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Healing Trauma in Community (abridged) This article is excerpted from an address to the 2023 Annual Sessions of Sierra Cascades Yearly Meeting of Friends. The original is published at: https://westernfriend.org/media/healing-trauma-community-unabridged

Issue: On Healers (September 2023)

Story of a Book of Spiritual Healing My mind goes back to the years of my early adulthood – a time of crisis in my life. I grew up in the southern part of Korea. I struggled with differing wounds: My parents’ separation, my own broken relationships, loneliness, and my difficult status as a woman in a patriarchal society. At times I felt helpless and hopeless. It hurt. I longed to revive my life.

Issue: On Healers (September 2023)

Snap, Crackle, Pop! I woke up early and decided to go to the post office to mail a priority envelope. Since the post office is just a block from Indian Rocks Beach in Florida, I decided I would walk along the shore until the post office opened.

Issue: On Healers (September 2023)

The Flint and Light of Respect This is a testimony to the value and differences of Quaker and Indigenous ways of respect as I know them. Quaker testimonies were taught to me through words and light. Indigenous teachings were relayed with the spark of truth and few, if any, words. I find it difficult to use words to describe the latter, but I will try because I was asked to do so.

Issue: On Dignity (July 2023)

Othering Among Friends As humans, we are taught from a very young age to categorize things based on their characteristics. In my former life as an elementary school teacher, it was part of my job to help young children develop a sense of what is the same and what is different. Children sort things by size, color, shape, texture, etc. This skill serves a purpose, but it also gets used in ways that are problematic.

Issue: On Dignity (July 2023)

Radical Welcome It was curiosity to see if there were still people called Quakers that brought me to my first meeting at Frank and Jeanine Walker’s home on McLeod Avenue. It was radical welcome that kept me coming.

Issue: On Dignity (July 2023)

The Wisdom of Ordered Council My Quaker great-great-great-grandparents settled in Georgetown, Illinois, in the early 1800s. There they got to know two neighbors, a Quaker gentleman and his Native American wife, Tsilikomah. As my ancestors grew closer to Tsilikomah, they learned that she was a Keeper of the Old Things of the Oneida (Iroquois) people. That is, she was a Keeper of a ten-thousand-year-old oral tradition that chronicles the journeys of a group of Native Americans across the Bering Strait into North America.

Issue: On Dignity (July 2023)

Loss in Two Voices In November 2018, my family physician, Travis Abbott, who had known me for many years, referred me for a cognitive impairment screening. It was very helpful that Dorsey accompanied me to that screening. It was helpful for her to see what happened and for her to ask questions that I did not think of. I clearly had some areas that were not so good, but I was not formally diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment until January 2020.

Issue: On Loss (May 2023)

Bittersweet Wisdom We all have something to say about loss, because all of us have experienced it – yearning for what used to be, but is no more. And perhaps, as our years pass, we wrestle with the issue of loss even more, having chewed some of the gristle of life, as it were, not just the low-hanging fruit.

Issue: On Loss (May 2023)

The “Why” of What We Do I had an occasion recently to hear some young Friends talk about ministry services they are performing on behalf of Quakers. I have nothing but heartfelt compliments for their generous spirits and their hard work in pursuit of making the world a more humane, just, and merciful place. In light of the significant proportion of their cohort who are NOT volunteering in such efforts, I feel special appreciation that these young people are rising well above what seems to be the present norm of disengagement. For their good and faithful work, I am grateful.

Issue: On Loss (May 2023)

A Red Sky

Two and a half years later, her voice still haunts me. From the other side of the fence, I hear her yell at her children as they play in the backyard. It’s a sunny day, and my wife and I are riding our bikes on a path that runs right beside this family’s home. We are enjoying a weekend vacation in Ashland, four hours south of our own home in Salem, Oregon. A blissful afternoon, we are all unaware that, just two days later, a fire will race up the path we’re riding on. It will level this entire neighborhood to the ground, including the mobile home we just passed, with the door that just clacked shut. Whole communities in several towns will be completely wiped out by just one fire – one of the many fires about to explode across our state. This particular fire, the Almeda fire, will consume 2,600 homes and three lives. Throughout the 2020 wildfire season in Oregon, at least twenty-one fires will each burn more than a thousand acres or cause significant structural damage or death. Over a million acres will burn, 40,000 people will be evacuated, and at least eleven people will be killed.

Issue: On Loss (May 2023)

What I’ve Been Trying to Say I believe that we may – likely do – have new Friends, especially young Friends and Friends who live isolated or far away, schooled by the pandemic years, who have never attended a Quaker meeting for worship in person, but only online. Rather than simply rejoice that they found us at all, we need to invite such newcomers to attend meeting for worship somewhere, sometime, in person.

Issue: On Loss (May 2023)

Life Cycle of a Quaker Meeting The lessons we learn from accompanying people as they die can help inform our understanding of the care that Quaker meetings need as they change and age. While closure is an expected and important part of any life, including the life of a meeting, in our youth-focused culture, it can be hard to tend this part of our life cycle. We believe that Quakers are missing some important opportunities for deep spiritual experiences and growth when we don’t address these challenges. Here, we will consider what it might mean to tend the Spirit and the spiritual life of a meeting that is in the later stages of its life.

Issue: On Loss (May 2023)

Pieces and Patterns The man I married, physicist Daryl Reagan, was a skeptic. It gave him an endearing humility. He loved explaining physics to me. When he used his brakes, which produced heat by friction, he explained entropy. He told how eventually all energy would be dull heat energy, a heat death of the universe.

Issue: On Perception (March 2023)

The Perception of the Heart In our highly commercial world, the way we think of the heart’s emotional capacity is mostly limited to its role in romantic love. As wonderful as romance can be, this trivializes the heart. The heart is an organ of perception. It’s where we go to make sense of feeling states we can’t quite pin down, try as we might to encapsulate them in words.

Issue: On Perception (March 2023)

Close-up on The Lord’s Prayer This is my path: a struggle to learn to be willing to surrender to the Holy Spirit, to finally go home. I have been on this path for years, struggling with the idea of an “other,” an incomprehensible energy. Recognizing the necessity of surrendering to something greater than myself – and interior to me – has taken a long time. I have learned that transformation is about choice, action, willingness to surrender, and knowing that I am never alone.

Issue: On Perception (March 2023)

“Bulletin” and “Lincoln” My world both shrinks and grows. One day, a glorious god’s-ray aimed directly at my heart;  then a declining, dying Dodo.

Issue: On Conflict (January 2023)

Esther This late summer we welcomed a new resident into our home. She came in through the kitchen window, where she built her own abode. The day eventually came when we needed to close the window due to excessive heat. Our guest moved from the opening to the inside of the sliding panel. She incorporated the curtain and a bit of the houseplant on the windowsill into her dwelling-place, which is an edifice of beauty. We call her Esther.

Issue: On Conflict (January 2023)

Steel to Flint “For the last time, I am ordering you to depart the grounds of Griffiss Air Force Base or you will be subject to arrest.” On a crisp spring morning in 1984, I came to realize – in a hands-on, hand-cuffed kind of way – that I was not just a participant in conflict; I was also its student. The tension in the air that day was as taut and clear as the bright blue line demarcating the base. I had just crossed that line, along with my nonviolent comrades, and I realized I had things to learn.

Issue: On Conflict (January 2023)

God (or Not) among Quakers [This article was excerpted from a more detailed original, which is published online at: https://westernfriend.org/media/concepts-god-or-not]

Issue: On Conflict (January 2023)

Elizabeth Gurney Fry: A Quaker Mess

Friends are doing a lot of reevaluation these days, reexamining our past and our venerable Quaker ancestors. In some cases, when moral inconsistencies emerge into the open, reexamination means that some iconic Friends are losing their luster. In other cases, stories of early Friends’ messy lives help us to see their humanity, which can lend greater depth and nuance to their spiritual writings. This happened for me when I read Chad Thralls’ May 2011 article in Friends Journal on the “embodied” life of Thomas Kelly. Learning how Kelly confronted his inner demons through surrender to Spirit increased my appreciation of his lyrical testimony.

Issue: On Conflict (January 2023)

Dielectric Here is a strange simile: God is like the parallel plates of a capacitor, and we are the molecules of dielectric between them.

Issue: On Science (November 2022)

Listening During Meeting: An Apologia The ear listens, the mind translates. How many times during meeting for worship have I gotten it backwards! I listen with my mind. I ask a question or mull over a problem inside my head and hope God will hear me and answer back, inside me. Then if a worthy thought emerges, I stand to speak. Or if nothing, I’ll blame hearing the bus rumbling down the street, so loud and distracting.

Issue: On Science (November 2022)

A Living Universe (excerpt) [The following text is drawn from a paper that is published online: westernfriend.org/media/living-universe]

Issue: On Science (November 2022)

Mountain Time Edifice of rock and ice born of molten silicates       thrust from below the earth’s rocky skin, built of clouds of rock ash and rivers of liquid stone, patiently etched by streams of ice fed by winter storms.

Issue: On Science (November 2022)

To Form a Faithful Community

On February 24 this year, Russia invaded Ukraine. For now, I ask you to set aside all history and politics. I ask you to step back with me to that moment when I realized in terror that terror had just filled a country I had visited many times, where I had friends, where there was a Quaker meeting and facilitators for the Alternatives to Violence Project. The invasion couldn’t be happening . . . but it was.

Issue: On Cooperation (September 2022)

God’s Loving Eyes We are seen by God’s loving eyes.  The greatest spiritual battle begins – and never ends – with the reclaiming of our chosenness. Long before any human being saw us, we are seen by God’s loving eyes. Long before anyone heard us cry or laugh, we are heard by our God who is all ears for us. Long before any person spoke to us in this world, we are spoken to by the voice of eternal love.                         – Henri Nouwen (1993)

Issue: On Cooperation (September 2022)

Two Crows I’d stopped in the back parking lot to adjust a bike clip and noticed two crows noticing the guy in the apron coming out the back door to dump the garbage. “Lookit that,” the one crow says to his mate, “Opposable thumbs! That is so cool.” His partner picked up a cigarette butt, looked at it, dropped it. “Dude,” she said, “I’ve got opposable thumbs; you’ve got opposable thumbs; what’s the frickin’ big deal?” The other crow looked at her. “Yeh, I got opposable thumbs . . . on my feet!” A half a hamburger slid off the pile, and they both eyed it coolly. Another piece fell.  The first crow went on, [pullquote]“I’ll tell ya what I saw them do this morning that really knocked me out, right there in that intersection.”[/pullquote] They continued their conversation while strolling over to the hamburger.

Issue: On Cooperation (September 2022)

That Spark of Connection Back in the days of my Dark Night Journey, I worked hard to define what I meant by “spirit” and “spiritual.” What my reasoning mind came up with was an analogy: Just as our eyes are physical organs of sight, designed or evolved to detect certain frequencies of electromagnetic radiation, our spirits are as-yet-unidentified organs of relationship. (I hear Isaac Penington raising a Friendly alarm against this rationalistic formulation.)

Issue: On Normality (July 2022)

Soul-Work in Community [This article was abridged from a far more detailed original, available at: https://westernfriend.org/media/soul-work-quaker-complative-reading]

Issue: On Normality (July 2022)

Normal Feelings Hate is something normal. We know lots about hate, but hate is corrupt. Hate prevents change; hate crazes people. Hate hurts people. Hate kills people, too. We know hate, but love, love helps people. Love heals people. Love promotes justice and change. Love is peaceful and gentle. [pullquote]Love is new and different. Change scares people, but it shouldn’t.[/pullquote] We’ve gone through change multiple times. But love is normal. It always has been. It’s just mysterious. We don’t know. Love is what is life. When love’s full power is released, we become loved. Love is big, and everyone needs LOVE.

Issue: On Normality (July 2022)

Gandhi’s Smile So, if you are anything at all like me, you might have to admit that, underneath it all, you are angry – and angry most, if not all, of the time. I know I am. This is not the world I bargained for. This is not the economic system I bargained for, the political system I bargained for, the system of education I bargained for. I never signed up for global racism, for worldwide environmental collapse, for overpowering patriarchal institutions that devalue more than half the world’s population, for a cloud of nuclear war hanging over my head.

