The Answer is:



Todays's Quiz

(without googling the answer)
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo
where the average income is less than
1 dollar a day
what is the cost of a
new AK-47 ?



More on FWCC affiliation

Dan McCracken writes about Quaker process and the decision of NWYM to affiliate.

Carrie Hutchinson, Reedwood Friends Church, NWYM (who first reported this event to SPG) writes that her favorite part was:

"One of the (much) older, "weighty" Friends was led to share his deep concern over affiliation, and being 'unequally yoked'. And yet, after describing his position, he committed wholly to being a mighty prayer warrior, covering those who are our representatives with blessing and protection as they follow God's call. He charged the whole of the yearly meeting, especially those in disagreement, to do the same. We have been blessed. "

Now: This editor's opinion.
The reason for reporting all this to the Quaker world is that those of of who have participated in business meetings of several hundred people, know how difficult it is to work through a divisive issue with people who have entrenched opinions. It is harder to do the heart to soul listening when everyone is facing forward and you are speaking into microphones. It is hard to clerk when you cannot practically see faces and body language. I am no longer in NWYM, but I know most of the participants in this issue. It is harder when people feel like the work of their eight decades is in jeopardy. Some of the people arguing against affiliation are the children of the Friends who took the Ym out of Five Years Meetings in 1925. The Corinthian call to "Be Separate", 'set aside', "Holy' was preached to these Friends along with their mother's milk. It is a core spiritual and theological element of the Holiness theology that they were raised with. Affiliation is not a structural, reversible, held lightly decision for them - it is an assault on their basic beliefs, and therefore their sense of safety. Humans do not usually change these beliefs in their eighth decade. That there were any that were swayed by the sense of the meeting and publicly spoke to their willingness to set aside their concern is fairly miraculous. I was impressed that the people on the study group who passionately believed in affiliation were able to gracefully write a minute that advocated pulling out( this, while I believed that it was a poor choice and bad compromise). Their grace may have in fact paved the way for the grace that happened this week. This morning I sit here with compassion on my heart for those few who could not agree with the sense of the meeting, would not stand aside, and reportedly walked out of the room rather than sign their names to any document coming out of this meeting. I believe that their concerns and fears will prove to be groundless, but today I am sure that they woke up crushed and disappointed. I pray with all sincerity that they will turn for comfort to the Jesus that that have served and loved so well and so long. May His Holy Spirit ease their hearts and minds. I also pray that when those of us who think this should have been easier are in our eighties, and some younger Friends ask us to step outside one of our entrenched beliefs, something dear to our hearts, something we have worked for our whole lives, that we will have the grace to be flexible and trust. We will not be able to claim that we have never had the example set for us. Let us remember those who remained flexible.


Report from NWYM concerning FWCC

By special correspondant to SPG,
Anna Baker, North Valley Friends Church, NWYM, EFI
former field rep FWCC
Friday July 28, 2006, 9pm PST

The FWCC Study Committee sent out a minute to the churches in May. It had 10 points including affirmation of the call several of us have to working with FWCC. The last point recommended that we withdraw formal affiliation with FWCC but affirm out call and ask FWCC to use us to the fullest extent. That is asking for our cake and asking to eat it too.

Several churches sent minutes to the YM requesting that we not withdraw our affiliation. I think there was one supporting the minute. Those were all read to the reps on Saturday. I was not in that meeting.

They scheduled two information times on Monday and Tuesday for 1½ hours. These were challenging. I thought the second one went better than the first. Our FWCC visitor from New England YM spoke passionately about “We want you there. Please come.” We knew FWCC would not come to business until Thursday.

Thursday morning was phenomenal. It was truly a covered, centered meeting more so than I have experienced before. It lasted three hours including time for a ½ hour break. I was afraid the break would change the dynamics but it didn’t. People were kind and really listened to each other. There was sharing on each side of the issue. Lon Fendall did not clerk this meeting since he is the FWCC member on the QUNO committee. Don Staples clerked it and did a wonderful job. Don had asked two people to work with him as he clerked. Ron Mock, our recording clerk, did not take minutes since he had clerked the Study Committee. The three of them worked on a full-page minute that was available to us just after 4 pm that day. Many were waiting to have a copy to see the minute as soon as it arrived from printing. It acknowledged angst some felt about being affiliated and also the call of some to be involved. It did state that we would remain affiliated.

