Great Joy!


The Nativity message is the message not only of joy but of the joy; the great joy which all the people of the world have always expected without fully realizing what it was.
-Thomas Merton, Love and Living

When I was an adolescent, the Evangelical Protestants hit me up with messages of fear. Most of the Catholics I’ve known came out of their youth bearing much guilt. Merton is the first I’ve known to appeal to a universal expectation of great joy. That’s cool.

It fits better with my experience of salvation. I didn’t fear the wrath of my father. I bore no great guilt for my childhood transgressions. I couldn’t empathize with my Catholic friends and the Evangelical promise of damnation somehow didn’t scare me. Maybe both should have been effective, but they weren’t.

The promise of God’s love came to me through my parents, First Day school teachers and inwardly in my heart. The Catholics and Evangelicals I got to know well also held it there for me.

Before I accepted this great joy I had to work through other stuff, such as my intellectual resistance to losing control and a fear of losing status among my college educated Friends. Maybe those are just guilt and fear dressed upper crust clothing.

I’m not sure where this leads now.  Anybody else got an idea?

Now there are bumps in the still place

My wife and I have been driving for two weeks: Joseph, OR. The Black Canyon of the Gunnison River. Fort Collins, Colorado. Yellowstone. Camping along the way:  Southern Idaho.  Eastern Utah.  At the bottom of the Black Canyon.  On a street outside our nephew’s apartment building.  In the boondocks of northern Colorado, eastern Idaho and eastern Oregon.  Home day before yesterday.

Corvallis Ride of Silence 2013

Ride of Silence yesterday evening. I coordinated and led,  seeking a still place inside me below the details of pace and regrouping.

I must have found it, because this morning I feel it every time I seek it. Just as still and sure as ever. But this time the still place has bumps and jiggles, with a sensation of traveling.

Experimental Testimonies

In considering Quaker testimonies yesterday, the leader of our session of religious exploration asked us to check inside to see what arose as something we do in relation to what leads us.  Then we each spoke a sentence about it.

I don’t gamble.  I don’t use illegal drugs.  I wear simple clothing.  I speak plainly. This is to keep a simple mind. (I chose the last sentence to share with the group.)

I don’t think I chose these because they are negative testimonies–things I restrain myself from.  I chose them because I’ve been able to experiment with them.  I’ve found an expression of me that works best.

Continue reading

Some reflections on election

2016 Electoral Map

It’s the morning after a presidential election.  We still have the same country we had last week.  Similar to what we had in summer 2008.  It still has an ineffective system of government that can’t be dictated to by a single leader.  We are still diverse, divided, corrupt, sexist and racist.

Today, there’s a good share of it that now realizes those differences.  Eight years ago, a mostly different segment of the population figured out their nation had shifted underneath them.

I hope 2016 is more like 1968 than 1948.  Continue reading

When my sibling wrongs me…

When I’m frustrated and can’t speak, I either act out or I dream of a solution.

Children tend to act out.  Adults dream of solutions.  Sometimes an action or a solution includes revenge.

This seems to hold true among Quakers of all ages.  The religious education program I coordinate for Quaker children has some acting out.  The atmosphere is more violent than the children, their adult leaders or I want it to be.  It’s more violent than most of the group of Friends who employ me might believe.  I guess it’s about on a par with the playgrounds I supervised for public elementary schools.

The large meetiBonnet&fistsngs for business that I (rarely) attend include many ideas for solutions to many contemporary problems.  Some solutions are focused on the group itself, some on regional or world issues.  Sometimes violence or revenge is spoken of or included in a proposed solution.  To sit through such a meeting does violence to the physiology of many of us.  Some of us avoid that hurt by skipping meetings, perhaps while helping with the children’s program.  Some channel the physiological hurt into smart and sharp repartee or open protest.  The words may be aimed at evil in the world or they may be directed at a Friend across the room. Continue reading

Lessons from Jesus coming to the big city

For inspiration and learning, I read a page or two of devotional literature as I start my morning prayer time.  In early December, I usually read some prophet–Isaiah or Jeremiah.  Close to Christmas, I start a gospel–Matthew or Luke.  I like to finish a gospel book in the Spring.  I don’t belong to a liturgical church, but I’m coming to see some truth in linking the myths and stories with the seasons around us.  So this selection of reaPalm Sunday inkdings is my personal liturgical calendar.  I’ve written about this before.