Issue: On Normality (July 2022)

Growing into the Light Is youth “wasted on the young,” as some have said? No, it is not. I have learned through my experience and that of others that we carry our youthful amazement within us all our life. It simply gets buried under our adult concerns.

Issue: On Normality (July 2022)

Presence and Place When I tell people I was on Mount St. Helens on May 17, 1980, the day before the massive eruption that left fifty-seven dead, the first question they ask is, “Why?”

Issue: On Place (May 2022)

Magnolia Grove Monastery Batesville, Mississippi In memory of Thich Nhat Hanh, 1926-2022

Issue: On Place (May 2022)

Forging a Relationship with Self When I was a child, I craved quiet places where I could be alone with my feelings. Sometimes I would go along the side of the house where camellia and pomegranate grew or down the stone steps to a small orchard under a tangerine tree in full fruit. Later in life, when I was old enough to be trusted, I would venture to a meadow and lie down in the tall grasses or climb high in a tree. Each of these places offered an essential opportunity to experience my inner being. [pullquote]Children have access to this “still small voice” in nature, preferably alone, where they can connect with their dreams and harness themselves for disappointment, which will surely come in life.[/pullquote]

Issue: On Place (May 2022)

Finding Life with the Dead My sanctuary is my favorite cemetery. It’s easy to miss if you don’t know it’s there. Shielded by shrubbery, it runs down a slope to the river. Outside, my life is rushed and I lose the bigger picture. Inside, I walk with ghostly companions, listen to their wisdom, and find perspective.

Issue: On Place (May 2022)

Place of Privilege (abridged) [The following article was abridged from a version published online at:  https://westernfriend.org/place-privilege-unabridged]

Issue: On Place (May 2022)

A Spiritual Home I have noticed that more young adults have been coming to our meetings for worship since we reopened our meetinghouse after COVID. Perhaps the pandemic gave them time to reflect. Young adulthood is naturally a time of choosing the values one will live by. I think the young people who visit our meeting are looking for ways to practice their values with other people.

Issue: On Place (May 2022)

Let Our Lives Speak Within the circumstances of our lives, the Light meets us. As we recognize the Light’s presence in the events of our lives, we see the lived testimony of the Light in our experience.

Issue: On Alternatives (March 2022)

Creating out of Silence and Light In the late 1960s, a researcher named Frank Barron explored the relationship of religion and creativity and whether being religious and/or spiritual had an effect on the artist. He interviewed Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and a Hindu, as well as a number of others. The interviews were quite straightforward until he talked about the Quaker artist. His writing about this artist took a different turn. It was as if he was stopped in his tracks and felt a different tone in this interview. Reading the interview was like reading a hush or silence or something that was going deeper in its connections. He says, “She spoke of the Quaker silences. She thinks everyone should be silent at special times. . . [She] was quite unusual in bearing and demeanor, and in her manner of talking. She spoke in a very low and even tone, and everything she said seemed to come up from depths. She was completely lacking in social front.” (Frank Barron, 1968)

Issue: On Alternatives (March 2022)

Evangelism “Evangelical” is now officially a dirty word with progressive people of faith. This story has been decades in the making and is now accepted fact: The Evangelical wing of modern American Christianity is all about White Nationalism. I am here to tell you: It ain’t necessarily so, even though it sure looks that way.

Issue: On Alternatives (March 2022)

Alternative Realities I met Rachel Heisham Bieri in Missoula, Montana, four months after she had been given a terminal cancer diagnosis. She was forty-five then, only fifteen years older than I was, though she was already a grandmother. Doctors had given her two months to live.

Issue: On Alternatives (March 2022)

Individual Decision or Mutual Discernment The test for membership should not be doctrinal agreement, nor adherence to certain testimonies, but evidence of sincere seeking and striving for Truth, together with an understanding of the lines along which Friends are seeking that Truth.

Issue: On Alternatives (March 2022)

Membership is Important Quaker membership is important. Mutual commitment matters. Membership is a relationship, not an achievement.

Issue: On Freedom (January 2022)

On Membership and Being in the Light On December 14, 2018, I walked into the Multnomah Friends Meetinghouse for the first time. I felt enveloped in a circle of Light, at one with it and with everyone in the room. I had been searching, longing for this my entire life. I was Home.

Issue: On Freedom (January 2022)

The Ground from which Miracles Spring I didn’t want to join the committee. As a “released Friend,” my role is to follow the leadings of my music ministry out in the world, freed from responsibility for the business of Multnomah Monthly Meeting. But I have found myself reckoning lately with a firehose of Spirit blasting a message through me that has nothing to do with songs or cello. In September 2021, this message came out in an epistle, which was published October 30 in Western Friend’s weekly email newsletter. This epistle, “Returning to the Body,” arose from my experience serving on Multnomah’s ad-hoc committee concerned with the question of how to worship in this age of pandemic. [See: https://westernfriend.org/returning-body]

Issue: On Freedom (January 2022)

Words: The Saving Grace I reached maturity in a time when words were worth a death. Born in the 1920s, raised in the 1930s, I turned eighteen in 1942. As a young man, I knew, by the words Hitler used, that the Nazis represented a force that must be halted. The words describing horrors I could scarcely imagine evoked other words in opposition, words wedded to the deep meaning of the word justice my mother had so carefully taught me, sprung from her study of the New Testament. My mother’s abiding faith in justice, linked to the words of “freedom” and “liberation,” sent shivers over my flesh.

Issue: On Words (November 2021)

Speaking of Animacy How delighted we are when our children first begin to talk! What a miracle, what a joy! I have felt that joy and sense of the miraculous when that little being, my young child, could finally begin to share with me their wishes, thoughts, feelings, questions, and more – the first time they “used their words.” Even then, however, I was also aware of the drawbacks of learning our “native” spoken language. In the case of my own children, the language was English, and in learning this, I knew they would automatically be “pre-programmed” with the world-view inherent in English. This would limit where their minds could travel, just as learning a different “mother tongue” would limit their minds in a different way.

Issue: On Words (November 2021)

Embodying the Words of Thomas Kelly Some wannabe disciples of Brother Lawrence (like me) are baffled by quotes like this from a book of his teachings, The Practice of the Presence of God:

Issue: On Words (November 2021)

Listening for the Yearly Epistle “We’re not really watching,” said a member of the Watching Committee several years ago.  “What we’re really doing is listening.” Not only was the term “listening” more accurate in describing the work of composing an epistle for our yearly meeting, it also struck a friendlier chord. Earlier generations of Friends no doubt had good reasons for the names they chose, but for us “Watching Committee” suggested an oppressive sense of authority as in “Big Brother is watching you.” So, we proposed, and Intermountain Yearly Meeting later approved, the name change to “Listening Committee.”

Issue: On Words (November 2021)

Serve The Land Words transmit ideas. Ideas found in sacred writings lead to ideals, and ideals lead to actions. I began life within faith traditions that venerate the Bible as the source for seeking and understanding God’s will. I’ve found some truth by that approach; but . . . have you ever read the Bible? It can be confusing, a confounding muddle, capable of twisting one’s mind into a tangled mess. And yet, there are also moments when Spirit opens a window on something profound. That’s what happened when I began examining context surrounding one small Hebrew word that’s written “abad” in the English alphabet. This word appears 290 times in the Old Testament, and mostly gets translated into English as “serve.” I came to realize that translations had short-circuited an ancient ideal that we need right now.

Issue: On Words (November 2021)

Friends for Racial Equity I had struggled before over whether to speak during worship, but this was different. It was near the close of worship, and a long-time member was sharing a folk tale from childhood. The story clearly moved him, and I can only imagine it was intended as a gift, a tender ministry for all of us in worship. But it was not a gift, at least not of the kind intended. The tale was of an enduring struggle between two iconic opposing figures – one evil, one good. On another morning, I might have let such a story drift in and out of my awareness, a familiar premise with no hint of a surprise ending. Instead, as I listened, I felt my body stiffen; [pullquote]I was paralyzed and mortified. Here it was, in a folk tale, in worship: racist ministry.[/pullquote]

Issue: On Cliques (September 2021)

News as Spiritual Exercise It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the torrents that flow from TV, radio, social media, and the occasional print publication. Vast arrays of information, persuasion, entertainment, and junk threaten our sanity. They can also condition our attitudes and perceptions in ways that we are not even aware of. As Friends, we want to engage with news media in ways that reflect our deepest values. But how?

Issue: On Cliques (September 2021)

Privilege and The Other (unabridged) [This article is abridged from a longer one, published online at https://westernfriend.org/media/privilege-and-other-unabridged.]

Issue: On Cliques (September 2021)

Sabbath Economics Sabbath economics offers an alternative approach to dominant paradigms of economic theory and practice. Theologian-educator Ched Myers coined the term “Sabbath economics” in the 1990s, drawing from the Torah standard of social and economic justice and based on God’s call to “keep the Sabbath” by alternating good work with periods of rest.

Issue: On Debt (July 2021)

Our Debt to America’s Indigenous A movement is spreading across the country to embed in many types of American cultural institutions a routine and repeated statement – verbal, written, or both – acknowledging that European culture displaced the landholdings of Indigenous peoples. Several Quaker monthly meetings now open each session with a verbal statement like this, as do some regional and yearly gatherings.

Issue: On Debt (July 2021)

Final Accounting: Carpe Mortem Kathleen Fitzgerald: The Women’s Group of Live Oak Friends Meeting has been gathering monthly for decades. We have shared and listened deeply through childbirth, parenting, partnering, unpartnering, changing jobs, changing everything, emptying nests, retiring, and finding our way with special regard to our testimonies.

Issue: On Debt (July 2021)

Fake News for Real Peace I have been a Friend for forty-five years. I started attending a few years after returning to the U.S. from a tour in Vietnam. It was a stressful time. We had two young children. At the encouragement of Charles and Mary Minor, we visited Flagstaff Friends Meeting on South Beaver Street, just off the campus of Northern Arizona University.

Issue: On Tricks (May 2021)

A Longing for Beauty On a narrow country road eleven miles north of Santa Barbara, California, you will spot the sign for Chumash Painted Cave State Historical Park. Stop and peer through the protective fencing into the small sandstone grotto by the side of the road, and you will see colorful wheel-like and ladder-like designs painted by native people several hundred to a thousand years ago. The figures may be shamanic designs, or they may be depictions of a solar eclipse that occurred in 1677. Nobody can be sure. To me, a nonexpert, they are striking examples of beauty from long ago, created to be seen.

Issue: On Tricks (May 2021)

Thoughts from a Loving Gadfly In January this year, I submitted an article to Western Friend about Friends and the “Beloved Community,” and I received the best rejection letter ever. The editor told me she tends to publish good news about Friends on the website, but wants the magazine to contain articles that “dig deeper into the quandaries, conflicts, values, etc., that underlie all the good work.” This seems like an editorial policy that will keep the magazine interesting and relevant.

Issue: On Tricks (May 2021)

The Show Goes Wrong The show goes wrong. This is my mantra as a pastor. My congregants hear me say it a lot, and it’s usually followed by a laugh. It’s not something I came up with myself. I give credit to Andy Dwyer, a character from the sitcom Parks and Rec. His “incorrect” version of “the show must go on” is actually far better than the original. His version is one to live by. I do not think there could be a more fitting maxim for a new pastor in the throes of a pandemic.

Issue: On Tricks (May 2021)

Illusions and Miracles Military forces in the 18th and 19th centuries employed a deceptive tactic called “the Quaker gun trick.” This involved using wooden cannon replicas, sometimes painted black, to trick an adversary into withdrawal or surrender – without a shot being fired. We are not talking Peace Testimony here, but perhaps Friendly Trickery – deception for the greater good of de-escalation.

Issue: On Tricks (May 2021)

Listening to the Silence I heard a message in our meeting once about learning to listen to the silence. I could not make any sense of it. I left it alone.

