Wednesday, February 28, 2007

That of God: my original face

I began reading Jan de Hartog's first novel in his trilogy about Quakers, The Peaceable Kingdom. It's about George Fox and the beginning of the Religious Society of Friends or, The Children of the Light as they were known in the very beginning. He describes George Fox telling Margaret Fell about going before the judge who gave us the nickname of 'Quakers':
"I was not insulting him. I was trying to reach that of God in him, hidden behind all those barriers."
"Which barriers?"
"A powdered wig, a scarlet robe, a woolsack."
"But those are symbols of his office!"
"They turned him into a symbol too. As he sat there looking down on me, he did not hold himself personally accountable for his judgments. To Justice Gervase Bennett, goodness, kindness, compassion, regard for a prisoner's humanity had no place in his decisions; he could hang a human being without compunction. Jerry would never dream of doing such a thing; he would be unable to do it. For me to have accepted the symbol would have meant to betray that of God within him. So I called him Jerry and told him that the day would come when he too would quake in the presence of the Lord."
Reading that helped me understand a little better that when we speak to 'that of God' in one another, we're speaking to that which is eternal, beyond ego. Van Morrison has a beautiful song, Before the World Was Made which I think speaks to this:

"If I paint the lashes dark
And the eyes more bright
And your lips more scarlet
Ask if it'll all be right
And it's mirror after mirror
No vanities displayed
You're just looking for the face you had
Before the world was made

And if I look upon you now
As though I have my view
With the earth beneath your feet
And heaven up above
Would you think me cruel
After everything's been said
You're only looking for the face you had
Before the world was made
Before the world was made
Before the world was made"

When I speak to that of God in you, I speak from my deepest soul to yours. I speak to what is true and lasting, not what is facade and changeable. I think the more centered and aware of 'that of God' in myself, the more I am able to speak to it in others. It's hardest with those closest to me, the ones I take for granted, the ones I love the most. And people who aren't' 'my cup of tea' (as my grandmother would say).
Today I will try to speak from my heart rather than from my self. Today I will try to be aware of my 'original face'.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Creating Room for God

In Prayer of the Cosmos, line 2 of the Lord's Prayer is "Nethqadash shmakh" in Aramaic, which can be translated as:
"Help us breathe one holy breath
feeling only you-this creates a shrine
inside, in wholeness."
The author suggests that we create a "holy place" inside ourselves, a "heart-shrine" by releasing some of the clutter inside that keeps us too busy to be silent and receptive to the "still, small voice."
"When this inner shrine is established, it becomes possible to be, in the words of Jesus, "all-embracing" (usually translated as perfect) even as our Creator-source is all-embracing.
"...To make the experience of "Abwoon" (Cosmic Parent, the Oneness and Unity of all power and stability) useful, we need to create a place for this Oneness to live inside. Then the light of shem-the clarity or intelligence that arises in ultimate peace-becomes usable on an everyday basis, like a light in a lamp."

In the Pendle Hill pamphlet, Four Doors to Meeting for Worship, author William Taber calls this the "Door Before" and likens it to a stream of water: "Entering into worship often feels to me somewhat like entering into a stream, which, though invisible to our outward eye, feels just as real as does a stream of water when we step into it.
..."I once thought worship was something I do, but for many years now it has seemed as if worship is actually a state of consciousness which I enter, so that I am immersed into a living, invisible stream of reality which has always been present throughout all history. In some mysterious way this stream unites me with the communion of saints across the ages and brings me into the presence of the Living Christ, the Word, the Logos written of in the Gospel of John."

I have been pondering Paul's command to "pray without ceasing" (have I written about that before?). To me, praying without ceasing means to be aware of the stream, of God's light within me. Praying without ceasing means that I remain aware of how I reflect God in all aspects of my life at all times.

On New Years Eve, my family went to a party at a dear friend's house. She lives out in the country on a bunch of land that backs up to a reservoir. Shortly before midnight several of us took a walk. It was a cold, clear night with an almost full moon-very beautiful. We walked and talked through the cedar grove and all of a sudden we all stopped. We all felt a warm breeze flowing through where we were standing. Not only did the air feel warmer, but it felt and smelled fresh, like laundry that's hung in the sun all day. The air felt different-lighter and less humid. None of us have ever experienced anything like it; it was like there was a subterranean vent in that spot.
Since reading Four Doors to Meeting for Worship I've thought of the stream as being like that stream of warm air which surrounded us. We could easily walked right through it and not paid any attention to it. I would have thought about it for a moment and then forgotten it if others hadn't commented on it, too. God's presence is, to me, something with me, inside me and around me all the time. It is up to me to quiet the noise in my head, to "release the clutter inside" that prevents me from being receptive to or aware of God. I am in the stream right now and the stream is within me. God is available to me, I simply need to make a quiet space for me to be available to God.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Deliberate Living

Recently, I did some writing that caused me to look back at my life and how it has unfolded. I wrote my letter to Ministry and Council of Nashville Friends Meeting declaring my desire to become a member and I wrote an introduction to a yahoogroup I've joined. Writing both of those things has gotten me thinking about how the life choices I've made have opened me and lead me to being a Quaker.

