Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Finding My Way Back

I am committing to going to Meeting every Sunday unless one of my respondents says the only time they can do the interview is at that time. I miss being in the depth and warmth and love of Meeting for Worship. I went on Sunday. It was wonderful, like a refreshing rain after a period of drought.

Caroline and I made the announcement about "Growing In the Light" and we have, including us, 9 people interested. This is so exciting! I'm meeting with Caroline to work on the schedule for the retreat on Friday. Unfortunately, I've had 'chihuahua mind' when I've tried to read or study any of the materials we have to read. I have not been able to center down or deepen my thoughts. I think this is happening mainly because I've been obsessing about work. When I try to center, I find my thoughts going almost immediately back to my cases, like a compass pointing North. Spiritual practice is just that: Practice. I'm out of practice.

I know grace to be God waiting patiently (and I imagine a little bemusedly, as in a slightly exasperated, "Child, when will you learn"?!) for me to find my way back and I am so grateful.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Lessons in Perspective

Every day lessons in perspective. You'd think I'd eventually learn. Yesterday, a phone call to a prospective respondent with a "yes, call tomorrow at this same time" answer. I was feeling good, confident.
Then, in the afternoon a situation which felt very much like the scene in "Wizard of Oz" in which Dorothy is talking to the Wizard and Toto pulls back the curtain to reveal the man: A woman's disembodied voice in a smallish (for a mansion) but very opulent and beautiful Italianate villa (in the heart of Nashville) spoke to me through the call box, telling me to vacate the premises immediately or the authorities will be called. When I explained that I have authority to be there, she demands that I hold proof of that authority "up to the door" so her closed circuit camera can record the image for her to view on her computer. When I did so, she said, "yes, um, we're not interested. Please leave this property". It felt surreal and was very disconcerting to me.

This morning, I got ready for the phone interview and was ready 15 minutes early so I killed time until 9:30. At precisely 9:30 I picked up the phone to find the phone line dead! Panic! Quickly checked all the phone lines. They all seem to be connected. Check them again. Still not working! Got my oldest son out of bed to help. He slowly checked the phone and said he didn't know what the problem was. I grabbed my cell phone to let the respondent know I would call him in a few minutes (we're not supposed to do these interviews with a cell phone because of security issues) and, imagine...he didn't answer. And then I checked one of the connections on the house phone line again and found the problem. And all that panic for absolutely NOTHING.

Perspective. I get all het up over the smallest things imagining them to matter. What matters is my response to them, not the thing itself. Again.

And Van Morrison's song is running through my head:

"When will I ever learn,

To live in God?

When will I ever learn?

He gives me everything

I need and more.

When will I ever learn?"

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Seeing Clearly Aside

I don't know why, but an article I read years ago in "Whole Earth Review" popped into my head a couple of days ago and has been rolling around. The article was on night vision, or more accurately, seeing at night. The article went into detail about how rods and cones work (don't remember any of that stuff) but what it comes down to is that during daylight, one's vision is effective at seeing whatever it is that one is looking at. I look at my child's face or the computer screen or a bird in the sky and I see each of these things clearly (well, with my glasses, anyway). At night, though, looking directly at an object makes it less clear. At night, one's peripheral vision works more effectively than direct vision. From a historical/evolutionary perspective, one does not usually need to look directly and intensely at a particular object at night when one is running to hunt or escape or even just sitting around a fire, one needs to be able to see the big picture well. At night, one sees an object best when one does not look directly at that object but to the side of it, seeing it in the periphery. Interesting, eh? And obvious, although not something one usually thinks of until it's brought to one's attention.

The WER article went on to tell how one can improve one's night seeing by gluing a foot-long stick to the bill of one's cap so that the tip of the stick is about nose level, and staring at it's tip while walking at night, allowing one to learn to rely on one's peripheral vision.

So, this has been rattling around in my noggin; a lesson of some sort, but I know not what or why. For sure, some serious metaphor potential here. Maybe it's about learning to use intuition instead of logic. Or maybe it's time to take a walk in the moonlight. I don't know but I thought I'd share.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Harry Potter and the End of an Era

Oi! Harry Potter makes me so happy!
My sons and I have been into the books ever since my book-buyer husband brought the second one home as a promo shortly before Potter-mania hit the States. My oldest son has, literally, grown up alongside Harry (he is 16 this year-Harry just turned 17). My middle son is growing up with Harry as a literary role-model and my youngest will take the books entirely for granted, having never lived in a Harry-free world.