After reading the nativity story, I switched gospels this year.  Mark is spare, episodic and full of Jesus advocating for social change and a fair shake for peasants.  A couple of weeks ago, I paused in my reading of Mark to leave Jesus’s terminal week in Jerusalem until the week before Passover on my calendar.  Instead, I found Tom Head’s pamphlet, Envisioning a Moral Economy and the books of Ruth and Esther helpful for focusing.

Yesterday, I started reading these passages.  Jesus doesn’t speak much on the first couple of days.  His actions do provide a powerful message.  This time through, I’m noticing a different message each day.

I’m drawing a lot from a three year old post on the blog of my friend Paul C.  Read it!  It’s powerful. Continue reading

Of late winter observances and evil

It seems that late winter, illness, Lenten fasting, Purim and some Psalms are all of them about evil, which must be faced and seen for a mature spirituality and human functionality to be born in me.

I may even need to stand under evil–or have it as an understanding.  I don’t yet know why it’s around or how to treat it.  I do know it’s there in me and in the world.

The book of Ruth has no villain.  People die, but aren’t killed by others.  One of Naomi’s surviving daughters-in-law chooses to stay with her own people, but that’s not deplored.  Ruth and Boaz are heroes.  Their kinsmen who don’t make heroic choices of sacrifice and alliance with strangers aren’t vilified.  They just didn’t get stories about them into the history books.

Esther’s book has villains–or at least one.  It’s grisly and violent.  This is the story that gets celebrated–in the late winter.

Ruth’s book just gets quoted for engagements.

Let’s face that gristle and gore together: even sometimes in sundae school.  Then stomp our feet on top of it, clean out our pockets, dream of being as beautiful, or at least as preened, as Esther.  After that, we can eat poppy seed pastries and smile.

A Decade Later: 10 Reflections from the World Gathering of Young Friends 2005 — Rachel Guaraldi

Advices for past, present and future thought:

  • Humbly seek out that of God in the way others live, and find what’s deeply right in it.
  • Talk about your spiritual journey explicitly.
  • Find words for that which is hard or strange.
  • Evangelize.  Spread the good news.
  • Never be absolutely sure that you are right.
  • Abandon your forms when they do not fulfill God’s will.
  • Find in your faith things to live humbly by and to die for.
  • Do your work.  Call others to do theirs.
  • With your sins and the sins of your parents: admit them, repent them, heal the wounds.
  • Read the Bible.
  • Have joyful worship.  Do not always be somber.
  • Face your fears and your powerlessness.
  • Have faith.
  • Know who you are spiritually, and trust God to know where you are going.
  • Deny the distractions. Follow only God.
  • Love boldly.  Share deeply.
  • Forgive and forgive and forgive.

Source: A Decade Later: 10 Reflections from the World Gathering of Young Friends 2005 — Rachel Guaraldi

Toward living water, worship, Spirit & Truth

My devotional reading today was from John’s gospel.  Chapter four starts with Jesus meeting a woman at a well in a town in Samaria.  I actually read the notes in my study Bible this time.  They led me to this history of how the Jews came to disrespect Samaritans:
….every nation still made gods of its own and put them in the shrines of the high places that the people of Samaria had made …. They also worshiped the Lord and appointed from among themselves all sorts of people as priests of the high places, who sacrificed

© 2014 Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

© 2014 Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

for them in the shrines of the high places.  So they worshiped the Lord but also served their own gods, after the manner of the nations from among whom they had been carried away.  To this day they continue to practice their former customs.  [1 Kings 17:24-41 NRSV]

So the woman at the well was a pantheist.  Jesus is a Jew, Continue reading

Spiritually following indigestion

Memory of what I said in worship on Sunday

I may be a spiritual follower of indigestion. One of the ways I find my way in the world is by paying attention to what’s “below” and “prior to” my thoughts. Pressures and releases in my midsection are part of that. I get an indicatiAbdominally mild felt senseon of the right or best path from attending to those felt senses.

I tell myself this, along with other experiences, is the Word of the Lord–the Inward Christ, but it may just be abdominally mild cramps or gas bubbles.

You may have a different way to feel what’s below or prior and inward or a different story about the origin of the sense you get. I’m interested in how you sense it and the stories you tell about it. The process you use and the stories you tell are not essential. Nor are mine. They are all important.storyteller

Important questions include:
∙ Are you open to something transcendent?
∙ How does it change your life?
∙ What kind of community does it lead us to build?

In retrospect, much of that still rings true.  My sense is that I was a bit too personally attached to the artistry of my phrasing and speaking.