To me, there is nothing easy about being Quaker except that it fits me completely. Quakers have no answers. There's no one person to whom you can direct questions and expect guidance from. There's no 'handbook' or catechism or goal. We have no dogma, no creed so there is no one path to follow. In being a Friend, one has to trust one's own intuition and learn to listen to 'the still, soft voice within'. And I believe that, ultimately, that's all there really is for anyone, no matter how decisive the rest of the world seems to be about spiritual convictions.

When I decided to birth my oldest child at home, I began a journey of choosing to take responsibility for my life in a way that the majority of people in our culture never consider. Most women are happy to turn their physical, spiritual and emotional well-being and that of their infant, over to a physician and medical system. I chose to make childbirth a rite of passage for myself, my partner and all those who supported us. I am so thankful that I made that decision because in doing so, I learned a depth to my spirit, will, body and integrity that I may never have otherwise known. Truly, I owned the birth of my son. I earned the path to motherhood. I know how strong I am and I am linked with all the women of this world who preceded me on the journey.

The same with homeschooling, only different. It hasn't been a 'trial' in the physical way of birth, but it is about owning responsibility. It is about wanting to know my children and honor them for their individuality, gifts and needs. It's also about being willing to be honest with myself about my weaknesses and faults and being open to change and growth. It's not often easy. Sometimes it's not rewarding. I'm very glad we chose this path, though.

There are so many things about my life that are far outside the bounds of 'normal'. I don't think about them that much because I've created or joined communities in which most of the people live deliberate lives, choosing mindfulness and to be citizens over being consumers. Most of the people in my world are, to some degree, outside the bounds of 'typical American' so I rarely feel too unusual (except when my kids participate in organized sports, like soccer).

I feel like each of my 'unnormal' life choices has been a step bringing me to being Quaker. I am at a place in which I embrace the divine mystery of God. I know what I believe but I also know that new understandings will be revealed to me as I am ready for them. I know that this path that I am on is absolutely right for me but I also know that the path could take a completely unexpected turn at any moment. I trust God to lead me where I need to be; I have to trust myself to be open to wherever that is.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

"You Are the Light"

I keep a file on our music player of songs that speak to me in a spiritual way. The following song is one of my favorites. "You are the Light" runs through my head and often it's my mantra, helping me to remain mindful and aware that I am a part of God's world, not the other way around. The song is by Maria McKee and seems very Quaker to me, although, as far as I know, she is not a Friend.

"You Are The Light"

You are the light in my dark world
You are the fire that will always burn
You are the light,
You are the light
You are the light in my dark world

Oh how you shine in my time of darkness
Oh how you shine when everything seems hopeless
You know how to help me
When I can't stand on my own
Don't let go now

You are the light in my dark world
You are the fire that will always burn
You are the light,
you are the light
You are the light in my dark world

Oh how you shine in my time of indecision
On how you shine gonna give this girl some vision
You know how to let go
When I can't stand on my own
Don't let go now

You are the light in my dark world
You are the fire that will always burn
You are the light,
you are the light
You are the light in my dark world

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Aramaic Words of Jesus

I'm reading "Prayers of the Cosmos: Meditations on the Aramaic Words of Jesus" by Neil Douglas-Klotz. I just started it but already it speaks volumes to me. Aramaic is the language Jesus would have spoken. Most of the modern Christian understanding of the Bible and the words of Jesus came to us through translations from Greek rather than directly from the Aramaic. Greek is a very male oriented language- meaning that it favors the masculine over the feminine, the intellect over intuition and body, and hierarchy over cooperation. I'm just learning about Aramaic (and thinking I may want to learn to read Aramaic) but what I'm learning is that is honors both the feminine and masculine and integrates body, mind and spirit by words sometimes having several nuanced meanings. From the introduction of the book:
"Unlike Greek, Aramaic does not draw sharp lines between means and ends, or between an inner quality and an outer action. Both are always present. When Jesus refers to the "kingdom of heaven," this kingdom is always both within and among us. Likewise, "neighbor" is both inside and outside, as is the "self" that we are to love to the same degree as our "neighbor." Unlike Greek, Aramaic presents a fluid and holistic view of the cosmos. The arbitrary borders found in Greek between "mind," "body," and "spirit" fall away.
"Furthermore, like its sister languages Hebrew and Arabic, Aramaic can express many layers of meaning. Words are organized and defined based on a poetic root-and-pattern system, so that each word may have several meanings, at first seemingly unrelated, but upon contemplation revealing an inner connection. The same word may be translated, for instance, as "name," "light," "sound," or "experience.
"...In addition, the Aramaic language is close to the earth, rich in images of planting and harvesting, full of views of the natural wonder of the cosmos. "Heaven" in Aramaic ceases to be a metaphysical concept and presents the image of "light and sound shining through all creation."