I think the books are wonderful fun. J.K. Rowling either has an amazing breadth of knowledge or she steals ideas from people who do. I read about many rather specific and sometimes arcane subjects and come across words, names or ideas that she has lifted for this character or that creature in her books. I was reading the June issue of "Friends Journal" a couple of days ago and read a review of a book about a religious sect that began around the same time as the Religious Society of Friends (but never got to be more than a few hundred people but only died out completely in 1979) called "Muggletonians". While their beliefs don't really have anything to do with a disbelief in wizardry or witchcraft, the name is utterly whimsical.

The Quaker connection is that "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" begins with this quote by William Penn:

More Fruits of Solitude

Death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas; they live in one another still.
For they must needs be present, that love and live in that which is omnipresent.
In this divine glass they see face to face; and their converse is free, as well as pure.
This is the comfort of friends, that though they may be said to die, yet their friendship and society are, in the best sense, ever present, because immortal.

Being only about a fourth of the way through the book and knowing it is the last one, I feel bittersweet. I'm delighted to know how many people all have had their noses in this book the last couple of days. I love that I'm connected to all these other people in a book that keeps us (pardon me) spellbound. But I'm really sad that this is the last one. Years ago, I read a quote by someone who said that ending a good book is like loosing a dear friend. Multiply that by 7 books and this is a long friendship which is ending. I completely understand why my oldest son did and my middle son is now reading all the books in the series over and over. The characters in the books have become such an intrinsic part of their lives; mine, too, in some contexts. The Harry Potter books will be a point of reference for me and my children for the rest of our lives. I'm glad I share this with my children and our friends.

And now I will go try to wrestle the book out of the hands of my middle son so as to read another chapter before I have to work. (Sharing one book between 3 avid readers is a lesson is patience, let me tell you!)

Sunday, July 22, 2007


Spirit is so good.

I have some friends who are going through a very hard time dealing with divorce, elder care and lots of hurt and fear. I have been giving support to 3 out of 4 members of this family but have been increasingly aware of the needs of the 4th member. Yesterday, I prayed that God would guide me to doing the right thing for this old friend who is hurting so badly. I was given a metaphor that I think this friend might be ready to hear and I prayed for God's guidance as to whether I am ready to share this message; whether this message about my friend or about me helping my friend.

I've never been a patient woman. When I see a need for action, I act. I'm not comfortable sitting around waiting. If I don't act now, I find that I will never act (the road to hell being paved with good intentions). My intuition has always guided me true and I trust where it is leading me.

But, in this situation, I need to feel God directing me from without rather than through my intuition. I need to know that God is guiding my words rather than my own self: my ego. So, yesterday I prayed for guidance. And I hadn't felt any by this morning. Geez. This friend of mine is in crisis and I have to words to help him and now Spirit is silent on the matter. Have I mentioned that I am no good at waiting?

Just before sitting down to begin writing about this, I was eating my breakfast and scanned "quakerquaker" for new posts and was directed to Mark Wutka's blog, "The Ear of the Soul." Just the message I needed to hear. I will wait as long as I feel that waiting is what God wants me to do. And I will be content and very glad that God does speak to us in sometimes very unexpected ways.


Friday, July 20, 2007

Woman's Intuition Dreaming

Last night I dreamed about blood. Not the blood caused by trauma and pain, but a woman's blood, healthy and cleansing. In the dream, I had started my monthly cycle; I was away from home in someone else's bathroom and found I was making quite a mess. I was supposed to be leaving with others and was feeling an amount of pressure to hurry but calmly assesed the situation and had a good plan for cleaning myself, my clothing and the room. In real life, my dog then woke me up (it was 4:40 in the morning) and I went in the bathroom to grab a menstrual cloth (I use washable clothes rather than disposable). This morning when I awoke with the sun, my period had not started but by the time I got to the bathroom, it was flowing.

I've been aware that my "moon-time" should be beginning for a couple of days but I've never had it's arrival announced by a dream before. I feel this is a big leap between my innate body wisdom and my intuition; like a great connection was made (or maybe it's always been there and I've just learned to understand it).

