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Showing posts from August, 2006

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


So, here I am at NEYM, and so far, it has been mind-blowing, wonderful, amazing... OK. Not universally wonderful. I admit, I'm still early enough on in my love affair with Quakerism that I do idealize things (and people) more than is wise... but there were certainly plenty of reminders of how human (Irritatingly, maddeningly, entertainingly, and endearingly human) we all are here. I'll let one example stand for all: the young adult friend who spent what seemed like half of the unprogrammed meeting for worship clicking and clicking and clicking his pen in restless boredom. CLICKA-CLICKA-CLICKA-CLICKA! It was excellent discipline--for me. Can I have my worship focus on anything but the struggle not to get shirty over another worshipper's restless tick? Mostly, I was able to stay centered down. Worship this morning was good--as was noticing differences and similarities to what I'm used to, my first experience with programmed MFW (Young Adult Friends were in charge of

Just Another Sucker

Yesterday, my old friend John M-B came up to visit me. We spent the day at the beach, talking about life. John's a UCC minister turned therapist; in addition to being a newbie Quaker, I'm a therapist turned teacher. We always have tons to talk about. So it wasn't until the trip back that I got to talking about recent spiritual developments in my own life, including joining Ministry and Worship, and my feeling of just how much I have to learn before I'll be able to talk about all this and make sense. John laughed at me (one of the things I love about him most). Then he said, "You know what your problem is? You've always been a sucker for God." I love that. I really love it when somebody finds a way to say something that's really true--and says it in a way that cuts truth down to size. Yep. I'm just another sucker. I'm not sure what "God" means, but I do think that I am indeed a sucker for it... And John has known me long enoug