Here is the King James version of the Lords Prayer:

"Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.
(Matthew 6:9-13)

And here is one way of translating it from the earliest known version in Aramaic (which preceded any Greek version):

"Our Birth in Unity"
"O Birther! Father-Mother of the Cosmos,
you create all that moves
in light.

O Thou! The breathing Life of all,
Creator of the Shimmering Sound that
touches us.

Respiration of all worlds,
we hear you breathing-in and out-
in silence.

Source of Sound: in the roar and the whisper,
in the breeze and the whirlwind, we
hear your Name.

Radiant One: You shine within us,
outside us-even darkness shines-when
we remember.

Name of names, our small identity
unravels in you, you give it back
as a lesson.

Wordless Action, Silent Potency-
where ears and eyes awaken, there
heaven comes.

O Birther! Father-Mother of the Cosmos!"

(If you click on this link:
you can hear a song recording of the original in Aramaic. It's beautiful.)

Friday, February 23, 2007

Hammy's Gift

Hammy is such a dear! Every year for at least a decade, Hammy has bought every member of our family music for Valentine's day. Every year I would forget that he did this and be surprised. This year I remembered and was anticipating the surprise of what he would pick out for me. This year he didn't do it. He came home on Valentine's day and said he went to the new record shop that replaced Tower but he couldn't find something for everybody so he didn't buy anything. I was kind of disappointed but, as the point is that it's a gift, I didn't dwell on it. Yesterday (the 22nd of February) Hammy came home with CDs for everyone. He's a sweetie! He has started each child's own CD collection with the Beatles and so brought home "With the Beatles" for Carmac. Zed got a Weezer disc. Declan got a 'Goth' compilation (which, oddly, included the Psychedelic Furs and Adam Ant!) and he brought me one of the bands I've been wanting, The Decembrists. I'm really touched at his thoughtfulness.
Sometimes I feel like I carry the load of any kind of tradition in our family but then I think about things like the annual love day gift of music being a unique and very personal tradition. Guys may not do the things we think should be done, but that doesn't make their contributions any less important or valid. When I can see the value in the very things that irritate me about Hammy, that's when things are best between us.
Money is really tight for us. We've been talking about how to cut back on extras and things; how to tighten the budget. I could get really upset that he spent money on something completely frivolous like music but really: Why? This tradition means more than $60 or whatever he spent. In giving this gift of music, he's giving the kids and me a gift of real meaning-showing us that he knows us and listens to us and loves us and thinks of us which is truly invaluable.
The lesson, for me, is to look beyond my own experience and expectation for deeper meaning because that's where the true gift resides.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

yeah, right.

As for yesterday's goal of accentuating the positive...
I started feeling the dis-ease of a gallbladder attack as I was cooking. Needless to say I was a cranky bitch for much of the night. I had to run out for supplies for a class I'm teaching today and had a full-on attack in the check-out line at Target. Somehow I managed to make it home and laid around moaning for hours until I finally threw up around 12:30 last night. Although the pain shut off at that point I continued to feel nauseous until I finally fell asleep. My stomach is queasy this morning so I think maybe I'm coming down with a bug. Yippee.
I have got to get over this whatever...avoidance? fear? stoicism? martyr complex? and make an appointment with a gastrointerologist. It's ridiculous to live with the kind of random pain, nausea and total disruption of my life when it can be dealt with relatively quickly and easily. I'm not one to run to the doctor for every little thing but I think I've proved the point that diet and healthy eating habits are not going to solve the problem (Although I have lost 10 pounds in the last 2 months just by eating smaller portions. I haven't been down to 150 in at least 7 years-maybe since I was pregnant with Zed 12 years ago!).
I should be thanking heaven that I live in a time and place in which surgery is quick, easy and almost painless.
I have to be at the Meetinghouse to open the doors for the learning cooperative in 45 minutes (we live 4 miles away). I'm tired and don't feel well. I'm not in the mood to be around wild children and chaos. Today I pray for patience.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

blah, blah, blah...attitude of gratitude...

