Friday, October 31, 2008

Whatever Kindles

I received this today from CPT's news service. On this Samhain, I honor the memory of Tom Fox, of those of all nationalities who have died in the "War on Terror," and of those who have died in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Bluffton University is in northwest Ohio, an hour south of Toledo and ninety minutes north of Dayton.

- sm

31 October 2008
CHICAGO/TORONTO: Second production of CPT docudrama, Whatever Kindles, to be mounted

November 12-15, 2008 Bluffton University’s theatre department will perform Whatever Kindles, a fictional docudrama exploring the everyday experiences and struggles of members of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). Written by playwright and CPT reservist Tricia Gates Brown, the docudrama takes its title from the words of St. Theresa of Avila, “Do whatever most kindles love in you. It features seven fictional CPT workers and an ensemble of supporting characters that share their experiences in Canada, Columbia, Iraq and Israel/Palestine through direct address to the audience and short vignettes. The play premiered at George Fox University in Oregon during the fall of 2007. A free script is available at

“ This production reveals to us the uncertainties CPT workers face,” said Dr. Melissa Friesen, play director and Mary Nord Ignat and Joseph Ignat Chair in Theatre. “The script recognizes the complexity within human responses to violence and oppression as we struggle to follow Jesus faithfully.”

Friesen chose the play because of its connection with Bluffton’s mission of service and peacemaking, and its parallel with the institution’s 2008-09 civic engagement theme: “Living in Uncertainty in a Complex World.”

Each evening production will include “talk-back” sessions with the audience. Friesen, CPT members, student performers and alumni, will engage the audience in dialogue about CPT and CPT members’ experiences. “Our hope is to create a space for thinking about critical issues of faith and our engagement with the world,” said Friesen. Sunday’s matinee performance will not include a talk-back session.

Several CPT reservists are lending their red caps—the signature uniform of CPT workers—to the cast as costume pieces for the production. Friesen hopes to establish a connection between CPT workers and members of the Bluffton production. “This is a unique opportunity,” she said. “The hats provide a symbol of the connection Bluffton is trying to establish between theatre and the wider community. By loaning the hats, CPT is supporting the production in a very tangible way, creating a joint effort to provide the audience an opportunity to see the fulfillment resulting from putting faith and nonviolent commitments into action in risky ways.”

Additionally, George Fox University is allowing Bluffton to use scenic projections designed for the premiere.

Whatever Kindles will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Nov.12-15, and at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 16, in Ramseyer Auditorium. Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for senior citizens and students. Tickets may be reserved through the university box office by calling 419-358-3239 or e-mailing

In conjunction with the production of Whatever Kindles, 1984 Bluffton graduate Kathleen Kern, a member of CPT since 1993, will make a public presentation on November 14 about the work of Christian Peacemaker Teams as part of launching the newly published CPT History, In Harm’s Way: A History of Christian Peacemaker Teams (Cascade 2008).

The Rightous Mothers: "Old Fat Naked Women for Peace"

My friend Julie Middleton sent this to me. For more information about this video and The Righteous Mothers, click here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Meeting for Remembering

Discovered in University Friends Meeting's monthly newsletter, from South Seattle Preparative Meeting. This looks interesting; I'd like to go. - sm


Meeting for Remembering will begin at 4:00pm on Nov. 1 in the dining room of the Senior Center (Central Area Senior Center, 500 30th Ave. S., Seattle 98144), and will be followed by a potluck dinner.

The building opens at 3:30pm, and we invite people to come after 3:45 to set up any pictures &
mementos of people they are remembering as well as quotes and short writings (tables available).

There will be a table in the middle of the room with candles. Similar to last year, the Meeting
will begin with naming a person to be remembered; and going to the table to light a candle in that person's memory. After the naming, the group repeats the name followed by silence before the next person is named and the next candle is lit. Then, we will settle into worship remembering those who are no longer among the living. At the rise of Meeting, we will share our potluck meal with fellowship, and view/share the pictures and mementos displayed.

Childcare will be available (please RSVP with the number of children attending to We invite children who would like to participate to join the group -- particularly for the naming and candle-lighting portion, but also for the rest of the meeting if they and their family so choose. Thank you.

-- SSPM Community & Spiritual Life Committee

Monday, October 27, 2008

Fall back: returning to standard time

Next weekend in the US, we will "fall back" -- set our clocks back an hour, returning to standard time from daylight saving time.