This morning, Friday, was more stressful than yesterday. Some who wanted us out came prepared to challenge the minute. I think we worked on this for two hours today. There was some wording change and it sounded like we would lose our affiliation at times. We are still affiliated. Some agreed to accept the minute. A few said they wouldn’t and wouldn’t stand aside. They were told they could have their names listed as not approving the minute. I did not see people come up to put their name on a list following the meeting.


3:33 pm (PST) July 28 Friday

The SPG newsdesk has received a first report that Northwest YM has approved remaining affiliated with FWCC. Our editors are working to confirm this report.

Most EFI yearly meetings are not affiliated with FWCC, often citing the Pauline instruction to "be not unequally yoked with unbelievers"(2 corinthians 6:14). NWYM affiliated two years ago. That affiliation was challenged last year and a study group was appointed. That study group brought back the recomendation that the YM officially disaffiliate, but encourage those who felt so called to continue to participate. Today's new is that this recommendation was not approved.

stayed tuned to this station for further news.

3:57 pm

Have received confirmation from an unnamed source present at the meetings that affiliation will indeed continue with FWCC.

5:17 pm

this just in from Nancy Yarnall, NW field rep FWCC

"I am thrilled with the decision of NWYM to continue affiliation with FWCC. "


The stories I don't tell

might very well be as interesting
or more interesting than the ones I do tell.

They often have great leads.

I do hate to waste a great lead.
This week's story that I don't intend to tell
would start like this:

I don't know what they are putting in gasoline these days
but it sure doesn't taste as good as it used to.



Northwest Yearly Meeting

Went up to Newberg Yesterday to visit with the old crew at NWYM. Heard my greek professor Mary Kate preach, on of all things, "Freedom"

here is a pic of three balcony bloggers - can you name them?
(all the cool people sit in the balcony at NWYM even if it is hotter up there)
One of these bloggers is expecting a child - can you guess which one?

We tried yelling down to Aj to come up for the pic. She ignored us. Balcany people can be sooooo embarassing! Actually she said "I heard you , but I figured it had to be somebody yelling for one of the youth - beacuse nobody yells for me"

So Shout out to AJ!

And now - Just because it is late at night,
and because I can,
another picture of Kody


Asking for Direction

This week's UPI column

So There I was...

Lost in Vancouver, Washington. This was during my itinerant days and I was on my way to preach the morning message at New Life Friends Church in the Rosemere neighborhood, of a town that people often think is in Canada but is actually just across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon.

Alivia Biko, my right hand, ministry partner, and musical director was not able to be with me that morning. I had grown accustomed to the luxury of Alivia, and one of the luxuries is that I almost never had to drive on preaching mornings. This is a good thing since I tend to go into a sort of unction fog an hour or two before the appointed time – it is not conducive to driving. Knowing that I would be handicapped, I had allowed myself extra time, took the cell phone, plenty of coffee and I made sure that I had a church directory for our group of Quakers. I thought I had things covered. I often forget whose job that is.

I was enjoying some liturgical music by U2 as I went north. BB King was singing "When Love Comes to Town" with Bono and the boys as I crossed the Columbia River. This is one of the greatest testimony songs in Christendom, I often have to open up the moon roof, or blessing window, as we call it, and raise a hand in affirmation when they get to this part

“I was there when they crucified my Lord.I held the scabbard when the soldier drew his sword.I threw the dice when they pierced his side.But I've seen love conquer the great divide”

I may have seen Love conquer all, but I completely spaced my exit. When I realized it, I just took the next right and wound my way on down into old Vancouver, trusting my sense of direction which usually serves me pretty well; except on preaching mornings.