Issue: On Tricks (May 2021)

Wild Diversity As I sit in Quaker silence, my mind roams back over the wild places I know – icy cold snow falling all around me at a favorite mountain lake, trees I have held and spoken with, and vistas where my gaze enfolds itself into the hills and valleys far off and far below. Wilderness speaks itself deep in my soul. The untamed beauty of coastal shores and mountains run through my body and connect me to an energy bigger than myself. And though I don’t know what this energy is, I continue to step back towards it, wanting to find out.

Issue: On Relevance (March 2021)

Native Connections It helps to belong somewhere. Belonging can be quite healing.

Issue: On Relevance (March 2021)

The Gathered Meeting I began my spiritual journey toward “the gathered meeting” when my wife and I visited her youngest son in Durham, North Carolina, in January, 2018. While there, we attended Durham Friends Meeting one Sunday when maybe a hundred adults and thirty-five children were present. The meeting felt settled and centered. Early in the hour, someone offered a message about how important it is for Friends to follow the Light and be gathered, and about how important it is for Friends to take those two practices out into the world. The message was matter-of-fact, stated in words that were simple and direct. Several more messages followed, all of them tagging along with the first. I could feel that people trusted one another. I could feel that something huge was happening.

Issue: On Relevance (March 2021)

Soul Force This summer, MC Stoll and DJ Cole dropped the first track of our new album, Soul Force Ones (SF1s). It’s not music (though an SF1s spoken-word album is in development), but it’s recorded to a sort of spiritual harmony. What does that mean?

Issue: On Relevance (March 2021)

The Dreamer To dream Is to stand at the Gate of Creation, arms akimbo, one foot planted firmly at the Edge of Eternity. The other foot solidly moored In the Patterns of Reality. Your body humming with the Eternal Dichotomy of advancement and retreat as one’s life proceeds to the warm, unknowable embrace of non-being. To many, this journey can disappoint or it can be the final point in a masterful life.

Issue: On Vision (January 2021)

Cassandra 2020 Part faux Republican presidential campaign, part art project, with its candidate drawn from Greek mythology, Cassandra 2020 resists categorization. It has taken the form of community conversations, performance protest, video art, and guerilla sign-drops. It has been supported by a constant flux of contributors and co-creators, many of whom are also Quaker. It has sparked amusement, concern, scorn, joy, connection, and most importantly, curiosity.

Issue: On Vision (January 2021)

Next Year in Bunnytown A couple years ago, I took my white family to see the Langston Hughes production Black Nativity in a small church in a historically Black neighborhood in Portland. The pews were packed, and the performance space overflowed into the audience. We were specifically invited to sing and stand and move as we felt led. When, in the telling of Jesus’ birth, the lovingly wrapped black plastic baby doll was carried down the aisle, my four- and six-year-old kids whispered to me in awe “Hey, we know that guy!”

Issue: On Vision (January 2021)

Prophesy Who needs magic letter-counting or a network of psychic friends when the last poem I wrote was about seeing the face of God in the rind of an orange I had forgotten I’d left in a desk drawer the day before?

Issue: On Vision (January 2021)

A Drawer Full of Oranges Sliding forward, upward pucker soft and fresh, pore to first slick of spring dew.

Issue: On Vision (January 2021)

Win-Win-Win-Wins Not long into the COVID-19 lockdown of April 2020, I attended a video-conference headlined by Dahni Jones, an entrepreneur and former NFL linebacker. Jones brought his trademark energy and smile to his presentation, and he left me with a singular thought: “Don’t count the days; make the days count.”

Issue: On Rules (November 2020)

Confidence Friends follow rules both spoken and unspoken; these guide our practices and behaviors, and they change over time and distance. In some cases, rules may have been followed long ago for good reasons, but are no longer common practice now. Similarly, what is standard in one meeting might be unusual in another. We like to think we are generally responding to continuing revelation, but sometimes we are merely reflecting contemporary attitudes.

Issue: On Rules (November 2020)

Stuck in Punxsutawney, Again Whether they are cheerfully sort-of-deist or in-fact, stone-cold, out-and-out Jesus Freaks, Quakers of a certain generation, across the spectrum, agree that the movie Groundhog Day is scripture. Today, with all of us living Groundhog Day all the time during COVID, Friends are advised to share this scripture with newcomers. “Here,” you want to say, “Just watch this on Amazon Prime about three times and see if it doesn’t go all meta on you.” The meta part, of course, is where it turns out we’re all Phil Connors, the protagonist of the movie, who is stuck in an endlessly repeating day and an endlessly repeating script.

Issue: On Rules (November 2020)

Quaker Worship and Intentional Design The best college class I ever took was called “Design” and was offered by the Art Department at the University of Oregon during the summer of 1967. There were two sections. One section had a textbook, and studied things like color theory and perspective. By some lucky chance I ended up in the other section, taught by Dr. Stannard, a gifted artist and potter of worldwide renown.

Issue: On Rules (November 2020)

The Parable of the Bowls Once there were three women, each in her own kitchen.

Issue: On Teachers (September 2020)

The Miracle Teacher Much to my surprise, back in the late 1980s, my body taught me that running for exercise is fun.

Issue: On Teachers (September 2020)

A Psalm The Lord is my Prodder I want way more than I need. E pushes me down to lie in the mud. E drags me beside still waters and dunks my head. E drags me down the paths of righteousness griping and complaining for E’s sake. I cower and whimper as I walk near death. I remember with fear the evil I have done. Eu prod me with your pointy stick. Eu prepare a table where I watch my enemies eat the food I crave. Eu pour oil on me, ruining my shoes. My life will probably continue to suck. Until I say yes.

Issue: On Teachers (September 2020)

Twenty Nickels Make a Dollar Although I thought I had gone to medical school to become a clinician, it turns out now, twenty-plus years into my medical career, that I actually went to become a teacher. Early on, it became apparent that others viewed me as a good teacher. I did indeed enjoy teaching, so I chose to become a physician teacher of resident physicians and medical students, a role I have filled for the last sixteen years.

Issue: On Teachers (September 2020)

Staying Connected with Our Children The school year is about to begin. Parents and school districts are making decisions about what is best for children in the midst of a pandemic, anxiously weighing health risks against social and mental health benefits, deciding between distance learning and in-person, socially distanced learning. We are facing these same kinds of decisions in our Quaker meetings, as we yearn for social connection and consider our options. As we consider our adult needs and capacities, let’s also remember to ask ourselves: What are we doing to stay connected with our Quaker children and families? How are we attentive to their spiritual needs?

Issue: On Teachers (September 2020)

Radical Vulnerability Revisited In moving from Claremont to Los Angeles this year, one of the hardest transitions has been to try to get used to the little signs that my new neighbors post in front of their houses: PROTECTED BY XXX SECURITY SYSTEM – ARMED RESPONSE. After ten months, I still flinch each time I see these signs. They weigh on my heart as constant reminders that we don’t quite trust each other, that we’re not quite ready to be in community.

Issue: On Secrets (July 2020)

Worship by Approximation Calm your mind. Breathe. Take a deep breath. Let it out. What’s on my shopping list? Breathe. Take a deep breath. What’s going on in the world? Is my family okay? Breathe. Take a deep breath.

Issue: On Secrets (July 2020)

Secret Sauce Sometimes, “our world needs us to share secret delights and the secret recipes that feed our souls. This special soul food is ‘a revealing, guiding and discerning aspect of God’s presence within,’” says Doug Gwyn in Words in Time, Sink Down to the Seed (1996).

Issue: On Secrets (July 2020)

Disclosures and Wonder Recently, I joined a new group on social media and was asked to introduce myself, to say a bit about where I was from, and to share a little-known fact about myself. Immediately, I started sorting through personal details. Should I pick something big – share about my family, say, or my work? Or open with something small – my favorite ice cream flavor?

Issue: On Secrets (July 2020)

“That of God” Within As a practicing Jew who has worshipped with Quakers for the past thirty years, I have deeply appreciated the fundamental belief that every person has “that of God” within. Both Judaism and Quakerism assert that all persons are made in the divine image. Quakers try to see God, or godliness, or goodness, in others, even in the most difficult human interactions. But my most recent reading of the Hebrew Bible has challenged me to discover a new formulation, which I want to explore here.

Issue: On Secrets (July 2020)

Meditation, Worship, Science In 1969 in Seattle, getting help from the American Friends Service Committee on my application for conscientious objector status, I went upstairs to see what the Quakers were about. That Sunday meeting was my first experience of mindful meditation. “We sit in silence and listen for thoughts from God,” they told me. I liked the silence, and I liked that there was no dogma, but I didn’t believe in God. Even so, what people said in Quaker meeting made more sense than anything I was hearing anywhere else. I remember sitting in meeting the first few times, checking each thought that entered my mind: Is this one from God? It was pretty clear that hardly any were candidates for consideration.

Issue: On Secrets (July 2020)

Alchemy A spoonful of pure gold Needs a roomful of ore:       Dug, crushed, ground,       Reacted, leached, extracted,       Purified with electricity, with fire.

Issue: On Secrets (July 2020)

A Vision from 2050 Thirty years ago this spring, we faced a global pandemic. Over the course of just a few weeks, all of our schools shut down, restaurants and bars closed, movie theaters went dark, and tens of thousands of businesses were shuttered because of a contagious virus. We watched real-life horror stories: people dying in hospital hallways, morgues beyond capacity, and a health care system completely unequipped to meet the needs of working doctors and nurses. The formal economy tanked.

Issue: On Wealth (May 2020)

In the Living of These Days Nothing has made me more appreciative of being alive every day than being a hospital chaplain to the sick and dying.

Issue: On Wealth (May 2020)

John Woolman’s Remedies for a Disease Until a century ago, the term “consumption” referred to the disease we now call tuberculosis (TB). The understanding was that the illness consumed the lungs, which was why people got a persistent cough and eventually coughed up blood. “Consumptive” people were often sent to sanatoriums in the hope of healing and to prevent the spread of the disease to others, but most died. There was no effective medical treatment until the mid-twentieth century. TB is now rare in the United States though it is still a problem in many poorer countries, including Honduras, where I live. At the same time, another type of disease called “consumption” has fully infected wealthy countries like the U.S. and is quickly spreading to other parts of the world. This is the disease of consuming too many products. I am afraid that, without adequate treatment, this illness will continue to consume individuals and societies until all good qualities in our cultures die.

Issue: On Wealth (May 2020)

On the Side of the Rebel Jesus During my year of spiritual service with Quaker Voluntary Service (QVS), Jesus’s teachings became much more relevant to my life. I began to notice how his message relates to facets of my life that once seemed separate from my spirituality – in particular, my activism. Being introduced to the topic of liberation theology during my time in this program opened up a new window through which I could look at the world.

Issue: On Wealth (May 2020)

Peace through Pieces Several years ago, a co-worker gave me a little book entitled Things I Learned about God from Quilting. I laughed, and thought I could have written this book. So, here are a few of the things I’ve learned and a story or two.

Issue: On Art (March 2020)

The Fancy Sunday Hat We have one Friend in our Quaker meeting who often comes to worship in a highly-colored and carefully put-together outfit, including an ornate Sunday hat. This is unusual for an unprogrammed meeting.

Issue: On Art (March 2020)

Singing in Quaker Worship Recently, I visited Herndon Friends Meeting in northern Virginia. (I live in Culver City, California, and am Clerk of Santa Monica Friends Meeting). My wife and I were visiting two of our granddaughters, and I skipped away to attend worship.

Issue: On Art (March 2020)

Olive Rush and Her Legacy In 1966, the small Quaker meeting in Santa Fe, New Mexico, was bequeathed its current home, the historic house and garden of the painter Olive Rush. It is already an unlikely occurrence for a Quaker meeting to have a patron, and even more so, for the benefactor to be an artist, given Friends’ long history of disparaging the arts as frivolous and vain. Thus, Santa Fe Meeting’s relationship with our “patron” is unique and has been a source of pride, as well as of controversy.

Issue: On Art (March 2020)

Visual Ministry Something about the process of capturing, editing, printing, and viewing images often leads me to think beyond the subject itself, to search what other meanings might be suggested by the subject matter, the lighting, the mood, or arrangement of items in the composition. When the process is internal, I think of it as offering visual queries. Sometimes, when I hang prints in the meetinghouse for others to see, I imagine the process as being visual ministry.