For more information, click here.

Why do I care about this? For one, the time the sun rises, the time it sets, and how much daylight there is in between, are part of how I measure the seasons and the time of year. Daylight saving time, I admit, messes with this sense for me; whenever we transition between standard time and daylight saving time, it takes me a while to re-adjust. "Springing forward" is harder for me -- an hour less of sleep, when I'm not much of a morning person to begin with, although I do appreciate the extra hour of light in the evening, when I can truly appreciate it. "Falling back," of course, is easier for me -- an hour of sleep gained back from earlier in the year; an hour of light gained in the morning. On the other hand, no longer having that hour of light in the evening tells me even more emphatically that winter is on Her way, and that Winter Solstice is around the corner.

We're living further north this year than I've ever lived, and we'll have the least amount of light -- the fewest hours of daylight -- on Winter Solstice than anyplace I've lived. But then, on Summer Solstice, we'll have the most...

A good fall to you, and blessed be!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Music meditation

When I was a teenager, my bedroom was on the third floor of my family's fixer-upper house. I didn't care that it was the coldest (and hottest) bedroom in the house, and had the worst-peeling of the wallpaper and paint: mine was the only bedroom up there, and I had the roof.

The third floor was smaller than the second floor, which meant there was a gently-sloped expanse of roof outside my bedroom window. Many nights, before going to bed, I would climb out my window to sit out on the roof and commune with the trees and the stars (and try to ignore the streetlights from the apartment house parking lot next door).

One year, for birthday or holiday, I don't remember which, an aunt gave me a walkman tape player. I had a friend with a good stereo who would make me mix tapes (and sometimes let me make them myself). So then I could climb out on the roof, commune with nature, and listen to music. Which I did, sometimes for hours on end.

Meditating out on the roof would, as Madeleine L'Engle's character Vicky Austin would say, bring me back into perspective, back into myself, and at the same time, beyond and outside of myself. My word for it was be-ing. I didn't have to think, I didn't have to be smart (I was the smart kid), I didn't have to do anything right, I didn't have to figure things out, I didn't have to know what to say to my family or teachers or school-mates. I could simply be, me and the trees and the stars, and whoever or whatever the Divine might be.

The woods, the moon, the stars, the seasons -- they have always been how I have most keenly felt the Divine. But in high school, I discovered music.

I realized recently that meditating to music is a spiritual practice that hasn't changed much for me in the last twenty-four years. (Although the technology has.)

Last winter into spring was a lonely and challenging time for me, but it was filled with much spiritual growth, discernment, and music. And one of the things that I found myself doing a lot was listening to music on the headset in the velvet darkness. Inside, this time: it was a snowy Michigan winter this year.

Beloved Wife was away, doing research in England for the semester. I was working and taking classes (trying to decide which to keep and which to drop: I kept music theory, and decided four years was too long after taking orgo I to be taking orgo II); trying to make decisions with Beloved Wife about our next move, her next job, and grad school for me; asking myself many hard questions about who I am and what I am led to do; learning a lot about music; discovering community I hadn't realized I'd had; and learning how to dance again, with deep gratitude to my physical therapy team.

Meditating to music helped ground me and center me, helped me worship, helped me re-connect with who I am and what's important to me, reminded me both of the things that have been constant and of the things I've been learning. The two have been very intertwined this year.

I asked a clearness committee to meet with me at Mid-Winter Gathering. It really helped, but it was also pretty scary: when Friends help you see what you're really being asked to do, it's a lot harder to hide from it. :)

It's fall now, and here we are in Seattle for the year.

During a break yesterday afternoon, I decided to download two songs I've had stuck in my head for the last few weeks, but didn't own copies of (except I have a copy of one of them on tape, in storage for the year). Did I mention the technology has changed?

We don't have a stereo with us, and the external computer speakers are good, but they're small; and this one song has rich vocal harmonies. So I plugged in the headphones so I could better listen to it.

I found myself drawn to just sitting on the sofa and listening to the entire mix I'd added the two new songs to. It was daytime, so it was light out, and I was sitting on the sofa, looking out at the greenery in front of our house and at the hummingbird that comes to our feeder. I was listening to a mix that's been growing since January, one I listened to a lot last winter, with some new additions.

