Plain in the city

A plain Quaker folk singer with a Juris Doctorate in his back pocket, salt in his blood, and a set of currach oars in the closet, Ulleann Pipes under his arm, guitar on his back, Anglo Irish baggage, wandering through New York City ... in constant amaze. Statement of Faithfulness. As a member of the Quaker Bloggers Ad Hoc Committee I affirm that I will be faithful to the Book of Discipline of my Meeting 15th Street Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

JOY and the triumph over life and death

My dear friend Ryan (excuse the term...) "bitch slapped" me - figuratively and in a loving way last night... and I began to understand emotionally what God had taught me intellectually.

Discipline thy self to joy. All thee needs is inside thee.

How hard can life be, sure I have had a few real tragedies of late, sure things are bad... but why not joy? I now feel as much know that the young Iroquoian warriors sang joyfully as the Hurons led them to be tortured... they sang in joy for all life is measured by joy and death. If thee cannot sing praise for thy life as the water closes over thy head, well thee dies a sad death, if the can, thee dies in triumph.

Who can forget the life, the joy, and triumphant death of Victor Jara. Born in a land of hardship and struggle, Victor wrote songs of joy to the life of the people of Chile. In 1973, when the coup took place, Victor was arrested and his jailers broke his hands, taunting him to play the guitar. They beat him and taunted him to sing, and those who heard him tell us he sang magnificently ... so they shot him and he died in pure triumph - life over death.

And joy in life, to simply dance for the joy of spring like Snoopy in the dead of winter, this is to live in triumph. To care for all and live without care.

I have recaptured joy, and my fervent prayer is to replace the sorrow bred into my bones with joy forever. To feel joy in sorrow, hope where there is none, peace in the midst of war, satisfied when starved, drunk on life when much too sober, to pour all these things into this vessel that has been so emptied out.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

a short book

I wrote a short book once, a card. On one side it said, I am OK, Thee is OK, If thee is muckled with another, look inside, if thee still can't find an answer turn this over...

and it said the same thing on the other side.

I have been turning that card alot, of late. This may be why my posts have not spoken to many hearts in a long time. But, I have turned that card again. And I have found peace.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Easter... without much forethought...

God's love in Jesus' suffering.

Oh how hard to understand.

I am not thy common Christian, perhaps, in that I am not sure that...
no I am convinced that Jesus was not his only begotten son, but there is that of God in each of us... each of us.
That when God teaches through the weak and fallible flesh of we humans, that is Christ... God as Christ the teacher...

Easter... who is risen. Who was on the beach several days latter to feed the apostles who were fishing? A stranger who feeding them was Christ. God... teaching lived on, though Jesus, in his flesh died on that horrible cross... God continues to teach in the flawed flesh of we poor humans.

Redemption in suffering?

Jesus broke and cried out, " My lord... why have you forsaken me?"

Oh, how I have asked that, and by what trials have I the right to ask? Who can imagine Judea in bondage to Rome.

I have seen Ireland, in bondage to England. I have seen the blood and the bone, the fire and the pain, and yet... one thousand people slaughtered in cold blood by Pilate?

And all our petty, petty disappointments in love and loss and pain and fear... and yet, to be nailed to wood for the rest of thy consciousness... and to only ask why have you forsaken me?

Oh, God, I have seen enough death that I should be able to imagine Judea in bondage, but no. ... no, that nation that should have been a nation of spirit and light, under the cold machine of Rome... here I am living in Rome... I have lived in lands under Rome, but I had a ticket back to the ... well... back to Rome.

Jesus died on the cross... what an eternity of suffering. Then, he, Jesus the man was dead, and the disciples where fed on the beach as they fished, by one they did not recognize, they who knew the Rabbi so well, then they new, Christ had fed them, God teaching through the flesh of weak humanity, and it was Christ, maybe not Jesus the man, but that Christ that was the God in Jesus, and the God in us all...

Christ arose... but he had risen, God taught, long before the Rabbi Jesus. God taught in Hill el, God taught in the sometimes weak flesh of David, of Salomon, of all the gentle souls and all the Moses' who wished to pass the fire to another...

Oh my God don't use me, give me what I want, Oh God use me and teach me the humility not to want, Oh God... don't let me forsake YOU! Oh my God... why nail him to a tree?

Oh God.

Why and why not and is there no other way? and Oh my God.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Faith and the Institution a delicate balance

Faith and the Institution a delicate balance

I have seen on a young Friend's blog concern among young Friends about how to stay within the society when the institution or individuals offend that still small voice within.

