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Showing posts from June, 2009

On Chestnuts, Hemlocks, and Change

I am just a tiny bit of a control freak. I'm not just the kind of person who alphabetizes the books on my bookcase, but for years, while I was studying Wiccan history, I had the books in our Pagan bookshelf organized by date of first publication. (There were little white date stickers on all the spines, too.) It bothered me a bit, deciding whether or not to list books like Carlo Ginzburg's The Night Battles by date of first publication or by date of first translation into English. This probably tells you more than you wanted to know, but I'm going somewhere with this--hang on. This past First Day was my day to "hold" meeting for worship at my Quaker meeting. All Quaker meetings do things slightly differently, but at most unprogrammed meetings like mine, the signal that the period of silent worship has ended is a handshake that passes around the room. When I first began attending Mt. Toby, I thought that that handshake just happened at the right time; that the

Peter on Lectio Divina

Many Quakers seem to get a lot of sustenance from the Bible. A Friend/friend of mine shared with me a few pages from her prayer journal the other day, and I was really struck by her careful, prayerful, Spirit-filled reading of the Psalms. I read the Bible, too , but not like that. I attack the Bible the way I would tackle an immense Rubix cube, or a crossword puzzle in a foreign language. It's an exhilarating intellectual challenge, and it's got me digging through history with the excitement of a puppy finding new smells in the woods...but it's not prayerful, and it does not, by any stretch of the imagination, bring me closer to anything I could call the living G*d. My friend's prayer journal got me asking myself, what is there that I could be reading with the same kind of attentiveness that Christ-centered Friends bring to the Bible? (What Cat, in a post a few months ago, called Lectio Divina .) What I came up with were mostly poets (even though I read very little poet

The Quaker Confessional

Some things that feel odd at the time just get odder after the fact, in hindsight. There's this thing that has happened to me a number of times since I became a Quaker. I haven't heard any other Quakers talk about it, but I bet I'm not alone in having experienced it. For want of a better name, I've come to think of it as the Quaker confessional. Talk to any average person on the street, and if they know one thing about Quakers beyond the oats, they know that Quakers are opposed to war. Probably they think of bonnets, opposition to slavery, and serious Christianity too, but they will almost certainly know that Quakers are opposed to war. Which certainly makes sense where I'm concerned, since it was "war and the rumors of war" that suddenly and dramatically convinced me to become a Quaker. What I mean by the "Quaker confessional" is this: from the time that I became a Quaker in my heart--which was well ahead of my becoming formally a member of t

It Will Be Well

I have a hard time writing about Herne . I think it's because I often try to explain him, or at least the history of my relationship with him. And that's just too big a job, and maybe not one even suited for the kind of stories I know how to tell. So I'll just say this, with no explanation. And maybe, incomplete as it is, it will stand better than something more reasoned would do... When the time comes for me to die, I hope that they will take me outdoors. I hope that it will be one of those unseasonably warm days in early October, when the sky is a clean, bald blue, and the maple trees are in flames and the oak trees have begun to smolder. And I hope that someone will lay me down in a big field, with trees all around and the sun in the sky overhead, so I can feel the heat and the life of it in my body all day long. And then, at twilight, I would like to be moved to the edge of the woods. Let someone kindle up a big bonfire, and let me see the flames lighting up

Sea Glass

Photo by Akuppa JohnWigham Have I mentioned lately that I love my monthly meeting? I do. Often, when I speak of my sense of God/the gods (whether using Pagan or Quaker vocabulary) I speak of my connections to people, to community. I do find that my lived experience of God most often comes through to me in encounters with community. Frail as we are, foolish as we are, it is in the refractions of human beings that I most often glimpse God. This is about one of those glimpses. Two weeks ago, in meeting for worship, Alan T. stood with a message. When Alan rose, he spoke, as he generally does, in calm, unpretentious tones, just giving us the truth of his experience, turning it over in his mind. Like many of us, Alan struggles with a family that is not always accepting of his spiritual journey. Like many of us, Alan still tries to speak about this part of his life with his family, his parents, whose version of Christianity is concrete, specific, and unyielding. One part of

Pagan Values Month: The Face Across the Table

As an old Pagan and a newer Quaker, I spend a lot of my time--maybe too much--playing compare and contrast between my two communities. Paganism's relative newness in the family of religions shows, and the longer I've been Pagan, the more clearly and obviously it shows, in fact. Consequently, there are myriad differences I've come to know and appreciate about the ways the Quaker world fits me that the Pagan world often didn't. For example: among Pagans, anyone with gray hair and a half-dozen years of experience in the religion is likely to demand (and receive) recognition as an elder. In the Pagan world, Peter and I most certainly are elders--and we try to live up to that in a responsible way, but the relative lack of peers and elders has held us back in our personal spiritual growth for years and years. In the Quaker world, we are newbies. Hell, in the Quaker world, we're young Turks: at 49 and 50 years of age, we are among the younger, not older, Friends in m