Issue: On Art (March 2020)

Quakers and Conflict In your Quaker meeting, you may have experienced events similar to these: a Friend doesn’t want to be on a committee with another Friend due to a past conflict; two Friends complain about a third party, whom they find to be impossible (yes, it does happen); a Friend speaks up in business meeting about a conflict that is going on, and no one responds or takes any follow-up action.

Issue: On Mediation (January 2020)

Appreciative Eldering When I first got involved in Friends Meetings, I was fortunate to have a number of role models and elders to guide my first steps into this society, which was foreign to the world I had known. I felt immediately that I was a Quaker and that I had been one for years before discovering a meeting. But learning the Quaker jargon took a while. Some of it seemed so natural because it fit so well, but some of it required absorbing new processes and new ways of looking at the community life. I did some of that learning by osmosis, some by asking questions, and some by getting help from more experienced Friends.

Issue: On Mediation (January 2020)

More Powerful than the Grave As a hospital chaplain, I met Mrs. Corrigan in an office adjacent to her oncologist’s office. She had just been talking with him about her terminal illness and about non-curative, comfort-care plans. Mrs. Corrigan was facing the end of her life from a metastatic form of cancer. As a patient now living at home, she had previously undergone many surgeries, radiation treatments, and chemotherapy. She had indicated that she wanted to see a chaplain for a series of spiritual care visits.

Issue: On Separation (November 2019)

The Light, Then v. Now Earlier this year, I attended a program at Ben Lomond Quaker Center on “Quaker Revival,” led by Paul Buckley. Paul is a Quaker historian and theologian who lives in Cincinnati and is affiliated with Ohio Yearly Meeting. He translated William Penn’s Primitive Christianity Revived into modern English in 2018.

Issue: On Separation (November 2019)

Listening Beyond Words I travel to Moscow each year to participate in the annual meeting of the International Board of Friends House Moscow and visit the programs we support. I also attend Moscow Meeting for Worship. It generally draws a visitor or two plus the usual core of three-to-five regulars, including a Russian Orthodox priest who uses Quaker materials in discussion groups in his church.

Issue: On Separation (November 2019)

Martha and Mary There is a short story in Luke’s gospel about two sisters, Martha and Mary. One way people have often found meaning in this story is to see Martha and Mary as representative of two “ways” of spirituality – the contemplative way (Mary) and the active way (Martha). The idea being not that one is more important than the other but that they are both essential, each “way” to be held in balance, enriching the other.

Issue: On Separation (November 2019)

We Are All One Like many Quakers, my beliefs and responses to the world have been challenged by the political chaos of recent years. It is hard for me to see children separated from their parents, public wilderness areas sacrificed to corporate interests, and the dearth of compassion or humane feelings shown by many politicians and bureaucrats. I have found myself being pulled into adversarial attitudes that I know I do not believe in.

Issue: On Separation (November 2019)

Our Neighborhood Once there was a broad forest. Once there was a deep field With horses and barbed wire. The grave of a fallen house now just Depression abandoned by settlers. Lilacs bloomed to mark the outhouse.

Issue: On Neighbors (September 2019)

Seek to Truly See I was in my last semester of grad school, sitting in a café, repressing a broken heart, and working on my thesis. After several hours of non-stop reading and writing, I started to feel a deep sense of despair. My head spun. My breath became heavier. I paused and took a step back from myself. Right then I did an online search for “Maintaining an everyday relationship with God.” Before I saw the results, something told me, “Look up.” Right out the window, I saw two young men in black pants and short-sleeved white shirts: Mormon missionaries. I rushed outside and said to them, “Hey there, I need to talk to you!”

Issue: On Neighbors (September 2019)

From "Spacious" I carry time like a tune in my head A murmuring metronome of which I’m unaware – But once,Under deep anesthetic It grew silent And I awoke not knowing Quite what day it was.

Issue: On Control (July 2019)

Open the Channel To celebrate the release of my third solo album, I played a big concert (of course). This was in 2016. I remember the nearly sold-out crowd gathering in the swanky Portland club and me, sitting in the back stairwell behind the stage, trying desperately not to barf, trying to ground back into my shaking-with-adrenaline body. Part of my difficulty lay in knowing that the people buying cocktails and chatting with their friends were there for a little Saturday night entertainment, while I was there to do battle – a spiritual warrior, fighting my way through self-doubt, fear, and a broken culture’s demands that I be small and obedient and perfect.

Issue: On Control (July 2019)

Prayer I don’t know if you are real and I don’t want to be fooled anymore, letting myself be born into beliefs that are both wrong and profoundly harmful – two-edged sword slicing my insides as it tears stranger into enemy.

Issue: On Control (July 2019)

That of God in Research

In the September/October 2018 issue of Western Friend, “On Children,” I wrote about my experiences as a Child Protective Services (CPS) social worker. Much of what I described about investigating child abuse concerned “control.” For example, my Quaker practices of listening in silence and discernment helped me “learn the rules so you can break them properly,“ as the Dalai Lama recommends. “The rules” in this case were Washington State’s Child Protection Laws and the policies of CPS, which attempt to control the behavior of parents by enforcing norms to restrict physical discipline of children and to achieve minimum levels of care. Those enforcement structures are the stick. The carrots used to control families are the programs that CPS offers to help them, as well as the refuge in foster homes that CPS offers to children when parents fail. Unfortunately, social workers can cause harm when they fail to use judgment and discernment in applying the laws appropriately in each unique situation. As Parker Palmer so beautifully describes, one of the paradoxes of life is that both control and spontaneous creativity are necessary for human flourishing.

Issue: On Control (July 2019)

A Personal History with Korea Like many Friends, I was a Peace Corps volunteer in my youth. The Peace Corps Act includes three goals for volunteers: do a job, introduce host country locals to a U.S. young person (usually young), and bring an awareness of the host country’s culture and history back to the U.S. Of those three goals, far and away the most difficult has been that last one. Family and friends typically enjoy hearing a few stories, seeing a few pictures (even a slide show back in the day), but any in-depth thinking about the volunteer’s host country is rare. I’ve used a number of venues to talk about my host country, Korea. Now, with the current political situation, I feel again the need to share my thoughts and what I’ve learned over the years. This is a task made much more difficult by the strongly negative portrayal of the northern part of Korea today. [pullquote]Please notice that I will not use the terms “North Korea” and “South Korea,” as no countries exist with those names.[/pullquote]

Issue: On Puzzles (April 2019)

Service – A Gateway to Fulfillment The question of how to have a fulfilling existence during our short time on earth is especially significant in contemporary society. Many of us find that we struggle much less than our ancestors did for survival and basic necessities. We don’t have tigers chasing us, or wolves bothering us. As a result, when our short-term survival is not on the line, our prefrontal cortexes can direct their energies to questions of long-term happiness.

Issue: On Puzzles (April 2019)

A Quakerly Dance Form Two years ago, I was sitting in a circle of dancers practicing Contact Improvisation. The session started with all of us breathing together, waiting together, and listening for one of us to talk about something that connected the speaker to dance in a deep way. I was suddenly reminded of Quaker meeting for worship.

Issue: On Puzzles (April 2019)

Quaker Time – A Friendly Logic Puzzle Plaintown Friends is a small monthly meeting that has spent several recent business meetings laboring over a concern about late arrivals to worship. The meeting struggled for unity. “Late arrivals disrupt the Silence.” “Tardiness is disrespectful to those who are already gathered.” “We should lock the doors after worship has begun.” “It’s all I can do to get my kids out the door in the morning. If we must be prompt, we can’t attend.”

Issue: On Puzzles (April 2019)

River Magic “I started studying rivers pretty late in life,” says the ebullient voice of my mid-20s-research-technician-self. “Actually, I got a master’s degree in Forestry first.”

Issue: On Water (March 2019)

Desert Church The broad brim of my plain hat shades my face and neck from the relentless Arizona sun as my old mule packer’s boots crunch along a dry creek bed. A small band of us, strangers just days before, are holding what my journal describes as “Meeting for Worship on the Occasion of the Sonoran Desert.” We are a delegation of the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). Our ages span five decades, we are more women than men, we are citizens of four nations, and our faith walks include Judaism, agnosticism, secular humanism, Quakerism, Roman Catholicism, evangelical Christianity, Buddhism, and neo-paganism. We are a motley crew, and not just theologically.

Issue: On Water (March 2019)

Poems from Before the Monsoon The Bellagio casino glimmers above a round blue lake. Outside the Tropicana waterfalls pour over fake rocks.

Issue: On Water (March 2019)

Ten Days Ten days a wisp of smoke from one ancestral strum to the next distant guitar on the horizon stark like a city sunset.

Issue: On Weapons (January 2019)

Peace with Frisbees Ultimate Peace, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that runs a summer sports camp, teaching ultimate frisbee to Muslim and Jewish teenagers near Ashkelon, at the edge of the Negev Desert in Israel, about eight miles from the Gaza Strip. For many years, I have helped to manage this organization from afar and have long been inspired by stories of Jewish and Muslim teenagers meeting each other, building relationships, and learning how to resolve their disagreements peacefully. But, after being asked to assume a greater leadership role, I felt that I had to see it for myself. My son, Aidan Murphy, had just graduated from college, and the timing was perfect.

Issue: On Weapons (January 2019)

Amor Fati Paradox defined: “Items and situations that seem mutually exclusive, yet somehow reflect upon each other, often creating a deeper, more nuanced truth, perhaps in dynamic tension, or complementing each other.” Like a Quaker serving in the military. I lived that paradox intermittently for seven years while serving in the reserves during medical school and residency. Then I lived it full-time during four years of active duty, which started when I completed my medical training in 2000. My first year of active duty seemed pretty benign, then 9/11/2001 happened, and my situation instantly became truly “military.” I faced impending deployment to “the sandbox,” the Middle East. 

Issue: On Weapons (January 2019)

A Thousand Times, Come The room was dimly lit. I was one of fifty dancers standing in a circle, shoulder to shoulder, holding hands. Our leader, Johnathan, stood in the middle of the circle with his guitar. He said he was going to lead us in a practice to experience the aspect of God that existed before time began.

Issue: On Mixture (November 2018)

Self-Compassion and Quakers Like many others, I was drawn to the Religious Society of Friends by its compassionate work with people in need. As an undergraduate in the 1960s, I witnessed that compassion first-hand by participating in several AFSC projects, including visiting mental-hospital patients in the Bay Area and working with disadvantaged children during Freedom Summer in Memphis, Tennessee. Those experiences inspired my later career as a child psychologist. Yet almost from the beginning, I have found it difficult to live up to Friends’ idealism; and over the years, I have grown to perceive among Friends a hidden, unmet need – for self-compassion.

Issue: On Mixture (November 2018)

In Memory of Mary Dyer The martial music plays, bronzed alive only the invisible songs survive to fuse two sculptures in a final swoon singing today’s melodies of hope and doom, the Holy Spirit’s breath whispering between them as Mary Dyer speaks to the Colonel’s men, urging them to ascend to Jesus once again, chanting songs of the beginning and the end

Issue: On Mixture (November 2018)

Soledad Worship Group In the five years I have lived in California, the deepest public worship experiences I have had, without a doubt, have been during my two visits to the Soledad Worship Group. This group is the “best-kept secret” in Pacific Yearly Meeting. There you find Friends with faith strong enough to humble you on the spot. I believe the worship in Soledad is especially deep both because many of its members are committed to personal transformation and because their circumstances require them to hand their lives over to God (however named), which is what it takes to truly hear the Word, to become Christ-like, and to experience covered meetings.

Issue: On Mixture (November 2018)

The Strengthening Power of Discomfort A friend of mine bicycled 2,700 miles this summer along the Continental Divide. In an article she wrote for the Fairbanks Daily News Miner (8/12/2018), she said, “When doing endurance races, I have a question I ask myself when I want to quit: ‘Am I in danger or just uncomfortable?’ If I’m just uncomfortable, I tell myself to keep going. Things will get better. And they usually do.”