And it turned out, this was exactly what I needed. During that time, I got re-grounded in me. I didn't have to be smart or wise, I didn't have to be a seasoned Friend or experienced thealogian, I didn't even have to ask how I'm led; all I had to do was be me, as the Goddess made/grew me. Carving out that time and space, and the change of perspective and consciousness that came with it, was a huge relief.

And isn't that what magic is?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Google, Halloween, and energy-saving tips

So, as a Friend who experiences the Divine through the Earth, I have a concern for ecology.

Right now, I'm entertained -- and pleased -- by Google's energy-saving tips campaign:

"Haunted by high energy costs? Here are some easy ways to save."

Their "Haunted House" takes you through what to do if you are "haunted" by different things ("Ghosts: Hear that eerie moan? That's the sound of warm air escaping up your chimney. Close the flue damper when the fireplace isn't in use"). It's both cute and practical. And their calculator will help you determine both how much money and how much energy you save by the actions you're already taking. Plus, they have an advanced tips section.


I love it!

Obama Pictures and McCain Pictures

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Quaker boundaries and spiritual disciplines/practices, part I

After a recent conversation with an elder in my home Meeting, I've been thinking about which of any number of spiritual practices might be considered compatible with Quakerism -- or not. Specifically, I'm thinking of disciplines/practices which are practiced by Friends, but did not originate within Quakerism.

I know there are others, but here's a list of examples that I've come up with:

~ Centering prayer
~ Circle dance
~ Dances of Universal Peace
~ Sacred dance
~ Contra dance
~ Mindfulness meditation
~ Sitting meditation
~ Walking meditation
~ Intercessory prayer
~ Celebrations of specific holidays
~ Transformative Narrative Portrait
~ Singing
~ Yoga
~ Qi Gong
~ Chant
~ Photography
~ Poetry
~ Magic
~ Spiritual direction
~ Energy healing
~ Storytelling
~ Quilting
~ Ritual
~ Ignatian Retreat
~ Writers circles
~ Bible study
~ Buddhist meditation
~ Labyrinth walking
~ Spiritual formation
~ Journaling
~ Couple Enrichment
~ Ceremony
~ Continuum movement
~ Spherical Dynamics

Which, if any, of these practices/disciplines are Quaker? are compatible with Quakerism?


Does it make a difference if such a practice is:

~ an individual Friend's spiritual practice?
~ something offered by or taught by a Meeting or Quaker retreat center?
~ something taught by a Friend professionally?
~ something taught by a Friend as part of a ministry?

What do you think? Why?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Interesting (re)reading

I found myself re-reading today both a post I wrote and the comment dialogue on it. The post was about belonging and conflict among Friends. It was useful and grounding for me to re-read it.

On the curb? In the backyard?

Hither, thither, and yon

...and here, there, and everywhere. Emotionally, anyway.

I've had cause more than once in my ministry recently to remind myself that it's not my job to be "successful" as the world would consider it; but rather, that it's my job to be faithful.

This actually brings me a lot of comfort, and takes a big weight off. It's not up to me to "make sure" it all works out in a particular way -- it's up to me to make sure I'm open to the movement of the Spirit, that I discern and respond to what the Goddess asks of me, that I am a faithful Friend. It's not my job to make sure I sell a lot of books at a particular event so I don't take a financial loss, for example; it's my job to make sure I that I have books and outreach materials available, that I show up, that my heart is open, that I engage with people who come to my booth. It's not my job to make sure a lot of people show up an event I host or workshop I teach; it's my job to make sure the event happens, to show up with an open heart and mind, prepared as best I can be, and let Nature take Her course.

This is so different from what I grew up with that it's often all too easy to slip out of this perspective. Particularly when I am afraid for some reason: Will I have messed up my family's ability to pay bills this month if I don't sell enough books to cover what I paid for them? What if no one comes to my booth?

Lately, that fear has been making itself known in a fear of others' judgement: What if the Pagans who come to my booth decide I'm a Quaker proselytizer and blow me off, and nobody talks to me all day? What if Friends decide I'm too big for my britches because I'm putting event listings in the weekly announcements once or twice a month? What if a Friend comes to my blog or my website and decides I'm not a "real" Friend? Is it misleading that I wear a pentacle with a triple Goddess, when I'm not a Wiccan? I find that reminder about faithfulness rather than outward success -- in this case, approval or approbation -- helpful again.