When I think about my life I know I have so much. My life is wonderful! I've got a great husband, healthy, smart, funny kids, a comfortable (if messy) house, TWO cars, loving, supportive parents AND in-laws, a nurturing spiritual community, plenty of food to eat, an excellent library nearby and so much more. So why am I so negative so much of the time? It seems I take all the goodness for granted and let myself get annoyed by the little stuff that doesn't even really matter.
Hammy gets home from work around the time that I'm making dinner: 'The witching hour', as I've heard it called. The kids are all keyed up and are picking at one another; I'm trying to distance myself from the noise and give myself the treat of adult voices so I have NPR playing in the kitchen (often, out of stubbornness more than preference, I'll listen to the Marketplace show which I don't really care a thing about). The first thing poor Hammy has to deal with is a deep sigh from me to show him how hard my day has been, how noisy the kids are being, how much trouble I'm going to in creating dinner. It's a wonder he comes home at all!
I hear that same deep sign from my children. A few minutes ago, Carmac wanted someone to turn on his bedroom light and help him find a toy. Zed, happy to have a moment's reprieve from his schoolwork, volunteered, but sighed impatiently as he followed Car's slow gait.
Today I want to model patience and kindness to my children. Today I want to show my family how much I have that I appreciate. Today I want to be grateful.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Both of my parents have always suffered from 'Wanderlust'. My mother's creates a need for her to move into a new house; my father's forces him to find a new job. When I was a kid, that often meant a move to a new place; I never lived more than 4 years in any one place. Now, I understand that my mom's needs were her way of dealing with undiagnosed depression. My dad just gets bored easily and needs change. They sound like unstable people but they're really not: I had a secure and protected childhood and I appreciate what they gave me-even all the changes.
Thankfully, I didn't inherit the depression from my mom; if anything I'm unipolar in the happy direction rather than depressive. But I do get bored really easily with a job. My last couple of jobs have been perfect for me because they offered a great deal of variety and opportunity for growth. I like to do some amount of administrative kinds of tasks coupled with a good deal of creative work (like writing, public speaking, innovating, organizing things, people and events, etc.). I like to be around and meet new people. I like to talk. My last two jobs each allowed me to do all those things in totally different ways.
The university job, about which I wrote yesterday, is project based, meaning that when a project comes up that includes Middle Tennessee in it's data sample, I'll get called. Some years there may be two projects I'll work and other years there may be none. Some projects last a few months and one project I worked for 8 months. Some projects require field staff to work 15-20 hours a week and some 30+. I've only had the opportunity to work studies that are called 'area probability samples' in which participants are selected randomly by demographics via their addresses. When I get my caseload, it will be a list of address-I won't know who lives at the address and will have to 'cold call' on the house, find out who lives there and explain the purpose of the research study (which is usually funded by a federal government agency like the federal reserve, or the national science foundation). As you can imagine, a whole lotta people resent my intrusion, are completely suspicious of my motives and are hostile to me. It's a tough job. I've met some really wonderful and fascinating folks...I've also been cussed out more than once (and bitten by dogs 3 times). I either love this job or I hate it. It does pay well, though, and I'm good at it, even when I hate it. But it's no calling.

What is a calling? I've been pondering the idea of a calling and praying for some direction for some time. I am of the belief that even the most menial, unpleasant jobs I've worked over the years have taught me something I needed to know but I'd like to be in a situation in which I know my talents and skills are being best used to do God's work. Yes, I can bring 'that of God' to any job, but I'd like to know that I am where God wants me to be.
My only experience with being called to something is Quakerism. Over almost a decade, many things I read mentioned Quakers. After a while of reading about Quakers in many diverse topics and sources, I started to think I needed to know more. The first thing that drew me to Quakerism was the history of social justice but the more I learned about modern Quakers and the way Quakers believe that God speaks to each individual seemed right on, too. Eventually, I made my way to Nashville Friends Meeting and immediately felt 'at home'.
Is that what a 'right livelihood' calling will be like? Or will way open as needed? Or will I have to commit myself to something? I don't think I can make it happen other than keeping myself open to God's will for me. But maybe there are things I can do to prepare?
I have never taken any college courses for credit. There are a number of reasons for this but one of the main ones is the same reason I've never gotten a tattoo or started a business: I can't imagine committing to any one thing. As I've said, I get bored really easily and I'd hate to get a degree in something and find I was bored silly by it. And I know, if I get a degree in one area, that doesn't lock me into that one thing, but still. I have no desire to have to take remedial math courses and all that. But that is desire to avoid discomfort. I guess the question for me is: Do I believe God will better use me if I have an undergraduate degree? I feel no leading one way or another in answer to that question and I'm not about to run out and enroll at TSU on an unanswered question.
I believe that many facets of my life are leading toward something. The last few years I've learned so much: From teaching classes to homeschoolers, to having the confidence to organize and lead workshops for adults, breastfeeding, public speaking, home and natural birth, political awareness, my studies of social justice movements, world religions and Nashville's history, creating a learning cooperative, and all my recent studies of feminine images of God, spirituality, and ways of deepening awareness of the Divine. I think my recent need to be with other women who are spiritual seekers and facilitating the 'Motherhood and Spirituality' retreats is part of my path. I believe that all this (probably coupled with a lot of things I have yet to encounter) will all lead me to something. I wish I had a clue what this is leading to so I'd have a better idea that I have purpose and so that I can actively work toward something rather than just randomly following my, as Joseph Campbell said, 'bliss'.
I looked up the Joseph Campbell quote just now. He said, "If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track, which has been there all the while waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living...doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors, and where there wouldn't be a door for anyone else."
Ok, so maybe following my bliss is exactly what I should be doing. I have faith that, one way or another, God will put me where God wants me to be. Wanting to understand the plan is probably ego.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Which Way?