Issue: On Mixture (November 2018)

What is Tribe? I was living in the Mua Hills of Kenya in 1969, an area where the Kamba tribe is predominant. One day I was walking down the road and noticed a group of Maasai – the Kenyan tribe beloved by tourists – at the home of a local villager. Kamba and Maasai cultures are quite different from each other. The Kamba care for small farms – growing corn, beans, bananas, and other crops, along with a few cows, goats, sheep, and chickens. The Maasai are a pastoral people who traditionally raised cattle and lived off them, including drinking their blood.

Issue: On Children (September 2018)

Faith in Our Youngest Friends Last summer I sat in circle of Friends at the annual retreat of the Quaker Religious Education Collaborative (QREC) and felt profoundly that I had come home to my people. It is gratifying to be with Friends who, like me, want to dedicate their time and energy to the religious education of our youngest Friends, starting from infancy. This has been my leading for the past decade – to nurture the youngest Friends among us.

Issue: On Children (September 2018)

God, The Father Oh, Apparition! I sit, head in hands, Struggling with the personhood of God.

Issue: On Bosses (July 2018)

The Inner Boss I have had the privilege to spend my life attending to leadings of Spirit. My young adult years were largely spent living very simply, moving from an internship to an activist position to part-time jobs in the non-profit and education sectors, which allowed me to follow my own artistic leadings while paying attention to what might be next. I had the benefit of spiritual mentors who sometimes also happened to be my bosses and jobs in which I had little supervision and much freedom to live into my leadings. My spiritual life as a Quaker and my work life were closely intertwined, and were often also intertwined with my personal life as well. I co-founded an activist and ecumenical intentional community during this period.

Issue: On Bosses (July 2018)

A Scientist’s View on Space and Spirituality The earliest moment I remember struggling with the overlap of outer space and religion was when I was watching a Space Shuttle launch. I noticed that the shuttle didn’t go through a part of the atmosphere that was called “Heaven.” In that moment, I had a very difficult internal argument – I couldn’t decide which to believe in, space travel or God. Years later, I’m now a college student studying Aerospace Engineering, and I’m still struggling with that decision.

Issue: On Expansion (May 2018)

Race and Quakerism The first time I was confronted with my identity as a “Brown Woman” was my first trip to North Pacific Yearly Meeting (NPYM). I had never experienced such a direct external approach to my skin color before. My family celebrated my adoption day as a family holiday. We went back to India to see my heritage history, and I was raised with some Indian cultural education, but my racial background wasn’t ever the first characteristic that came to mind when examining my personal identity. The welcome I received because of my brown skin from the Quakers was both amazingly compassionate and entirely unsettling. At that time, I had only just begun to explore this part of my identity. As an extension of this experience, I began to pay more attention to race relations within the Quaker community, and the struggles of different races around the U.S.

Issue: On Expansion (May 2018)

Somewhere in My Youth Mike Paul Michaels began his life among the littler folk in 1963 at Pacific Oaks Children’s School, founded by Friends. His journey has included teaching and living among children and their families in five cultures on three continents. He attends Friends House Worship Group in Santa Rosa, CA, and is a member of Orange Grove Meeting in Pasadena, CA (PYM).

Issue: On Expansion (May 2018)

Journey to the Heart of Worship Many Quaker meetings prepare cards or brochures to introduce newcomers to Quaker worship and the meeting. One of my favorites is a tri-fold brochure from Strawberry Creek Meeting in Berkeley, California, which describes meeting for worship in straightforward terms:

Issue: On Expansion (May 2018)

Essential Listening It is often said that music is a language; some say it is the universal language. As with any language, the spaces are essential. Without spaces on the printed page or pauses in speaking, we couldn’t understand what is being said. Likewise, silence is the canvas we paint our music upon.

Issue: On Music (March 2018)

Into Beauty Drawings by Laurie Childers (lauriechilders.com), who is a musician, artist, and member of Corvallis Friends Meeting in Corvallis, OR (NPYM).

Issue: On Music (March 2018)

Quaker Composer When the English composer Solomon Eccles became a Quaker around 1665, he sold or gave away all his musical instruments and all his printed music. Then, fearful that by doing so he had led the recipients morally astray, he bought everything back, carried it to the top of London’s Temple Hill, stomped it to pieces, and set it all on fire.

Issue: On Music (March 2018)

Celebration of Garbage (corrected) Anthony Manousos is a member of Orange Grove Meeting in Pasadena, CA (PYM).

Issue: On Captivity (January 2018)

God Came to Visit Rick Ells is a member of University Meeting in Seattle, WA (NPYM).

Issue: On Captivity (January 2018)

Unbalanced Claudette Cervinka is a member of Davis Meeting in California (PYM).

Issue: On Captivity (January 2018)

Sanctuary in Mancos How peaceful it is to take an evening walk along Grand Avenue in Mancos, a little community of fourteen hundred people, nestled in the Mancos Valley of southwest Colorado! The sunset’s glow is reflected off the La Plata Mountains to the east, and shadows begin to shroud Mesa Verde in the west.

Issue: On Captivity (January 2018)

Two Borders, Two Border Walls Some call this place the Holy Land. Some call it the Middle East, some Israel, others Palestine. At the Qumran archeological site in the West Bank, the chalk cliffs are steep and rugged. Yet the desert light brings out delicate hues – buff, pink, peach. The land shimmers in the heat, very much like the desert land of my home near Tucson, Arizona. Both places hold the steady vibration of an abiding, sacred Presence. The air is still, breathless, as if ancient wisdom awaits the return of faithful people.

Issue: On Captivity (January 2018)

Activists, Advocates, Human Beings Most young adults hold little doubt that we were born into and continue to exist in a world where systems of domination – racism, classism, sexism, etc. – create hierarchies of worth and power that segregate our communities. These systems ground our experiences in fear and suspicion of others, and often, fear and suspicion of ourselves. Oppressive systems are manifest in our institutions, communities, relationships, and inner lives. They stymie our attempts at creating a just and equitable society, healthy and loving relationships and communities, and radical, deep, compassionate lives.

Issue: On Captivity (January 2018)

What’s Not to Like about Quakers? During clearness committees with people applying for membership to our meeting, we typically come to a point in the conversation when we ask the applicant, “What questions do you have for us about Quakers and the meeting?” At one such moment recently, the applicant hesitated, seemingly lost for words. Then she exclaimed, “I have one! What do you like least about being a Quaker?”

Issue: On Garbage (November 2017)

Rumpelstiltskin Yes, I make necklaces out of old soda bottles and credit cards. I could say that my jewelry-making is about good stewardship of the environment, and that might be technically true. If I make a necklace from a soda bottle, it doesn’t go into the landfill as fast. I could say it’s about simplicity because I don’t need to buy anything before creating. But neither of those reasons are why I create out of trash. 

Issue: On Garbage (November 2017)

Who Left their Dishes in the Sink? I began exploring my spiritual path through Buddhist meditation in my early twenties. Since that time, I have attended five weeklong, silent, Buddhist retreats. These were pivotal to my spiritual growth and developing self-awareness. My last one was in December, and I realized two things. First, to be in silence is a practice that gives me the space and grounding I need to seek authentic wholeness and to strive to align my life with a higher purpose. Second, I realized that because I knew no one at these silent retreats, I was essentially surrounded by strangers, and I left with unsettling feelings of emptiness. In the last decade, I have grown to love the continuous community of Quakers. Recently, I have been feeling more guided to keep my spirituality contained within Quakerism, as it is my home.

Issue: On Home (September 2017)

Raising Children in a Quaker Home Quakerism is a spiritual journey. It is a search for understanding. It is a search to find The Way. This search expands into our parenting. Parenting is a search for understanding of how to live with and guide our children.

Issue: On Home (September 2017)

Return to the Farm Eleanor Dart is an author and psychotherapist and a lifelong Quaker. She is a member of Pima Friends Meeting in Tucson, AZ (IMYM).

Issue: On Home (September 2017)

Minute on Fear and Healing Thirty-seven of us met for the Montana Gathering of Friends, February 24-26, 2017, at Camp Make-a-Dream in Gold Creek, Montana, and something profound and deeply moving happened. As a community, we felt a deep and insistent calling during Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business. The Clerk put aside most of the planned agenda, allowing Friends to worship together. We reflected on our own fear as well as the fear we see in response to the rise of hate and violence in our communities, and the targeting of many who are being labeled as different by their race, ethnicity, immigration status, gender identity, or sexual orientation, religion and political beliefs. The following Minute rose out of this Meeting.

Issue: On Politics (July 2017)

Pro-Woman Practice and Policy For most of my medical career, I worked in family planning, providing contraceptive care so that children could be planned, loved, and supported. I also performed abortions when contraception failed. For forty years, I have been supported in this work by my Quaker beliefs.

Issue: On Politics (July 2017)

The Landscape of Sanctuary Albuquerque Monthly Meeting is “positioned” in a cultural and political landscape, but I can no more see our position in that landscape than I can see the position of our planet in the Milky Way, or the back of my own head. I can see that our meetinghouse sits on a one-way street in a valley separating the Sandia Mountains on the east from the Mesa on the west. Ask me about the minutiae of operating a sanctuary in a Quaker meetinghouse, and I can hold forth. Ask me about our position in the political landscape, and I find myself in a vortex of questions: What is sanctuary? What is political? What is a landscape?

Issue: On Politics (July 2017)

Finding Balance with MS I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) four months after I completed a 150-mile bike ride for the American Lung Association. I was thirty-one years old. Two years later, I had to stop working. Soon, I could no longer identify with anyone I knew. It seemed like everyone was either having babies or working. I was doing neither.

Issue: On Balance (May 2017)

Embedded in Two Cultures with AFSC My first job at the American Friends Service Committee was in 1965, when Self-Help Enterprises was being created. This was also my first real experience working with white people, as opposed to working for them, although at the tender age of nineteen, I still did not realize that. I have gone through many emotions – some even tearful – as I recalled my youth and my work while writing this article. As the daughter of a farmworker, I have been confronted with the typical things around racism, feminism, classism, etc., during my youth and into my adult life. It was, in fact, not too many years ago when I decided not to let those things rule my life.

Issue: On Balance (May 2017)

Here Sleep Dragons As a young man, I joined the Peace Corps and served in Morocco for two and a half years. One day I found myself sitting in a café in Rabat, my mind in a swirl, as I looked at the equally swirling street scene. I was trying and trying to figure things out and just couldn’t. I sat there feeling lost and helpless, with a rising sense of panic. Then I began to laugh at the ridiculousness of my situation. Giving up the thought that I could make sense of it, I plunged back into the chaos of the day, no better off than before.

Issue: On Insight (March 2017)

Time Crystals Recent research at the University of College Park, Maryland, has resulted in the observation of a form of matter that was previously only theorized. This discovery may open up a new basis for understanding the universe, while echoing ancient knowledge. This newly observed form of matter has been called “time crystals” to connote structured patterns of atoms that repeat in both space and time.

Issue: On Insight (March 2017)

Quaker Water There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?” – David Foster Wallace, This is Water (2009)

Issue: On Insight (March 2017)

The Practice of the Presence Presence is something I cannot fully describe or understand, informing my life and experience even though it is beyond words. It is a grounding, a solace, a push and shove, a challenge to the status quo. My call to dwell in Presence makes me one of the “peculiar people” and may set me apart even from others who call themselves Quaker. Seeking or being open to Presence gives me hope – hope for self, for others, for the planet. It gives me a sense of knowing that what I see in the material world is only a part of Truth.

Issue: On Insight (March 2017)

Prophets on the Field of Play Competition has a bleak reputation among Friends. It brings out extremes in people, and Friends are inclined toward moderation. For some competitors, the demands of adversity arouse a vile nature in them, and Friends would rather ignore our shadow sides. However, for most of us, particularly most children and youth, our most extreme selves also express the best in us.

Issue: On Competition (January 2017)

Competing to Find Out As a religious pacifist, I have learned a great deal on the battlegrounds of competition.

Issue: On Competition (January 2017)

A Deeper Understanding of Racism Racism no longer hides below the surface in our country. It has broken out into the open boldly, loudly, and deadly – and not only here in the USA but also around the world. With social media and video cameras in nearly everyone’s hands, we see the violence of racism daily in our own cities, towns, and neighborhoods. And all the while, the USA admonishes other countries for their lack of human rights and abuses of authority.