And yet, this perspective of faithfulness rather than success -- of faith, rather than fear -- is so inherent in the Quaker foundation of what I do, that I can't possibly be successful at what I do without letting go of that notion of success.


Ministry is also, honestly, a lot more fun when all I'm worried about is being faithful. Really, all I have to do is show up and be present. I don't have to worry.

I've been reflecting in bits and pieces over the last few months on why I started this blog.

As a way to "show up and be present"? To myself and the Goddess, at least?

Judgement was part of it: what little there was about me on the web was weighted, in the ways that the calculus of searches are, by the book I co-wrote. If you wanted to know anything else about me, you had to wade through that, or subtract "solstice" from your search. And yet people were making judgements about me -- including my personal theology -- based not remotely on anything I'd actually said, but on what they found on the internet; and those judgements were having hard impacts on my real life: whether I could rent a hall for an event; how people treated me in person.

Several years ago, a well-known Friend and noted Bible scholar in a particular Meeting was called on as an expert about "people like me" (Pagan Friends). She had never met me, never spoken to me, never read anything I'd written, and never corresponded with me. She told the clerk of Ministry and Counsel of her Meeting that Pagan Quakers are not legitimate Quakers. (Since the only membership in the Religious Society of Friends is through membership in a Monthly Meeting, and several members of her Meeting are Pagan, I guess they're not legitimate Quakers. Or something...)

When we were eventually introduced, she said to me: "Oh, yes, I know all about you."

I hardly knew how to respond. I tried to find out what she meant.

"Oh, yes," she said, "my friend Mr. Google told me all about you. You wrote that book."

All about me?, I thought. But Mr. Google doesn't know everything about me.

And really, the book was all she knew about me. She hadn't even gone beyond the first page of her Google search -- didn't know about any of the peace and justice work I'd done, didn't know I'd gone to a war zone from my Quaker beliefs, didn't know I teach Scottish Country Dance, didn't know I appeared in a friend's wedding picture on the class of 1993's wedding pictures page, didn't know I'd helped edit a paper on the Philadelphia Housing Trust Fund... So she didn't even know everything Mr. Google knew.

[Note: I have since come to prefer, by far, Friend Peterson Toscano's term: "Google Superpowers." Thank you, Peterson.]

Much later, I found myself wondering: What would I actually say, in my own voice, where other people could read it?

Out of that wondering was born this blog. Out of an attempt at integrity -- what do I say when I stand up tall?

When I am afraid of others' judgement, it can definitely impede my faithfulness. I am reminded of something my F/friend Merry wrote recently: "I yearned so strongly to belong that I strove to be a 'good' Quaker, rather than an authentic one." I have found myself falling into that trap on more than one occasion.

Last night, I hosted Meeting for Worship for the Full Moon at my house. I didn't know who might actually show up -- I've been warned about this Seattle "thing" where people say they will come to things, then don't -- but it looked like there'd be at least two people besides me. (But, I reminded myself, it doesn't matter how many people show up; what matters is the quality of our worship. It's not my job to be successful; it's my job to be faithful.) Six of us met in worship in my living room last night, and our worship was deep and rich.

I realized in worship, when I was not physically relaxed -- I would let my shoulders go as I breathed, but clench my hands; I'd unclench my hands, but tighten my legs, or my shoulders again -- just how scary living my life in ministry is. There's a line from a Peter Gabriel song that repeated itself over and over in my head:

To keep in silence, I resigned; my friends would think I was a nut.

And, well, yeah. You can only steel yourself so much against others' judgement.

I am also reminded of a song by Pat Humphries and Sandy Opatow of emma's revolution, which they wrote for my F/friend Rebecca's graduating class from the Woolman Semester:

I will stand in myself when I'm not feeling strong
I will stand, I will stand...
I will stand in the circle with the circle in me
I will stand, I will stand...

I found myself fearing judgement last night, particularly from the two people I barely knew -- even more so since one's a weighty local Friend. But you know, that's not remotely where Friends were. They weren't here to check my credentials, or to judge me; they were here to worship.

And it became clear, again, that this opportunity answered a need: that Friends' worship with a focus on what's traditionally considered Pagan -- Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Spirit, nature, the Moon's cycle, the Sun's cycle, the Goddess -- is a need among Friends.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business

I was filling out an on-line profile about a year ago for a religious information clearing-house whose resources I often use. Two of the required fields were, "Likes" and "Dislikes." How irritating, I thought, but filled them out.