I've been job hunting for about six months. All my life, I've never had a problem finding a job. I've always felt Way Open as needed. Maybe I've just been lucky. Way is not opening for me now. The jobs I've been offered have been completely wrong for my family. The ones I've really wanted I haven't heard from a second time. My former employer, the university, has offered me a new research project that will begin in May and run 6 months. I really don't want to take it because it will be a full month of 40 hour weeks followed by constant stress and disruption of any kind of routine. I don't feel I have any choice but to take it, though, because we really need a second income. I've always felt guided when job searching in the past and this time I feel that God's letting me deal with this one on my own. I'm not sure why. I want to be in the place that God wants me to be. I guess God is saying that, at this point, any job I take will teach me the lesson I need to learn. Or maybe the field interviewer gig is the one I'm supposed to be doing by process of elimination. Maybe the lesson will be to learn to handle stress better-and rejection. I feel tension just thinking about the rejection. Maybe my lesson will be in seeing 'that of God' in people who treat me very badly (and only a small percent of the people I deal with do so but, of course, they're the ones that are most memorable).
On the good side of this job: It pays better than any other job I could get, I get to spend half my time driving and listening to books-on-cd and get paid to do it (I like to drive), I get to meet a lot of people and learn things about them and the world, I get to learn more about Nashville, I work from home and set my own hours, and I don't ever get bored doing this job.
I've got to do what I've got to do. I'm going to go call the woman who'd doing the recruiting and tell her yes.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Meeting and Message

Nashville Friends Meeting has, for the last six months, integrated Meeting for Worship for the Conduct of Business into Meeting for Worship. We spend the first 20 minutes in silent worship then the clerk introduces the queries and we spend a few minutes in silent 'waiting' then we begin attending to business. Today, the integrated Meeting was part of the agenda. First, though, we came to consensus about folks representing NFM when sitting in peaceful demonstration and in meeting with our political representatives in regards to the war in Iraq and particularly the proposed troop surge. We created a minute for the NFM representatives to carry and guide them in these actions and interactions. Following the support for those motions, we began a discussion of the integrated Meeting. I was very surprised to find that I am emotionally, intellectually and, most importantly, spiritually strongly in favor of the integrated Meeting. I think, if I'd thought about it prior to Meeting today, I would have said that I don't like the integrated Meeting because I find Meeting for Business boring because so little of it is pertinent to my experience. When the topic was opened I had the immediate message to share that it is all God's work; that if we attend to Meeting for Business with the intention of worship then we are doing God's work.
Although I am very verbal and generally articulate and outspoken outside of Meeting, in the decade in which I have been attending Meeting, I have only been given messages to share on three occasions. I was taken by surprise to have been given the message today but in sharing it and, especially after sharing it, I felt myself really opening to Spirit. I have never had the experience of feeling Spirit flow through me quite the way I felt it today; it was like my ego was set aside and I could just be open to Way flowing. It's even carried home with me to dealing with my teenager who is in a very bad and confrontational mood today. God has given me the gift of awareness of Divine Presence today and I am honored and humbled and awed.

