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“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.

On Secrets (July 2020)

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.

On Control (July 2019)

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.

On Needs (May 2015)

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)

Stewardship of Stuff An intense pleasure of my profession as a chemical engineer is the practice of balancing. Not the balancing of a body in movement (although I do know that pleasure – in dance and in Aikido), but the balancing of accounts of the earth itself. Everything that comes out of the earth goes back into it. Or almost everything.

On Garbage (November 2017)

Rules of Engagement Some rules are written down, like those in law books. Others are unwritten rules, which can be even more stringent and unforgiving than statute, like the unwritten rules that whisper to dictate which emotions each gender is supposed to feel and show, or not. Lately, various new and somewhat inconsistent rules have arisen concerning speech that some people experience as offensive, and these rules have been causing occasional havoc.

On Rules (November 2020)

Paths of Faith There are many fine books exploring the relation of science and faith, including excellent texts by Friends who are scientists, theologians, or both. Paths of Faith in the Landscape of Science: Three Quakers Check Their Compass, however, offers something distinctively Quaker. Canadian Friends Strunz, Miller, and Helmuth use their personal life stories – testimonies – to show continuing revelation as involving all truth, whether spiritual or scientific.

On Limits (May 2016)