One of the items I put under "Likes" is Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business. I was aware it sounded terribly geeky, but it is true, and it seemed relevant.

Today was my first Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business at the Meeting we're now attending.

And it was lovely.

Worship was wonderfully centered; there were some deep issues, but no drama; and it was just good.

I am grateful.

I really do love our business and decision-making process.

Friday, October 10, 2008

CPT Hebron project to close after thirteen years

As some of my readers know -- and many don't -- in 2002, I went to Israel-Palestine on two different peace witness delegations. One of them was with Christian Peacemaker Teams, with whom I spent time and worked in Hebron and Beit Umar. Their work was deeply centered, and definitely practical.

I read this with great sadness. CPT has done such good work in Hebron. Not only will their presence be missed, their absence will be felt in many concrete ways.

- sm

To view the on-line version click here:

10 October 2008
HEBRON: CPT Hebron project to close after thirteen years.

by Tarek Abuata, Palestine Support Coordinator

I would like to thank our supporters, our team members, and our partners for their love, prayers, and generous financial support over the past thirteen years. During these years, many have given much of their lives and poured plenty of their love into the continuing work of God.

I would especially like to express my gratitude for the loving spirit of our partners in Palestine/Israel with which they've always welcomed us. Since 1995, we've shed many tears of sadness and joy with them, and we've dipped our fingers into many maqloobeh platters together. Palestinians say "whoever lives forty days with a community becomes one of them." We've spent more than 4000 days in Hebron, and we've always felt the incredible love and hospitality of the Palestinian community. We are truly a family, because we've always helped each other as sisters and brothers.

CPT regretfully had to make the hard decision to close the Hebron team site. We have been suffering with an inadequate number of full-time CPTers on this team for months. Stretched thin, we covered the work of the Hebron team site with reservists until August, knowing that this option was not sustainable.

We continue to be committed to Palestine. A strong CPT project in At-Tuwani continues to partner with the Palestinian communities of the Southern Hebron Hills in their nonviolence efforts. We also have a committee exploring possibilities for collaborating with other significant Palestinian nonviolent efforts. It is our hope that these efforts lay the groundwork for a healthy rebirthing of additional CPT work either in Hebron or elsewhere in Palestine when and if long term full-time staffing permits.

As an organization, we have expanded outreach efforts and ask that you join us in calling new people into this work. We are working hard to undo oppressions within CPT, such as racism and sexism, and to nurture the conditions for healthy team life.

I would like for all of us to remember that we are Easter people and we open our vision to look outward toward new openings rather than narrowing our vision to see only closings, for the continuing work of God doesn't stop with a closure; it has no closure. Only our human work comes to a close.

As a Palestine Project, we will keep folks updated on our progress with the refocusing committee work. Many blessings and love to you, and many thanks once again for your continuing generous support.


CPT's MISSION: "Getting in the Way." What would happen if Christians devoted the same discipline and sacrifice to nonviolent peacemaking that armies devote to war? Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) seeks to enlist the whole church in organized, nonviolent alternatives to war and places teams of trained peacemakers in regions of lethal conflict.

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Sunday, October 5, 2008

Fall Equinox/Mabon

I hosted a small potluck for Fall Equinox Thanksgiving, for which I'd sent out the following invitation:

At Fall Equinox, day and night are equal in length; going forward, the nights will start to become longer than the days, until we reach the Longest Night at Winter Solstice. Harvest is a time of preparing for the coming winter and dark time of the year.

What foods are crossing our tables this time of year for which we find ourselves especially thankful? What foods do we eat and find ourselves thinking, "Wow, I'm glad to be alive in a world that has [this food]"? What foods will go forward with us into the winter, and which will not?

Whether it's home-grown tomatoes after a cool and slow summer, really good chocolate, or something completely different -- bring something to share which you're thankful exists so that you can eat it!

There was pasta with local veggies -- tomatoes, red bell peppers, garlic -- and fresh mozzarella. Home-made beet and vegetable soup-stew, again with lots of local ingredients. Home-made bread -- sourdough with rosemary from the garden. (Rosemary and lavender both grow nearly wild here.)

We hung out and talked far past when the potluck was supposed to have ended: friendship, community, good company are things for which I'm grateful, and in which I find joy.