Instant Karma

I was listening to our music collection via 'mediaplayer' on our computer yesterday, with the mix on random. John Lennon's "Instant Karma" came up and got me to thinking. I think I understand the concept of karma as well as any 'western' non-Hindu, non-Buddhist can. I don't know what John Lennon meant but, to me, instant karma might be the idea that every action that we commit becomes a part of us, that each of us is a sum of our actions, and to some extent, of our thoughts. If we commit right action we become 'good' people and our lives reflect a state of positivity (good karma). If we commit what we know to be wrong action (sin, if you will) we become 'bad' people and our lives are negative and egocentric (bad karma). Unless we are like Christ or the Buddha, most of us are in some state of balance between the two.
I think the first thing that made me think in this direction was reading about some people I know. They are an elderly Quaker couple who's adult daughter was brutally murdered a few years ago. The man who committed the crime was quickly apprehended and brought to trial. The prosecutor wanted to seek the death penalty and would probably have gotten it, because the case was pretty cut and dried, but this couple, having learned about the life of the man on trial and finding they couldn't see him only as the man who killed their daughter but also as a human being, spoke about forgiveness during the 'victim impact statement' at the close of trial and stated that they did not want this man to be put to death. I think the man got life without parole. After the trial, the couple began corresponding with the man and have since visited him in prison. From what I have read and hearing them speak about this, I think that their act of compassion for him as a human being was, perhaps, the first time anyone had ever shown him compassion. I think their act of forgiveness was a gift of life beyond this physical one. I think they showed him his humanity and gave him the opportunity to live in Grace for the first time in his life. He is now full of remorse for taking the life of their daughter.
This man was first the victim of the choices made by the people who should have cared for him in his childhood. But, at some point, he became responsible for his own choices. At that point, his actions lead to his self-concept. He acted in a way that caused harm to himself and others therefor he believed himself to be bad. Because he was bad, he caused more harm. This lead to his heartbreaking disregard for human life culminating in the death of the daughter. But, the couple, having compassion, could not see him as bad, only as a very flawed human. They looked in his eyes and showed him love. They showed him his humanity, perhaps for the first time he was able to see himself as something other than bad. He could choose to act in a way not harmful and, as I understand it, has chosen to do so.
This is an extreme example of cause and effect. For me, instant karma is more effected by the way I snap at my children when I'm trying to make dinner, the way I take my husband for granted and the way I'm so cynical and negative about so many things. When I make these actions, I reinforce that I am a cynical, negative person who is impatient and ungrateful. When I become aware, I remember to stop the wrong action. This day I will try to be mindful of how I speak with my family; I will try to have patience and compassion for those with whom I am the closest; I will try to embody love.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

My Middle Son

It occurs to me that, although I have identified myself as the mother of 3 boys, I haven't said the first word about my family or actually being a mother, as of yet. Today is the day to write about one of those most precious to me.
Today is the 12th birthday of my middle son, Zee. He's on the cusp of adolescence but is still a child. His best friend spent the night, as he has done every Friday night since basketball season started. They've been friends for years and have that easy comfort that old, young friends have in each other's company. Scott is a very sweet boy; mellow and secure. They both wear footie pajamas and they sleep in Zee's twin bed under separate blankets. They're so innocent and beautiful with their long, shaggy hair and silliness. Carmac, my 4 year old, follows them around imitating everything they do while totally bossing them around. They're kind to him and mostly patient.
Each of my children has been a gift of love and an incredible opportunity for learning. Zee is the child least like me in temperament (much more like Hammy). From him I am learning to listen more than speak. From him I am learning compassion as he embodies it. From him I am learning joy in simplicity.
A story about Zee: Several years ago, Hammy's grandfather was in the hospital on his death bed. He was in his 80s and had been ill on and off for years. He was a very egotistical man, self-centered and rather petty (he would, for example, give gifts that he would later decide to give to someone else so he'd call the first recipient up and say "you know that watch I gave you? I need it back" and he'd make you come to his house to return it. And this wasn't a symptom of senility or old age; he'd done it all his life). We took the boys up to the hospital to see Granddaddy; Zee must have been around 6 or 7. We walked in. A couple of other relatives were already there. My oldest hung back exactly as I would have done as a child, very uncomfortable and a little afraid of illness. Zee, though, walked right up to Granddaddy's bed, took his hand and looked him right in the eye. Someone offered Zee a chair and he sat and held Granddaddy's hand the whole visit. I think he gave Granddaddy more love and comfort in just sitting with him than any of the words by his children and grandchildren and longtime friends. Zee did the same thing 4 years ago when Hammy's Granny (on the other side) was in her last days. Z has a depth of understanding that I find difficult to comprehend but admire beyond words. He has a powerful intuition which guides him in amazing acts of kindness. Babies and small children adore him and he loves to be with them. Zee makes me want to be a better person, more like him.
Today we are eating at a diner for lunch and ordering milk shakes. Then we're going to the science center for lots of noisy fun. When we get home we will have cake and ice cream and we'll tell the story of Zee's homebirth and talk about his pink, chubby babyhood. It's a snowy day, perfect for storytelling and celebration.
I thank God, today, for the wonderful gift of Zee.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Deliberate Action