I also awoke with the feeling that I need to mend the rift between my sister and me. We had one of those silent, "I'm not really sure what happened" kind of partings this past year over her husband's military career and my staunch peace activism. Something about my dream told me I need to try to contact her to see if we can talk.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Growing In the Light

Caroline and I are in the process of organizing a spiritual formation group. She suggested the name "Growing In the Light" which I think is perfect. We have a schedule and I made a brochure which I printed and also sent to Dick so he could send it out via email.

I've spent quite a bit of time since Penny told me about them, researching spiritual formation groups on the internet. A number of Friends Meetings have held SFGs and there are schedules and reading lists and other information that I've been able to glean from. It seems that one Meeting created the format and all the others used that format. It looks like this:

Our basic text is Listening Spirituality, Vol 1 by Patricia Loring. This is a good introduction to spiritual disciplines and practices, from a Quaker point of view.
Carol Conti-Entin, Improvisation & Spiritual Disciplines: Continuing the Human-Divine Duet
October: Introduction to Spiritual Life
Tilden Edwards, Living in the Presence: Spiritual Exercises to Open Our Lives to the Awareness of God
November: The Wider Tradition: Our Christian Roots
Marcus Borg, The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith
December: Prayer I
Sheila Keene, Prayer: Beginning Again, Pendle Hill Pamphlet #339
January: Prayer II
Thomas Kelly, A Testament of Devotion: Chapters 1 and 2.
Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God
The Inward Journey of Isaac Pennington (Pendle Hill Pamphlet #29)
February: Worship
William Tabor, Four Doors to Meeting for Worship, PHP # 306
Barry Morley, Beyond Consensus, Salvaging the Sense of the Meeting. PHP # 307
For Mid-Winter Retreat (Date): Marcelle Martin, Invitation to a Deeper Communion, PHP # 366.
March: Living Our Testimonies: Simplicity, Peace, and Integrity
Thomas Kelly, A Testament of Devotion: Chapter 5, "The Simplification of Life"
Elaine Prevallet, Reflections on Simplicity, PHP #244
Sandra Cronk, Peace Be With You, A Study of the Spiritual Basis of the Friends Peace Testimony, The Tract Association of Friends.
Wilmer Cooper, The Testimony of Integrity in the Religious Society of Friends, PHP #296
April: Mysticism and Activism: Learning from John Woolman and Thomas Kelly
Michael Birkel, A Near Sympathy: The Timeless Wisdom of John Woolman
Thomas Kelly, "The Eternal Now and Social Concern" (Ch. 4 in Testament of Devotion)
May: Individual and Community
Thomas Gates, Members of One Another: The Dynamics of Membership in Quaker Meeting (PHP # 371)
Marty Grundy, Some Thoughts on the Relationship between an Individual and the Meeting (Photocopy).
Thomas Kelly, A Testament of Devotion: Chapter 3, "The Blessed Community"
Sandra Cronk, Gospel Order: A Quaker Understanding of Faithful Church Community
June: Discernment of Ministry

Some of the books and pamphlets on this list I have read and learned from; many I've never heard of and want to read. But when I began thinking about structuring monthly meetings, different words came into my head; words like "movement," "obedience" and "gifts". When I was talking with Caroline about what we are going to do and how we are going to make it happen, I showed her the outline that others have used and mentioned, casually, that I kept thinking of these other words.

Let me say here that I have never been good at coloring inside the lines. I'm not good at following patterns laid out for me by others. I'm not good at following directions or working according to any recipe or outline. I don't know why. When I encounter anything that is a form to follow I always find a way to modify and improvise which, of course, makes my life much harder. If I could do a) b) and then move on to step c) I would know the beginning, middle and end but noooo. I read a) and think: "I think I'll substitute this for that. It will be more meaningful and relevant and we'll skip b) altogether but instead will do this activity and listen to this song for discussion and then take a walk in the woods". etc. You get the idea. So, my whole life I've been flying by the seat of my pants, figuring everything out as I went along. No guide books for me, no sir! I want to write the book myself! But you know, it's exhausting always rewriting the book. Why do I put myself through it?