Issue: On Flesh (November 2016)

The Confluence of Body, Mind, and Soul The coming together (“confluence”) of Friends in silent worship is a rare and precious human experience. Even if other creatures have their equivalent merging with the Divine, Quaker worship is a distinctly human thing to do. It draws upon capabilities inherent in our human bodies, including built-in social senses usually active in family relationships and tribal rituals (like supporting your team in a ball game).

Issue: On Flesh (November 2016)

Mindfulness and Quaker Worship In meeting for worship, we center down, listen to vocal ministry, discern authentic vocal ministry, and hold people in the Light. The practice of mindfulness helps me with all of these. Also, if it weren’t for my mindfulness practice, I probably would have had to abandon Quakerism decades ago.

Issue: On Flesh (November 2016)

Workout, the Counterpoise to Worship Electronics has been good to me for nearly fifty years. My early interest in it inspired me to pay attention to my math and science courses in junior high and high school. I got an amateur radio license when I was fifteen, studied physics and electronics for two years in college, then started as a mid-level technician in a large electronics company near Portland, Oregon – a career move that resulted in my bachelor’s degree taking twenty-one years to complete. I shifted between teaching and engineering after obtaining a master’s degree in teacher education, and the last twelve years have been back in engineering, this time with the U.S. Forest Service.

Issue: On Flesh (November 2016)

A Science of Quaker Practice I have explored a lot of Quaker writings, and I also enjoy participating in Quaker practices such as silent worship, worship sharing, and business meetings (yes, those too). At the same time, as a person with a science background, I often find myself exploring books on neuroscience, evolution, and related topics, and I try to sort out how our Quaker ways relate to current findings by scientists in such fields. I see at least four human abilities under scientific research that relate to our Quaker practices:

Issue: On Flesh (November 2016)

Body-Mind-Spirit Preparation Over the last few years, I have been clarifying a spiritual practice that has been a part of my life for some time, but which I have only recently been able to articulate. My time as clerk of my monthly meeting these last couple of years has helped me to understand it as a necessary part of what I do to keep myself spiritually balanced and present.

Issue: On Flesh (November 2016)

The Message is the Message Marshall McLuhan, the late Canadian media philosopher, famously proclaimed, “The medium is the message.” For Quakers, the silent presence found in worship has no medium for its message. The message IS the message.

Issue: On Media (September 2016)

The Media of Ministry A familiar scene: Bright morning sunlight streams in through the glass of paint-chipped windows of a Friends’ meetinghouse, a simple room filled with wooden benches and quiet people. Someone rises to speak, trembling under the weight of God’s message, embodying our long-standing nickname, “Quaker.” Then the speaker’s words set off a wave of smirking and eye-rolling: “I read in the New York Times this morning . . .” And we wonder, did this Friend really receive a message from the Inner Light about the opinion pages? Are they maybe a bit too fond of their own voice? A bit too fixated on their favorite world issue?

Issue: On Media (September 2016)

Quaker Radio Perhaps you know the joke, “What do you get when you cross a Jehovah’s Witness with a Quaker? Someone who knocks on your door and then refuses to speak to you.” At the same time that we want to create the Peaceable Kingdom, we’re a bit hesitant about making too big a deal about the event, figuring others need to find their own way to it, without us being too pushy.

Issue: On Media (September 2016)

The Joyful Quaker After sitting quietly through her memorial service

Issue: On Heritage (July 2016)

What is the Light? George Fox described himself during his early adulthood as “a man of sorrows in the times of the first workings of the Lord in me.” Shortly later, he stated, “After this did a pure fire appear in me, a spiritual discerning came into me.” By the following year, while he was 24, a major transformation had occurred, “In the year 1648, as I was sitting in a Friend’s house . . . I saw there was a great crack to go throughout the earth, and a great smoke to go as the crack went, and that after the crack, there should be a great shaking. This was the earth in people’s hearts which was to be shaken before the Seed of God was to be raised out of the earth . . . and great meetings we began to have.” He discerned the reason for this change was because “the Lord God had opened to me by his invisible power how every man was enlightened by the divine Light of Christ; and I saw it shine through all.”

Issue: On Heritage (July 2016)

Axis Becalmed Dedicated to Laurie Seymour, who has spurred my creativity, February 3, 2016.

Issue: On Heritage (July 2016)

Shining Light on Anti-Semitism American Friends Service Committee is encouraging Friends and others to support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign (BDS) until Israel complies with international law to treat Palestinians fairly. I am happy with that, since I work with Jewish Voice for Peace on this issue. However, when I speak about BDS, I often find people are reluctant to support it because they want to avoid anti-Semitism. I point out to them that Jewish Voice for Peace stands as a reminder to the larger world that criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitic.

Issue: On Heritage (July 2016)

Some Notes on Quaker Speech When Quakerism originated in the 17th century, English pronouns in all groups, with one major exception, had already achieved the forms we use today:

Issue: On Heritage (July 2016)

Who We Are Heritage is an inheritance, a kind of gift, good or bad, we receive from the past – cannot avoid receiving, since it’s ingrained in our character and being. Even when we may not recognize it or admit it (and especially if we do), it’s an essential element in who we are. As Quakers, we carry our generally unwritten heritage forward, especially in unprogrammed meetings. We do not subscribe to any dogma, governing us from the top down. Times change, and we change with the times, trying to respond as responsibly as we are able, with integrity, common sense, good will and (we hope) divine guidance. As Quakers we look to the past. We have a respectable history, checkered with human mistakes, but in the main reflecting who we are. We may seem somewhat “left of center,” but we generally fit in with other citizens of our country and are friendly with other denominations, even those not specifically Christian, i.e. Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist. We are glad to share our heritage, but we do not want to impose it on others. ~~~

Issue: On Heritage (July 2016)

Knowing Oneself as Spirit A couple of years ago, I traveled to York, England, for a conference. I realized that the Quaker heritage sites that I had always wanted to see were not too far from there. Planning which locations I could get to easily without a car, I came up with two: Swarthmoor Hall, where Judge and Margaret Fell allowed Quakers to meet back at the beginning of the movement, and Kendal Meeting House, which is the site of the Quaker Tapestry Exhibit.

Issue: On Heritage (July 2016)

The Illusion of a Split Even though Quakers possess skills in conflict resolution (as well as conflict avoidance), a perplexing conflict seems intractably lodged in our Quaker community: a split between Quakers who are drawn primarily to the spiritual side of our practice – emphasizing silence, contemplation, and stillness over all else – and Quakers are who are committed to social action – including demonstrations, lobbying, letter writing, and various forms of political protest.

Issue: On Limits (May 2016)

Surmounting Limits in Quakerism When I asked Mary Klein if she would publish an article about the 2016 meeting of Friends World Committee on Consultation, she suggested that I write one for the issue on “Limits.” My initial response was: “Is she kidding?” I was grateful for her offer, but something in me bristles at the word “limits.”

Issue: On Limits (May 2016)

A Courageous Step My mother, Clare Sinclair, chose to stop eating and drinking at the age of 92. She died nine days later. Her whole life had led up to this courageous step – a life full of optimism, deep feelings, adventure, and stubbornness.

Issue: On Beginning (March 2016)

Endless Beginning “In the beginning . . . ” This phrase opens both Genesis – the first book of the Bible – and the Gospel of John. To say, “Let’s begin at the beginning,” is to say “Okay, let’s get to the heart of the matter, let’s get to the root of this.”

Issue: On Beginning (March 2016)

Passage Out of Chaos I began attending Quaker Meeting at a time of darkness – it was both Winter Solstice, and I was struggling with life transitions. My husband and I had recently moved to Washington from my hometown in Missouri. Six months prior to our move, my grandfather had passed away. I struggled with my sense of family in the face of loss, and home in the face of moving.

Issue: On Beginning (March 2016)

A New Intimacy I have always longed to be part of a community. But it has become clear to me lately that “belonging” depends on being accountable. I do not mean this in a quid pro quo sense, like an accountant balancing the books. I mean this in the sense of family members being accountable to each other, where they care for each other, and they all contribute as much as they are able. In the intimacy of a family, each member accepts a sense of vulnerability to the others. They put their trust in each other. They know that each person’s conduct reflects on the family as a whole. They know that they owe the family the consideration of behaving in ways that reflect well on it. The family has a right to expect the members to account for their behavior. By being accountable in an intimate setting, people strengthen the bonds of love among them.

Issue: On Beginning (March 2016)

Before “Things” The language we necessarily use shapes our experience of the everyday world as a world of “things,” objects that we view from the outside. This is the case whether the “things” are apples, worlds, ideas, relationships, plans, or even the entire universe. We view and manipulate “things” as if we face them from a separate, outside position in which we seem to live.

Issue: On Beginning (March 2016)

The Original Quaker Peace Testimony My paternal grandfather was a stern, strait-laced Ohio Quaker. My father, his eldest son, lived out most of those values in his own life, including the traditional Quaker repudiation of armed conflict. Yet at the outset of WWII, the youngest son of the family – my Uncle Clinton – chose to join the Army. My father evidently tried to dissuade his younger brother from joining the Army. In the summer of 1942 as Clinton was undergoing basic training in California, he responded to my father’s concerns with these words:

Issue: On Countries (January 2016)

Irish Hospitality In the fall of 2015, my long-time friend Helen was about to move away from her family farm in Northern Ireland, where she had lived near her brothers for the previous seven years. My husband Tom and I decided to join her there and to visit some of the Quaker heritage sites that she had often described remembering from her childhood.

Issue: On Countries (January 2016)

Vietnam: A Study in Contrasts Vietnam is a mixture of old and new, the simple ways of villages and the cutthroat competition of modern global capitalism, ugly nightmares from an ancient history filled with devastating wars and current struggles to recover.

Issue: On Countries (January 2016)

Seventieth in Nagasaki At 11:02 on August 9th, 2015, the bell at the rear of Nagasaki Peace Park began to peal. It was the 70th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of that city. A siren’s wail soon overtook the bell with its shrill, piercing alarm. With my head deeply bowed, I prayed for the sound to carry my sorrow-filled compassion to all the spirits of the dead: the tens of thousands killed instantly by the atomic blast above that very spot; and the tens of thousands more who suffered cruelly lingering deaths, burning from the inside out. I summoned all the intensity of my longing to be present as an Amen. Then the moment was over.

Issue: On Countries (January 2016)

Money, that Tainted Thing As Friends and as a people of faith, we walk a narrow tightrope between using wealth as a means to bring light and life into the world and allowing it to become a snare. The snare can draw us into a prison of world and wealth centeredness, or can trap us into such self-imposed poverty that we rely on the wealth of others to live. Friends at the beginning of the 21st century would do well to examine how we maintain a healthy relationship with wealth. Almost all of our national and international Quaker organizations are reducing their staffs due to lack of funds and, consequently, limiting their effectiveness. Many of our meetings are deferring maintenance of meetinghouses and finding it difficult to give financial support to members in need.

Issue: On Money (November 2015)

Building a Moral Economy from the Ground Up Whether entailing the use of money or other resources, economic transactions allow us the means of subsistence just as they tempt us to excess. It would do us well to remember that the etymological origins of the word “economy” are from the Greek meaning of “managing the household.” A moral economy would be one that manages the “household” of our planet to emphasize mutual care, community health, and a society of sufficiency and sustainability.

Issue: On Money (November 2015)

The Economy of Unknowing As an economist, I study and teach about money, markets, and the economy. Given that I have been on this professional journey for nearly half a century, something makes me feel that I should have it all pretty much figured out by now. But I don’t. In some ways, I know less now than I once did. Perhaps this is good. Perhaps some unknowing is just what we need to improve our understanding of what the economy is and how it should work.