I think there is no greater challenge in our society. I have been speaking of fear to love, and unity, but also, there is the whole question of authority.

There is a single authority in the Society of Friends. That authority speaks to each of us, one by one, in a still small voice, and then bids us to speak together, not at each other, not against each other, but to each other and with each other, with the same seeking to understand when we don't see eye to eye as when we face any puzzle, not to assume our lack of understanding is evidence that the other is wrong, and not coming to the easy compromise.

There is not a single individual authority in our faith or it is not the faith I grew up into.

We never place authority in an individual or committee, we place trust. Trust to help bring us to unity. I pray that these young Friends raising this question will be a beacon of light to bring this society into a state of active and working love and forge a new understanding throughout the institution that practicality is only practical when it expresses God's love and unity.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

God is as near as the air, as thy heart.

Today in meeting, I gave a message... which surprised me...

I don't know the calendar well. I miss all sorts of anniversaries... but I found my self thinking of a friend who had died, around this time of year, and we buried her on a rainy day such as this.

I often quote this friend. She was as gentle and kind a soul as ever lived, she lived in constant thought of the path of God and no one who knew her missed that she was a near perfect expression of faith and love. She also lived in fear of God. As she was nearing a painful death, she began to fear that she had not earned God's love. Her faith taught her that no one knows if they are "saved".

I heard her say, "help me, I am afraid..." her husband took her, so young and too soon, into his arms and she died.

When she was a young child, she was, like many of her class in England, sent to boarding school. It was a loveless place. She would stand on a chair, I seem to remember her telling me, to look to the horizon's clouds and imagine her village under them. No one was kind enough to tell her to look to the home in her heart, her mother and father's love, though far away and seeming not to understand that she wished to be home with them.

She became convinced of a hard and sometimes cold faith, that was not kind enough to tell her not to look to God on a distant horizon, but to look with certainty to that God within her, that was her love and complete in love with her.

If her husband, and my dear friend, my dear brother chances to read this... I know that, I am so certain in my soul... that like the poem by Apollonaire... that as thee held her and she left thee, not to go very far at all, but to live with thee in thy heart ... I am convinced in my heart and soul, that she flew... and flies forever, and holds thy heart in hers in confidence and love of God and thee.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Pruning ('til it HURTS!) : )

I have a fruit tree which feeds me. It gives me all that I need to the point that in sustaining me, it is me, it is all I have and need. I eat of this tree and I share some with others, and I admire the trees of others.

A little while ago the gardener came to me and shook his head... "Lazy fellow... look at the weeds around thy tree's roots."

Joyfully I dug up the weeds and burned them and enjoyed the warmth. I turned to reach for another piece of fruit and the gardener shook his head and pointed to the pruning hook, the saw, and the knife. "Later" I said and threw myself at the base of the tree with a piece of fruit and my flute.

A good size branch fell on my head.

"Bastard!" I yelled at the gardener. "Why did thee not keep thy garden better! Why did thee drop that branch on my head!"

The gardener looked at me, silent and amused. Muttering I took up the tools and cut more rotted wood away. "There!" I said, ready to drop the tools.

"There... " he said gently pointing at more rot. I cut and cut and he pointed. I muttered and complained and he pointed. I thought myself done and he pointed. At last I cried out, "Gardener! How will I know if I cut away too much."

"Thee will know... keep at thy work." I cut and the sap and my blood ran together. The gardener nodded and I stopped cutting.

I picked up a piece of fruit and he pointed aloft. "Does thee not remember that lightening that hit that branch many years ago" he asked me? I began to rise, tears in my eyes, and yet resigned. He put his hand to my chest and eased me down to the grass again and handed me my flute.

"Thy tree grows slowly, and thee needs strength to help it grow right. As thee learns to prune, and tend thy tree, thee must also learn patience and also learn pleasure... play me a joyous tune and we will eat together."

Thank the QuaCarol for being one of the voices saying... calm.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Honesty as one face of Truth...

More to come. But, so much of our language needs added clarity sometimes, a very wise young Friend and I have been laboring with my message about truth and the Underground Railroad metaphor... and we both were so called to recognize that part of the misunderstanding of Friends, and this Friend and I, of this message was that I was speaking of truth as honesty, where we are at the moment in our discernment - not truth the absolute knowing. But, even here, there is waiting needed to find unity... but what a marvelous distinction.
Bless and thank thee Friend.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Finding Clearness

Clearness and the stillness of Peace

I am still working on reaching for stillness. Our meeting, and relationships close to my heart need clearness. Clearness was tried in our meeting over great controversies and the work of our meeting came to an abrupt halt as we sought clearness. However, we are not there yet.