Anyway, I mentioned the words to Caroline, really in passing, but she said she loved them. I tried talking her out of going our own way. I explained that if we follow what others have done there will be much less work to do but she was already adding her own ideas which, I have to say, round out mine very nicely. Here's our schedule:

September 8 & 9: Opening retreat
Exploring Spiritual Practices
October 16: Prayer
November 20: Gratitude
December 18: Gifts
January (TBA): Midwinter Saturday retreat
Discovering God Through Our Senses
February 19: Movement, Stillness, Sound and Silence
March 18: Obedience
April 15: Nurturing and Nature
May (TBA): Closing retreat
Having Bloomed: Fruits of Our Labor

So, in our way, we're reinventing the wheel. But that's what felt right to us to do. What we decided was, rather than go to the retreat with a list of books that participants have to read, we'd ask folks to contemplate the focus for each month's meetings and bring books or other resources to the opening retreat. At the retreat, we'll let the group choose the materials we'll use to explore each theme.

Let me take a moment to express my gratitude and happiness to have a spiritual community that is so supportive and nurturing of me. When I first spoke with Caroline about this, she was enthusiastic. She took it to Ministry and Council last month and she said everyone there supported the idea. I often feel like a rebellious teen playing at being a grown-up; most often because of my inability to follow directions and my compulsion to do things my own way which usually seems haphazard and unpolished. My community, however, understands my earnestness and sees the lack of polish as positive energy and creativity. I thank God for Nashville Friends Meeting and the wonderful souls who love me and help to guide me and encourage me to grow and mature.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Circle of the Sun

CIRCLE OF THE SUN by Sally Rogers

Babies are born in the circle of the Sun
Circle of the Sun on the birthin' day
Babies are born in the circle of the sun
Circle of the sun on the birthin' day.

Clouds to the east, clouds to the west
Wind and rain to the north and south
Babies are born in the circle of the sun
Circle of the sun on the birthin' day.

Children take their first step in a circle of the sun
Circle of the Sun on their walkin' day
Children take their first step in a circle of the sun
Circle of the sun on their walkin' day.

Clouds to the east, clouds to the west
Wind and rain to the north and south
Children take their first step in a circle of the sun
Circle of the sun on their walkin' day.

Children speak their first word in a circle of the sun
Circle of the Sun on their talkin' day
Children speak their first word in a circle of the sun
Circle of the sun on their talkin' day.

Clouds to the east, clouds to the west
Wind and rain to the north and south
Children speak their first word in a circle of the sun
Circle of the sun on their talkin' day.

Hope to be married in a circle of the sun
Circle of the Sun on the wedding day
Hope to be married in a circle of the sun
Circle of the sun on the wedding day.

Clouds to the east, clouds to the west
Wind and rain to the north and south
Hope to be married in a circle of the sun
Circle of the sun on the wedding day.

And I hope to die in a circle of the sun
Circle of the sun on my dying day
And spread my ashes in a circle of the sun
Circle of the sun on my dying day.

Clouds to the east, clouds to the west
Wind and rain to the north and south
Spread my ashes in a circle of the sun
Circle of the sun on the dying day.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Good thing Spirit infuses everything always, no matter what I do because if it were up to me, this world would seemingly be only what I can see and touch with no Light illuminating soul.

Spiritual practice. What is that? I haven't been to Friends Meeting in weeks. I haven't written in how long? On a good day I pray for all of maybe 2 minutes. I haven't even been reading any materials or listening to music that encourage me toward God.

I've had to work every Sunday morning. And, I guess, because I'm working so much, I can't justify sitting here writing (even though I do find time to research whatever goofy thing comes into my head). I've been on a kick learning about the sculptor Isamu Noguchi and spent a couple of weeks immersed in his life and work via books and websites. Right now, I'm into Renoir and the Impressionists (sounds like a band name). I haven't found visual art to be a conduit to Spirit the way music is for me. Maybe because with art, I want to know about the artist, what he or she was feeling or experiencing when a particular piece was created whereas with music, I let it work with my intuition to lead me on to a higher path. Hmmm...

I've been working about 30 hours each week, averaging about 400 miles in my parents' truck. I haven't been walking. I haven't been doing much of anything I know to be good for me. I need to reset my priorities. Obviously, this job is important (we are about halfway to paying off the debt we're trying to get out from under). But other things are important, too.
I guess my practice for this week is to do the things that nurture me, challenge me or fill me first and then let the other things fall into place.