Issue: On Money (November 2015)

An Invitation to Play with God “In Godly Play, the invitation is given not for play in general but for play with the language of God and God’s people; our sacred stories, parables, liturgical actions and silences. Through this powerful language, through our wondering, through the community of players gathered together, we hear the deepest invitation of all: an invitation to come play with God.”        – Jerome W Berryman, The Complete Guide to Godly Play (2002)

Issue: On Play (September 2015)

Play + Work = Plork The double doors open to the sun-dappled yard and a breeze stirs the smaller pieces atop the huge mound of fabric scraps. Four young people bend over their white cotton panels, carefully applying colorful shapes of fabric to their designs. A camp counselor at the sewing machine attaches completed panels to the large curtain quilt.

Issue: On Play (September 2015)

Quakers in the Arts The constructive, healing, and expressive qualities of play can be experienced through artistic ventures. This is one principle behind the Quakers in the Arts program offered for the past five years at the annual gathering of Intermountain Yearly Meeting (IMYM) at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. The program has evolved spontaneously, almost like an improvisational game, thanks to the efforts of several Yearly Meeting attenders and the encouraging responses of participants after each session.

Issue: On Play (September 2015)

The Abundant Benefits of Play Play is one of the most lauded – yet undervalued – parts of our lives. In the work I do with artists and creative professionals, I help each person develop or revive a practice of regular play. I have seen these practices transform people’s relationships, increase their incomes, and improve their abilities to give their gifts to the world while staying healthy and grounded. Yet even though I continually encourage others to play more, I often find myself surprised by the power of play to restore my own calm, compassion, and creativity.

Issue: On Play (September 2015)

Focus and Immersion in Present Experience Waiting for sunrise on a desert morning this March, my focus came to the inward Truth only. I had walked in darkness with a quiet dog to a saddle between two hills in the middle of the Mojave Desert Preserve. In wild lands, especially in dry lands, I find less cumber between God and me. I can feel a presence in my middle. With Light arriving, I reflect on my feelings and what I’m led to do. Guidance from the Holy is clearer in these times of presence.

Issue: On Play (September 2015)

Those Other Quakers The majority of liberal Friends in the West share similar traits: First, very few of us grew up among Quakers; we arrived as adults, often fleeing dogmas or religious paths that we now reject. Second, many of us feel a sense of “homecoming” in Friendly traditions like our Peace Testimony, silent expectant worship, and the general spirit of tolerance in our meetings.

Issue: On Difference (July 2015)

Bicycle Story Now that bitterness and hard-heartedness were no longer a very real threat, I no longer needed to be bicycling, particularly in the heat and humidity of late June in North Carolina. I still needed to get on to Savanna, George, but I had no need of a bicycle any more. Nor did I need all the bicycle stuff: tools, helmet, panniers, etc. I thought I’d just leave it all on the steps of a church. I have done so before.

Issue: On Difference (July 2015)

Being the Change at Friends House Yesterday morning at 8:20 AM, the last batch of residents at the simple buffet breakfast was discussing the future of capitalism. Only at Friends House!! By 8:35 several of us were remembering fragments of Russian from college fifty-five years ago. After breakfast, laughing and admiring the beautiful morning and the colorful gardens, we dispersed. Clare took her seeing eye dog for her morning walk while I went off to hang my laundry on the line. Joan headed for the daily exercise class (she is also in the yoga group) and Lizzie wheeled herself towards her apartment, where there are gorgeous roses and a tiny tree bearing huge oranges near her front door.

Issue: On Needs (May 2015)

237 Acres of God It’s lizard season. Driving down the Rough and Ready Highway, the air is hot and dry, a tangible manifestation of the California drought. But here, everything is alive. The Woolman Semester School sits on 237 acres in historic gold country, but more immediately, it’s my favorite place in the world. I’ve been coming to Woolman for various reasons as long as I can remember – College Park Quarterly Meeting sessions, summer camp, family work camp, visiting Friends – but today, March 30th, 2015, I’m returning to visit for the first time since graduating from the Fall 2014 high school semester. Driving past the orchard, it already feels like home.

Issue: On Needs (May 2015)

Overcoming Need Six months after Sister Alegría (née Beth Blodgett) and I moved to Honduras in 2006 and began to live our Methodist-Quaker monastic life, cell phone service came to this remote region of the country. Almost overnight it seemed, everyone had cell phones, and it wasn’t long before people were declaring them “necessary.” When someone asked why we didn’t have one, we explained that phone calls would interrupt our contemplative lifestyle. “But what if one of you gets hurt? How will you get help?” “Then the other will walk to the road and will notify the next car that goes by” – just as anyone would have done a year ago before there was cell phone service! Cell phones can be useful, and Sister Alegría and I make phone calls most weeks by borrowing phones or renting them, but they are not necessities. We don’t need them.

Issue: On Needs (May 2015)

Words from a Guardian Angel With an unmistakable sense of mystery, a special kind of Knowing comes to me. This Knowing has come on dozens of occasions, sometimes touching me after prayerful intention and sometimes randomly, an act of pure grace. It seems very much like the “precognition” or “telepathy” that is studied by researchers into the paranormal. Interfaith minister Paul Hertel calls it “Knowing with a capital K.” (See Polly Campbell’s Imperfect Spirituality: Extraordinary Enlightenment for Ordinary People, 2012.) I sometimes call it my “Guardian Angel.” Although I cannot explain this phenomenon, I have no doubt about its value. This Knowing enhances my relationship with the Inner Light.

Issue: On Knowing (March 2015)

Leaving the Ground I never realized what was going on the moment I let go of the ground. It wasn’t until I was high in the air holding onto God that I saw God was all I had.

Issue: On Knowing (March 2015)

Gifts Known and Unknown When springtime in Seattle finally comes out from under its winter blanket of fog and drizzle, its smile is bright and its mood is balmy. That’s the kind of day it is – a Sunday in May, shortly after Easter – when Fred comes out of church and finds himself striding down the hill.

Issue: On Knowing (March 2015)

A Journey from Chaos to Friendship I was brought up in a “new age” family by parents who practiced energy healing, angel speak, and Sufi meditation. For me, the overwhelming mix of parables, lessons, and imagery brought both comfort and confusion.

Issue: On Knowing (March 2015)

Ministry Imagine the Dalai Lama comes to your part of the world and decides to visit your Meeting for Worship. This may be his first visit to an unprogrammed Friend’s meeting. After worship, during fellowship, he approaches you.

Issue: On Knowing (March 2015)

Truth and Truth and Truth I straddle two worlds. My scientific family and studies have given me a close-up view of the scientific endeavor. Its work, driven by curiosity and belief in logical methods, and conducted with an obedience to truthfulness, have inspired me to incorporate science ideas and images into my art since 1967. My other world is that of a practicing Quaker. Through my engagement with Quaker service work and through a stunning experience of the Inner Light that I had half a lifetime ago, I am moving toward an amplified view of how to be in the world.

Issue: On Knowing (March 2015)

Radical Vulnerability There is an instant when the truth of your soul sears through your every fiber and the indescribable is revealed. It is the fierce light that splits you whole and reveals the poet Rilke’s words, “You must change your life.” It is an opportunity to bring one’s life into alignment, but there is sheer, holy terror that accompanies this process. When the Light cuts through your pretense and pride, you are vulnerable, the most vulnerable. The Light illuminates and clarifies our shadows and our love. To come closer to God we must be bold in our vulnerability. We must learn to dance on the edge of our unknowingness. This is when we give ourselves over to God. We are exposed.

Issue: On Knowing (March 2015)

Taking Stock In accounting, we perform reconciliations between two representations of the same thing.  For instance, the cash on our books and the cash in our account as the bank reports it.  We expect to find differences, and our task is identify them, determine what action, if any, we need to take on our books, and occasionally tell the bank what they have missed.

Issue: On Reconciliation (January 2015)

Never Too Early We’re tolerant of behavior by a two-year-old that would disturb us greatly if it were displayed by an adult. The behavior of the two-year-old is something we’d normally accept as natural to the condition of a two-year-old. The same behavior in an adult would challenge us to reconcile our ideas about what is natural in adult behavior with the disruptive behavior we see before us. It follows from this that reconciliation among adults might be easier if we learned to see a wider range of behaviors as normal to the human condition, rather than perceiving disruptive behaviors as a sign of moral deficiency or moral misconduct. (Please note that adults who’ve had little contact with very young children might not find it easy to adjust to the behavior of two-year-olds.)

Issue: On Reconciliation (January 2015)

Just Talking in Prison Looking out across the dance floor at the audience seated on aluminum bleachers and standing along the prison gymnasium walls, the incongruity was glaringly obvious. Me, with my Irish complexion, taking the microphone to make a statement to scores of Native Americans during their powwow. I could not even guess how many different tribal backgrounds were present. But here they were, with one thing in common: all federal prisoners, incarcerated at FCI Englewood (Federal Correctional Institution), all dressed in prison khaki or government-issued brown t-shirts and shorts.

Issue: On Reconciliation (January 2015)

From Problems to Perfection Our problems exist because we are all complicit, each and every one of us. We value our own convenience over the livability of our planet. We value our own convenience over the legacy we leave for our children and grandchildren. If there is such a thing as sin, this is it.

Issue: On Reconciliation (January 2015)

What’s Hell Got to Do with It? There are those who think that without the threat of Hell, no one would be good. The consequence of bad behavior is going to Hell, and being roasted in damnation for all eternity. So don’t do it. Do what?, you may ask. There is no shortage of recommendations: Don’t do that which is proscribed in the Bible. Don’t hurt others. Don’t kill, don’t take that which is not freely given, don’t engage in illicit sex, don’t tell lies, don’t speak divisively, don’t speak abusively,  do abandon greed, and ill-will. . . The list goes on.

Issue: On Temptation (November 2014)

Resisting the Temptation to Polarize I want to start with a story of a “popcorn meeting.” This is a type of Meeting for Worship that most Friends dread – full of distractions and superficial messages – including messages that are purely political, purely personal, or even incomprehensible – messages that actually seem to block us from finding a deeper Unity together.

Issue: On Temptation (November 2014)

Driving as a Spiritual Discipline During the March 2014 gathering of the Friends World Committee for Consultation, I stayed with other Friends at a hostel where we had a bible study each morning before breakfast. Not long ago, I was rather averse to bible study, but I have come to value it immensely when it’s read as Friends often do – “in the Spirit” – sharing how the passages speak to us individually. It was after such a session that I found myself pondering how following traffic laws might be a good spiritual practice.

Issue: On Temptation (November 2014)

A Field Guide to Evil Whether we talk about it or not, we hold strong views about evil. So I’d like to share with you some vocabulary about evil that I’ve learned, which can allow us to describe evil a little more accurately than we usually do, especially when our feelings get roused up. I’m not interested in catastrophic evil or cosmic evil. I’m interested in the day-to-day stuff – the times I forget to say thank-you or the times I take a shortcut and inadvertently hurt somebody else who doesn’t take the shortcut.

Issue: On Temptation (November 2014)

Slow, Simple, Not Easy Parenting summons the best in a person; it also sometimes triggers, well . . . less than the best. When I brought together my Quaker faith with my aspirations for parenting, I found “a way” to be a parent, especially as my children became teenagers. With my friend Marti Woodward, I coauthored a book, Slow Parenting Teens [reviewed on page 10], and I now conduct trainings on this approach.

Issue: On Family (September 2014)

Taming Uncle Johnny Johnny has spent the last fifteen minutes telling me about the count of the sausages he had in the freezer. He can’t quite account for four of them, and he keeps going over and over the possibilities of the sausage disappearance. This conversation seems just about to end, when he realizes that he might be able to get more when they are on sale. After agonizing over the sausages, he considers his corn dogs. They got defrosted by accident. He could not find them in the freezer.

Issue: On Family (September 2014)

Quakers, Sport, and Being in the Zone It is surprising to me that so few Friends do sports. For me, doing a sport and going to Quaker meeting are of the same intention and compulsion. If I don’t do something physical for a few days, my body hurts. If I don’t center regularly into meditation, either in a group or by myself, I feel out of sorts. For me, Quaker meeting and sports are both essential parts of an authentic life.

Issue: On Pride (July 2014)

Ego, Imagination, Condition, and Light Friends use the word Light a lot.  They use it as a metaphor to point towards an experience.  But Friends use this basic expression so casually that I fear it has become conventional and trivial. We don’t much think about what the Light (as experience) means or where it comes from or why we need it. Nor are we aware of how we got into the dark in the first place. Like many metaphors, Light is better understood when it is placed in a context. My experience is that ego, imagination, and condition are factors that provide a helpful context for considering the Light.

