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On Relevance Throughout the ages, humans have kept reinventing the world, over and over again. Language, agriculture, kingdoms, credit, mass production, and social media – each innovation has turned our species upside down, and we’ve flattened countless others in the process. We are a species that is made for tinkering. We are a species with an inclination for figuring out how to make things better. Looking out at the universe, the interplay of chaos and order, we pluck particular observations out of our field of experience and string them together into explanations, arguments, stories, and plans. We are made to make meaning.

On Relevance (March 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.

On Tricks (May 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.

On Tricks (May 2021)

Truth and Healing Commission for Native Peoples Dear Friends, at their June 20, 2021 meeting for worship with a concern for business, Intermountain Yearly Meeting (IMYM) approved the minute below. It calls on individual Friends and monthly meetings to urge their Congressional representatives to support a bill that seeks to create a Truth and Healing Commission for the U.S. Indian boarding schools. Senator Elizabeth Warren is expected to introduce this bill before the August recess. 

On Cliques (September 2021)

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]

On Freedom (January 2022)

Alternatives to Prison Prisons rank high on the list of institutions that Quakers want to eliminate, very close to war. The most recent statement of legislative priorities by the Friends Committee on National Legislation (possibly the most widely-discerned document in the Quaker world) includes advocating for a system that “eliminates mass incarceration and promotes law-enforcement that is community-oriented and demilitarized.” The Board of the American Friends Service Committee, after producing an extensive background paper, took the position – back in 1978 – that it supports the abolition of prisons. Clearly, Quakers by and large want to live in that Light and Love that takes away the occasion of all prisons – along with jails, detention centers, and other places where people are held in cages.

On Alternatives (March 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]

On Place (May 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]

On Normality (July 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.)

On Normality (July 2022)

Deep Hope in Optimystical Times (abridged) For decades, I’ve been talking publicly about the gathering catastrophes of climate change and social injustice, and about the decline of the Society of Friends. Sounds pretty gloomy, I know. My day job as a palliative care chaplain at a large urban hospital entails sitting at the feet of those very powerful teachers named in Buddhist tradition: old age, sickness, and death.

On Cooperation (September 2022)