It's unbelievable how many ways one has to avoid doing what one knows to be best. I sit down at the computer with the intention of declaring my spiritual focus for the day only to think that I need to check my e-mail first and then, the next thing I know, a half hour or more has passed because I allowed myself to get sucked into playing 'spider solitaire'! What a waste of time; and yet, I do it all the time. If it weren't a computer game, it would be a book or some mindless project (anything but housecleaning). To some extent, doing stuff like that is ok because it allows me to 'zone out' and dissipate negative energy or tension. It's good to be able to chill a little. I think that's why a lot of people spend so much time watching tv.
I've never been able to meditate. I liken my mind to a dog. At Friends Meeting, it seems to me that all the other people who attend have minds that are like old Irish Setters laying before a warm fire on a winter's day. My mind is more like a young Chihuahua with the mailman knocking at the door: YAPYAPYAPYAPYAPYAPYAPYAPYAPYAP(inhale)YAPYAPYAP...
I've never been able to find peace or comfort in my mind. When I would try meditating, I would usually fall asleep. I've gotten a little better with prayer. I usually begin to center by thanking God for all the things I am grateful for. Doing so helps to put me in a state of awareness of all of God's greatness. This morning I began my day by asking God to help me be aware of God in myself and in all my encounters. A daily spiritual focus helps me to maintain awareness and having to create a new one each day keeps it fresh in my mind.
But meditating to 'chill' is another thing. I'm reading a book "Buddha or Bust" about a National Geographic writer who's traversing the world 'in the footsteps of the Buddha'. He's kinda into Buddhism although doesn't call himself a practicing Buddhist. I've read a lot about Buddhism over the years but, maybe because this book is not a book about Buddhist practice, only about the impact of Buddhism, and is therefore not trying to 'teach' me anything, I seem to be picking up the idea of meditation. Ok, I can only clear my mind for 3.4 seconds but that is 2.1 more than I've ever been able to do in the past before drifting off. Moving mediation works for me, if I could only get over my tendencies toward laziness to make them an actual practice: The whole "chop wood, carry water" kind of zone. If I could see washing dishes as a tool for calming my mind our whole household would run more smoothly. It all comes back to one's intention in each moment. Usually, my intention for getting on the internet is communication, sometimes it's research, rarely is it pure entertainment, although I often wind up doing that. If I could be more clear to myself what my intentions are in each moment, each action, I might be able to perceive things like washing dishes as a centering tool. Today, my practice is to be open to the possibility that each action may be done deliberately and with focus and in doing so can be a way to center myself.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Compassion for my own faults

I had written a long post about a situation in my life that is causing me conflict and sorrow. I was able to clarify some feelings but was not sure I wanted to publish it for all the world to see. I edited it so that it was less personal, but wanted to 'sit with' it for a little while to make sure I was saying what I wanted to say. The dogs needed to go out, so I minimized it and left the computer running. When I came back in 10 minutes later, my middle son had accidentally deleted the post in favor of watching a video of a bear falling out of a tree. Way opens...way closes. Probably for the best.
The gist of the post was that I need to hold the situation and the people involved in the Light. I also need to hold myself up. Today, I will try to have compassion for the parts of me that are judgemental and small-minded.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Be still

I awoke this morning with a line from Psalms 46:10 in my head:
Be still and know that I am God.
That will be my mantra for today. I anticipate having to be in a stressful situation this afternoon. I have been trying to be aware of the Paulian instruction to 'pray without ceasing' and in doing so understand that my entire life is a prayer, that everything I do and think can be a way of reflecting God. Being still, being centered, is the best way I know for me to be aware of God.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


I participated in a class on Quakerism a few months ago. We studied a book called "Silence and Witness". Many Quaker writers were referenced and quoted and the Bible was often cited. Many passages seemed very judgemental and made me uncomfortable. I've been studying the "Gnostic" Gospels. One night I had the epiphany that I could read them without any of the baggage I have from my Baptist upbringing about the Bible. I could read the Gnostic authors with an open mind and heart. I have difficulty reading the Bible with an open mind. So much of what I read is understood through a very fundamentalist filter and then rejected by my heart. When I try to read the Bible I have this battle going on between my rational mind and my 'inner guide'. I know that the Bible has been deliberately and inadvertently mistranslated, added to and deleted from in so many ways by so many people for so many reasons that I have a hard time reading it. There is a Quaker song, "The George Fox Song" with a line,
"Will you swear on the Bible?
"I will not," said he.
"For the Truth is more holy
Than the book to me.""
I'm grateful that I found a religion that encourages me to follow my intuition when it comes to understanding Truth.
I'm still a very young Quaker. I'm past the first flush of relief at the 'freedom' and acceptance and the seeming openness of this liberal religious community and beginning to understand that there is an history and structure to what Quakers believe. I've been studying some Pendle Hill pamphlets. Our Meeting doesn't recognize 'elders' but one of the women who would be an elder, if we had elders, has invited me to co-lead the next Quakerism class and we'll be using 8 Pendle Hill pamphlets as the basis for our discussions.
I'm very honored to have been asked and thankful, too. For the last decade I've been a leader in my various communities, creating classes and workshops for children and adults. I'm an autodidact. When I want to know something, I throw myself into the study of it and usually wind up teaching others about it. But lately, I've been desiring a teacher or mentor. I'd just begun to formally articulate the idea of wanting a 'guru' in my mind when Penelope asked me to co-lead the class. She's a wise, strong, deeply spiritual woman (who also has a family of all boys-hers are now grown). I thank God for the opportunity to work beside her, especially as she and her husband will be moving away in a few months.
I think she is trying to encourage and nurture the potential of less 'seasoned' members of our Meeting. We've lost several of our elders in the last few years. We've also had an influx of new, young families, which is wonderful. There is a new energy which I love (new F/friends!) but, I'm guessing that, without proper attention, there will be a little less depth of worship unless we have a new wave of people with the potential and adequate seriousness to become elders. Which is not to imply that I will ever be seasoned enough a Quaker to be an elder but I think I do have some gifts that could use the guidance of an elder to help me deepen them. I'd like to use my gifts without having my ego fed by it. I get all puffed up when I teach a class. Not in the 'I know more and I'm happy to share it' way but from people thanking me all over for taking the time to do the class. Instead of feeling like a servant I get to feeling like I really have done them a favor when it's really them who have done me a favor by believing in me. But I lose track of that and get all big-headed. I look forward to working with a woman who is a dynamic force and humble at the same time.

