a handful, who really don't want to be there, including my least favorite student of all time--and if you're one of my students, reading this blog, it isn't you--really! My assignment: teach these students math for 74 minutes. As an English teacher with no lesson plan, you'd think that even in my sleep, I'd recognize that the job is impossible, but, as is the nature of dreams, I keep trying till the alarm goes off to wake me...) The upshot of all this anxiety is that I'm realizing that the things I've taken for granted all summer long, like time to exercise, see friends, and blog, may not be around for me much longer. I've resolved that this year, Year T

Zeus and Semele

Liz Opp of The Good Raised Up recently posted about how concerned she is at the difficulties that can arise when people, even caring Quaker people, try to communicate about different faith experiences. The back and forth that Peter and I have taken part in, not always calmly, seems to have been one strand in the communications that trouble her. And me... well, I'm concerned, too, because I've come to have a lot of respect for Liz's grounded, open-hearted words. This business of communicating with one another in loving openness and sensitivity--it's definately harder than it looks. For instance, I know that, coming to Quaker ways late in life and as a member of another religious community that is often marginalized, I tend to assume that I'm the outsider in any Quaker discussion. I feel defensive at hints of difference, and I don't always realize this. I am coming to understand that the place in the world that feels so insecure to me looks solid to others

At the Lake

Greetings from the Maine woods. Actually, that sounds a lot wilder than it really is. After all, I'm posting to out blog, so we're not on the Allagash. We are, in fact, only an hour from the nearest shopping mall, and only twenty minutes from the nearest soft serve. However, though there is dialup web access, it is awfully slow, so I won't be updating the blog until we're home again. If we are slow to post moderated comments this, week, that is why. So, until we're back in the land of broadband, I'll leave you all to visualize the lapping waters of a peaceful lake, the sound of loons calling over the water, and the smell of pine needles and moss. There--isn't that nicer than another closely written philosphical post? Here's to the last hush of summer. May you enjoy it at least as much as I am doing this moment. Blessed be.

Christian Language and Tolstoy's Onion (Peter)

This was a parable that somebody told at a prayer and discussion group that I was in when I was part of the Episcopal Church at Yale. I think it was originally a short story by Leo Tolstoy. A woman died and could not go to Heaven because she had been mean and cruel to everyone all her life. She went to Hell, and from there she prayed for mercy. Was there no way she could be admitted to Heaven? The angel who guards the gates looked around and asked all the souls in Heaven, "Is there anyone here who has ever had a kind word or an act of generosity from this woman?" Only one stepped forth. He said that in life he had been a starving beggar, and one time this woman had given him an onion. The angel told him, “Bring me the onion.” It wasn’t much of an onion—small and shriveled—a pretty poor meal even for a beggar. Would it be enough of an act of kindness to raise the old woman out of Hell? The angel took the onion and reached down with it into Hell. The old woman grasped it an

Sustainable Light (Cat again)

So. Today's the first day back from NEYM, and I'm finding myself puttering around the house, doing little, unimportant, quiet things--vacuuming up the dog hair that accumulated while we were gone, cleaning the kitchen, sorting bills, browsing the web. I'm not getting myself in gear for that trip to the library I'd planned, or the trip to the grocery store we need, and the rpg our friends at Peace Frog run won't be meeting tonight after all. I think maybe a day of slowing down is not such a bad thing--Yearly Meeting was almost feverish with new experiences. I think it's part of how I do newness that I go through an almost paranoid period, feeling off-balance. I certainly went through it as I became a parent, as I became Pagan, as I left psychotherapy and became a teacher... even each time I've adopted a new dog. Things that are important to how I experience my own identity shake me up as each new change settles into place. I've already been through

Peter at NEYM

Jan Hoffman, clerk of the committee on revising Faith and Practice, spoke in the meeting for worship for business. I scribbled down as much as I could. I got less than half of it, but I caught the gist: “What words might we hear together? “We will not eliminate every word that anyone might object to until all we have left is wishy-washy words that could mean anything. Nor will we try to include every single word that anyone might want, hoping that if we just throw enough of them in together then we’ll have a document that will represent us all. “We must surrender ourselves to a sense of the corporate meeting. There is a corporate integrity that is not the same as individual integrity. I may wish that we were somewhere other than where we are; I may wish that we were where I am. [Appreciative laughter from the meeting] But we proceed with the faith that we can find the place where we can stand together. This does not prevent me from acting as an individual. “It is difficult to listen t

Boundaries of Storytelling (More Cat at NEYM)

I'm writing this entry from back in my dorm room, which is cool and quiet. I'm missing the scheduled worship-sharing group I was assigned to, and I certainly hope I can join them tomorrow. But I have reached the heatrash stage of energy overload, and it was time to take a break. I'm not sure if blogging is really "taking a break"--I might be wiser to go lie down under a tree. Though, if I did that, I'd probably fall asleep, and I really, really want to make the workshop I'm scheduled for in about an hour. Anyway, there are oak trees rustling right outside my open window, and I can hear the shrilling of cicadas... and it's shady and quiet and calm here. So I think this is good. I'm not entirely sure I will post this entry--I'm not entirely sure of the ethics of it. I'm often at a loss to tell what the boundaries are around talking about what happens in Quaker meetings. They are so intimate, that the fact that they are open seems besid