Recently at a meeting for business fingers were pointed and there were calls for others to repent. This is not the Quakerism of my heart.

Repenting calls for fixing the past to justice. This is not possible. We don't live in the past, we live in the moment as we walk towards the future, with slow deliberate steps. Without unity we run, we stumble, we stop dead in our tracks looking to the past in anger or tears.

Clearness, true Quaker clearness makes all things whole. We learn to speak to each other to heal in the moment and look towards the future, in unity of spirit.

It takes both groups, both individuals, on a grand scale, both nations of people, pausing to listen to each other, acknowledging the hurt and healing together. Sometimes one can't pause and find stillness before such a process, but one party can't come to clearness by telling the other heal and I will speak to thee. Both heal and walk to a future untied to the pain of the past.

Even when there is love, there has to be unity through clearness. Friends help each other towards this and it is a bright and loving process, sometimes the path is painful, but the outcome is the flight after stepping off the cliff of the soul in Appolinair's poem. It is not the flight of running to a place away from the pains of the past, but the free and soaring flight of angels.

Courage, Dear Dear Friends have courage.

Courage Friends

Discipline thy self to courage, because it takes great courage to turn from sin.

Sin. You don't often hear a Friend speak of sin. What is sin to a Quaker. Well, I have learned from the few times we have spoken the word, it is to turn away from unity. We see that so often in business meetings. Friends need their narrative of life so strongly that they break the unity in so many ways. I takes courage to look deep inside and find that truth, deep truth within.

Where to begin to find courage and why. Have I written here about the Lacota friend of mine, Steve King, the grand son of Matt King, the translator for Black Elk, the famous Lacota pipe carrier, about the night he explained the universe of a Lacota? Well, if I did, forgive me to restate it. To understand the why of courage, thee must know the why of the world a little.

We were sitting by a fire, on a reservation in western CT. Steve drew a ring for me in the earth.
"This is the circle of the self. It must be whole and unbroken, balanced. If it is..."
he drew another circle...
"it wont break the circle of the family..."
another circle
"the centered family centers the tribe"
another, the nation of humans, then the nations of animals, then the nation of living things, then the nation of things, rocks and earth, water, the whole of the earth, the universe beyond.

He broke the first circle then the rest... the broken family breaks the tribe which breaks the nation of men, you waist animals, kill all the wolves, too many deer, they destroy trees, erosion, rocks break... the universe is set off center.

Damn, but that is a good way to speak of sin. Not the sin of breast beating and pain, the sin which is healed by looking within and healing, because thy unbalance breaks the family, thy family, and that broken family breaks the meeting, the tribe, the world eventually.

Courage to so many things, truth.

What is truth what is lie?

There are no liars among Friends. When we stray from the truth, we are not the lie, we are the perfection within, yet we must seek to return to that place.

When I was younger, and I try not to do this today, I lived my stories. These stories took on a life of their own and I had to fit my reality to the stories I lived. People could become objects in my story. When they fit, it was good, when they did not, it was the beginning of a break in the circle.

Stories are not always lies. They can come from the best sources. We Friends often caution each other not to read too much philosophy, especially older Friends used to tell me this. Why? Because we are anti intellectual? No, because we don't learn our faith like a catechism. Other people's words can contain great truth, but when we take them into our hearts and make the story, they lead us away from OUR truth. I have seen members of Ministry and Worship pass out endless tracts with quotes from the past to heal our meeting, when all they needed to do was look inside, and find the courage to love and speak directly the truth. That truth is described in books, but is found in the heart. Maybe we should read, a little and seek a lot... listen to the voice within that dwells in love.

Without courage all, all, all is fear. Fear of what if the people around us don't fit our narrative. We try to change the narrative, fix the past to fit our present to gain our future. Fear keeps us from that perfect love which is open and free.

Anger follows fear. So often, I see anger, pain, hardness flow from fear. We Quakers need to regain the gentleness with which we love each other to heal our meetings and our families. It takes courage to put anger aside. When we do we fly.

Next to her death bed, my dear friend Sally Scott jotted down the poem by Apolinare (excuse the spelling) and the following is from memory so my apologies to the poet.

You said come to the edge
I said I am frightened
You said come to the edge
I can't I said I am frightened
I came to the edge and you pushed me
and I flew.