Monday, February 12, 2007

This Woman's Body

My monthly flow began yesterday and last night I slept with that awareness women seem to have, fully asleep but with a bit of consciousness focused around my root chakra. (It's the same awareness that mothers of infants have. A mother can be in her 7th month straight of severe sleep deprivation, can literally fall asleep while washing dishes, but put her in bed, allow her to fall asleep and one tiny little sigh from her sleeping infant will have her wide awake and ready to act. I wonder if any men besides firefighters and those in a war zone ever experience this? Hammy, for all his wonderfulness, would sleep through a meteor hitting the house, let alone one of the kids needing anything.) I awoke with a gratefulness that I am a woman. For me, being a woman helps me be aware that I am made in God's image. I was given this miraculous body that can create life! I can grow a new human and then birth it and nourish it for the first full year of it's life. This woman's body was the vehicle to bring 3 souls into this world that I love more than I ever imagined could be possible. Loving my children helps me understand how God must love us.

In one of the books I read recently, "Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time" by Marcus Borg, I learned that the word compassion in both Hebrew and Aramaic (Aramaic is the language spoken by Jesus) has a plural and a singular form. In the plural form, it means basically what we understand it to mean, but in the singular form it means to love someone as if they are from your womb. Often, in the Bible, compassion was translated to be 'mercy' or 'merciful' especially when talking about God. When I think of God having compassion for us as if we are from God's womb that opens a whole new understanding for me. God loves me as I love my boys. I don't sit in judgement of them although I am often angered or hurt or frustrated and usually very saddened by mistakes they make, particularly mistakes which hurt them or set them back in some way. When they take positive risks, when they show kindness to others, when they're playing, being silly, loud and boisterous, I feel overwhelming joy in their existence.

5 days out of each month I am given an opportunity to have a heightened sense of awareness of my womb. Yeah, most of the time my attitude is stoic, at best, at the pain, mess and inconvenience of it. But occasionally I have the ability to transcend the immediate physicalness of it to allow my womb to teach me a lesson.

Letting Go of Negativity

Trying to log on to any account that requires a passwords and usernames is a good opportunity for me to practice perseverance and patience. When I set up the accounts I try the name I prefer. When I find that to be taken I'll try choice number 2, maybe 3, or even 4. By then I've probably totally confused myself to the point of never being able to remember what my username is the first time I try to log on each day. With this account, it's my email address but I didn't know that until I typed in 'friendly mama' in as many incorrect configurations as I could think of. Frustration...
Generally, I would allow a situation like this to create a certain amount of negative tension in me, which does not bode well going into time to work with my son on his homeschool assignments. I guess because I was logging in so I can write about mindfulness and my attempt to reflect God in all I do, I remained calm and kept a sense of humor. I only feel a little tension, which is good! Perspective helps: Stepping back emotionally and allowing the feeling of frustration, acknowledging it, then letting it go.

Sunday, February 11, 2007


Howdy! I reckon I'll give you a little background to start. I am a Christian, albeit a very unorthodox, universalist one. I think to describe myself more accurately, I am a follower of the teachings and life example of Jesus. I try to keep my mind open and accepting of lessons from all sources; I do not believe there is any one 'right' path to relationship with the Divine. The path that I am on is my path and it is the right one for me. Your path is very different and it is the right one for you. You may have something to teach me, though. I believe many lessons are to be found in the unlikeliest of places so my goal is to remain open to potential opportunities for growth all the time.
I am also a wife and a mother of three sons. A lot of the writing will do here will be about trying to remain aware of God* while juggling all the facets of my hustle-bustle life.

*I use the name God. I do not think of God as gendered. I will write more about this in the future.