Issue: On Pride (July 2014)

Do Quakers Mean Business? Recently a Methodist church invited me to a book study. They had been reading books on ethically based business, including Deborah Cadbury’s Chocolate Wars, and had grown wildly curious about these peculiar Quakers and their century and a half of confectionary success. The group leader tabulated a list of famous Quaker business leaders – not only in cocoa, but also in ironwork, railways, footwear, chinaware, household goods, pharmaceuticals, and banking. Why, she asked, was the list so long? Why were there so many Friendly industrial innovators? Why so many business names they now recognized as Quaker – from Cadbury chocolates to Barclays bank to Clarks shoes? What was it about this relatively small, seemingly austere, and ethically demanding faith that drove such a disproportionate share of business enterprise?

Issue: On Production (May 2014)

Simplicity and Our Complex Economy Simplicity runs in opposition to modern life.  Thousands of people, and potentially hundreds of companies, are involved in the production, distribution, and sale of something as simple as a pencil or a cup of coffee – to say nothing of a pair of sneakers, a movie, or a car, or providing a service like a mutual fund or a night in a hotel room. 

Issue: On Production (May 2014)

Time, History and the Eternal Now My first encounter with Friends occurred thirty years ago in my hometown of Princeton, New Jersey. I was going through a tumultuous time, and I found the Princeton Meeting to be a place of peace and comfort. Later, as I became more involved with Quakerism, I learned about the history of Princeton Meeting and the hidden history of local Quakers, who were the original settlers there. I learned that the Quakers didn’t take sides during the Revolutionary War; that they cared for the American and British wounded equally; and that as a result, they fell out of favor politically.

Issue: On Time (March 2014)

the tree thing, experiencing connectedness during the 2013 gathering of friends general conference in greeley, colorado, a few of us met for three hours each day, all five days, to see what would emerge if we applied friends’ faith and practice towards seeking deeper unity with nature.  mark helpsmeet from “northern spirit radio” often attends this annual gathering; he interviews friends there and edits those interviews into segments for his radio show.   he arranged to interview three of us exploring unity with nature on thursday afternoon.

Issue: On Time (March 2014)

Time in the Real World In the flurry of dozens of goodbye hugs before going home, I said to one Friend, “Well, I guess it’s back to the real world now.” He answered, “Oh no, no. This is the real world. The rest of life is what’s not real.” I had to agree.

Issue: On Time (March 2014)

Patriotic Principles and Quaker Testimonies Dad was tight-lipped about the war years and only occasionally referenced his having been “stationed in Guam.” In sorting through my Dad’s papers to write his obituary in August 2013, I discovered his certificate for Distinguished Service as a Navigator in nine successful air flights, 1943-1945, to drop bombs on Japan during World War II. I stared hard at the aged photograph of the young crew in uniform, standing proud in front of their Boeing B-29 Superfortress. Renown for its ability to fly higher and faster than Japanese planes, the B-29 four-engine propeller-driven heavy bomber was one of the largest aircraft of its day, with very advanced features such as a pressurized cabin, an electronic fire-control system, and remote-controlled machine-gun turrets. My fears were relieved when further research assured me that Dad had not been on the flights that dropped either Fat Man or Little Boy – codenames for atomic bombs detonated over Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

Issue: On Patriotism (January 2014)

A Quaker Patriotism Find a lesson plan here, for using this article with children in First Day School.

Issue: On Patriotism (January 2014)

Vicious Games Bill Lovelady is a member of Helena Monthly Meeting, MT (NPYM).

Issue: On Patriotism (January 2014)

White America’s Myth of the Black Male

I received more reaction to my posting, The Iconification of Nelson Mandela and American Racism, than for any other of the 257 postings that I had done in almost seven years. Some of the responses were supportive, some critical, and some “yes, but.” Below is my original newsletter article, followed by a sampling of the responses.

Issue: On Patriotism (January 2014)

I Am A Patriot! For the past five months, I have been living and working in Berlin, Germany. I went there to live with my cousins and their two young children and to work as a native-English-speaking intern at a Kinderladen called Humpty-Dumpty Berlin, a bilingual daycare which my cousins’ children attend. I also helped out around the house and with the kids at home. As always when I am abroad, I felt embarrassed many times a day by my nationality as a U.S. citizen. 

Issue: On Patriotism (January 2014)

Of Quakers and Cowboys The image of the cowboy was created in Western movies and novels as a hard living, hard drinking gambler who is quick with a gun and lonely for women.  Quakers are also viewed in popular culture through erroneous stereotypes, and are believed to be extinct, except for their image on the Quaker Oats box. 

Issue: On Deception (November 2013)

Mysticism and Magic When I was in college, I took a class called Medieval Mysticism.  I had high expectations for that class.  I wanted something much more than an academic experience.  I wanted something much more than a grade on my transcript.  Yes!  I wanted to hear the voice of God in my ears.  I wanted to see a vision.  I wanted to feel the presence of God in a way that would change my life forever.

Issue: On Deception (November 2013)

Irony’s a Bitch I lay on the cold dusty hard wood floor contemplating the voice of my generation, visions of rebellion sex drugs protest and poetry

Issue: On Deception (November 2013)

The Meaning of Life in Twenty Words “There is that near you, which will guide you; oh! wait for it, and be sure ye keep to it.” - Isaac Penington (1616-1679)

Issue: On Deception (November 2013)

A Paradox of Belief George Fox, the founder of Quakerism, disapproved of creeds, as they are divisive rather than unifying. He also thought that mere words could not encapsulate the transcendence of the Divine. Quakers have always interpreted the words and symbols of Christianity and the Divine in novel ways, and our understanding of Quaker faith has also evolved over time. That the Religious Society of Friends does not have a creed permits this evolving group understanding of our faith.

Issue: On Deception (November 2013)

The Bonds of Animal Affection This article is in dialogue with “The Bonds of Animal Agriculture” by Friend Joe Snyder in the May-June 2013 issue of Western Friend. I commend Friend Snyder for highlighting the destructive aspects of the prevailing system of plant and animal agriculture, which fail to respect God’s creation. To my mind, Friends cannot overemphasize the seriousness of such threats to our health and global sustainability.

Issue: On Love (September 2013)

Privelege, Interrupting Some Western Friend readers may have already met RantWoman, an official Quaker holy terror known for telling too much of the Truth about all kinds of things, at rantwomanrsof.blogspot.com. Recently a call went out for Friends to write articles about the 14th White Privilege Conference, held near Seattle in April 2013. RantWoman was stirred to venture into print and even agreed to let the editor of Western Friend have a crack at making her slightly more presentable than she appears in her electronic journal.

Issue: On Superiority (July 2013)

The Bonds of Animal Agriculture Since biblical times, humanity has lived by an ancient contract: We the first party (animals) give you our wool, milk, hides and meat, draw your plows and carriages, guard your houses, control your vermin, and fertilize your fields.  We the second party (humans) promise to keep you safe from predators, bind up your wounds and treat your diseases, provide you shelter from the elements, feed you even in times of famine, and provide you with a quick and humane death.  Our own human relationship with God has long been expressed in similar terms. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.  He makes me to lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.”

Issue: On Consumption (May 2013)

Leap into Wings The way of love is not a subtle argument,

Issue: On Consumption (May 2013)

The Spiritual Power of Art “Does my life reflect my values and beliefs?” This query is often on my mind, and probably yours too. As a child in Mountain View Friends Meeting (Denver), I learned the Quaker belief that there is “that of God in everyone,” sometimes called “the Light within.” The Light is our best and most holy potential, our goodness, our groundedness, our Truth. That Inner Light remains a core element of my belief system. It’s an axiom: Light=God.

Issue: On Power (March 2013)

The Lure of Mount Madonna The week of July 29 – August 3, 2013, will see PYM Friends returning to Mount Madonna near Watsonville for the sixth annual gathering we will hold there. Many Friends view the Mt. Madonna Center, with its spectacular view of Monterey Bay, as the most eye-pleasing site at which we have gathered, while others consider it problematic due to the fairly steep hillside terrain, which is adorned with religious iconography.  Moreover, unlike college campuses and other conference centers, Mt. Madonna Center requires us to interact with a faith community different from ours, as it is owned and staffed by an intentional yoga community, guided by the spiritual discipline of Ashtanga Yoga.  The community requires that food consumed on site be strictly vegetarian, which some Friends find challenging if not intolerable.

Issue: On Power (March 2013)

The Revolution According to Mark Two years ago, I was one of those people who flinched every time I heard the word “Jesus.”  When I told this to my friend Joe Snyder, he said, “Read the Bible. That'll take care of that flinch.” And then he told me about Mark.

Issue: On Power (March 2013)

Rage Transmuted My Quaker meeting knew I’d long been enraged about our country’s misadventures in the Middle East. They knew I’d been volunteering at the Naval Medical Center San Diego, but they didn’t really know what I’d done about the fury that possessed me. This is a testimony to what can be done when we think we’re faced with helplessness.

Issue: On War (January 2013)

The Balm of The Other For if you love only those who love you, what reward have you earned?

Issue: On War (January 2013)

Dangerously Comfortable My experience as a Navy pilot for a third of my life is fundamental to who I am.  The military has significantly impacted my experience as a Quaker. This is most evident to me when I compare the Quaker testimonies of Simplicity, Integrity, Community, Equality, and Peace with the military codes and traditions that have shaped me.

Issue: On War (January 2013)

Friends, Veterans, and the Military I remember what it felt like, during the last two years of the Vietnam War, to go into town wearing my US Navy uniform.  Often, I felt invisible.  Sometimes, just silly. Frequently, I got the cold shoulder. A couple of times things got close to getting physical.  I was called a “paid killer” at my neighborhood food coop by someone who couldn’t read the shoulder insignia that identified me as a Hospital Corpsman and noncombatant.  He knew nothing about me, my job, my personal history, or my values.

Issue: On War (January 2013)

Seeds That Became a Yearly Meeting

The approach of Intermountain Yearly Meeting’s 50th anniversary in 2024 has me thinking back to the years before IMYM existed.

Issue: On Seeds (November 2023)

A Quaker Rosary

My father describes himself as “ethnically Catholic” and on every official document lists his religion as “COSMIC.”

Issue: On Seeds (November 2023)

A Pocketful of Seeds

I was born,

in Winter,

with a pocketful of seeds,

beans and basil,

onions and peas.

Issue: On Seeds (November 2023)

Awaken

Be still – free of time and space.

Be free – in the eternal and the infinite.

Issue: On Seeds (November 2023)

Calculating steps

The once-great forests of our land,

trees that blanketed the continent

with quilts of seasons, are gone –

Issue: On Seeds (November 2023)

Forgiveness in a World Aflame

For those of us watching the bloody conflicts in Israel-Palestine and Ukraine, I’m wondering what forgiveness means.

Issue: On Division (January 2024)

Transcendence and Community

At the close of our business meeting last August, I felt a lack of Light in the room.

Issue: On Division (January 2024)

Good Samaritan Mindset

Sierra Cascades Yearly Meeting of Friends (SCYMF) has just given $75,000 to the Kake Regional Cultural Healing Center in southeast Alaska.

Issue: On Division (January 2024)

Poems

I made the choice / to move forward / but I break my / own word

Issue: On Division (January 2024)

Stretching Prayer

Body prayers are common spiritual practices throughout the world.

Issue: On Prayer (March 2024)

Continuous Gratitude

Over the years, my prayer journey has slowly grown to include prayers of gratitude.

Issue: On Prayer (March 2024)

Faith Like a River

Prayer is conversation, not a monologue.

Issue: On Prayer (March 2024)

The Power of Prayer

When I joined Amigas del Señor Methodist-Quaker Monastery in 2006, I enjoyed the simple lifestyle.

Issue: On Prayer (March 2024)

The Perplexity of Prayer

A dove-white drapery is placed over a casket which cost several thousand dollars.

Issue: On Prayer (March 2024)