I was all turned around and I knew it. Nothing looked familiar. I pulled over and consulted my directory. Then I discovered my real problem. New Life Friends was only six months old. I knew this because I preached at their kick-off Sunday the previous November. This meant that they weren't in the directory I was carrying or in the local phone directory. I could not remember the name of the street they were on. I had 30 minutes to find them.

I prayed a bit and drove off in a direction I could no longer identify, and then I saw my salvation; a cab company. My definition of a town is a municipality big enough to have a cab company. A city has multiple cab companies. In towns the cabbies let you sit up front with them, in fact, they are sort of insulted if you sit in the back. I once had a cab driver in my home town of Salem ask me if I thought my name was Trump – sittin’ in the back like that. I gave the excuse of having been raised in Chicago and moved up front. Portland is a city these days – you sit in the back, but they still don’t lock the front door, and there aren’t usually bars or glass between you and the cabbie. I wasn’t sure if Vancouver was a town or a city, but I was glad to see that they had cabbies – because cabbies know everything.

I pulled into their yard and walked up to the dispatch building.
A big guy in a loud shirt waved me on into the back room.

"What am I doing for you this mornin’, darlin’?" He said.

"I'm lost,” said I.

"No you aren't,” He said with surprising vehemence.

"Well, I don't know where I'm Going"

"Yes you do... You're goin’ to church. Which one?"

"I'm preaching at New Life Friends in just a few minutes."

"Hmm...what's it look like?"

"Ummm, It’s a little funky old place between an New Age bookstore and an espresso booth."

(note: in the Pacific Northwest, coffee addiction and New Age proclivities are pandemic. We sometimes have three coffee shops per intersection. The description I gave might have well as been “It’s on a corner, next to a street)

"Ah, I know your place" He said confidently, and he gave me directions.

I was less than a mile away.

Out of the chain smoking mouths of cab dispatchers – once again - God’s very own truth. There is no such thing as lost. Knowing where you are going, and knowing how you are going to get there are two different things. The knowledge doesn’t have to be completely in your head. The reality is that I, and you, and the whole world, live in the palm of the hand of God and we couldn’t walk off if we tried. When we step off, His other hand is there to catch us like a Mr. Magoo cartoon. When we feel confused, we can always stop and ask for help, and help is out there.

Dispatch man walked me out to my car, and after I thanked him, he said this.

"Now, when you go in there this morning you’re gonna be full of juice,
you hear me? I'm tellin you, you're gonna Ace 'em.
Just go Ace 'em Baby, OK?"
So I did.


From the Pastor's Pod

KGH got out of here just in time.
It was 104 and raining for a while here today.
NOT the Pacific NW
(I'm sure the bus ride to Iowa was lots better - what were you thinking?)

Nothing to do in weather like this except to sip cool liquids and listen to Reggae

This Spiritual inspiration from Brother Ziggy Marley

I don’t condemn, I don’t convert, this is the calling have you heard
Bring all the lovers to the fold, no one is going to lose their soul

All my days I’ve been searching, to find out what this life is worth
Through the books I looked, through time I’ve searched

Love is my religion, Love is my religion, Love is my religion
You can take it it or leave it, you don’t have to believe it.

So don’t let nobody stop us, free spirits gotta soar
With you I share the gift, the gift that we now know

I don’t want to fight, let’s go fly a kite
there's nothing that we can't cure, and I'll keep you in my arms for sure

Love is my religion, Love is my religion, Love is my religion
All we need it Love

Well I'm done searching now, I found out what this life is worth

not in the books did I find it, but by searching my mind

Love is my religion, Love is my religion, Love is my religion
All we need is love, all we need is love, all we need is love


Soggy Blogger

Last weekend we were graced by the presence of Kody of Unwavering bands of light

Freedom Friends Church was delighted to
welcome Kody to worship.

Later I took K over to the beach for some
rock climbing.

Here is Kody converging with the Pacific Ocean

Kody is from Miami MM, SEYM, Florida

apparently the ocean is warmer down there.


Here is Kody having a VERY

convergent conversation with an

immature banana slug.


He who seeks revenge should dig two graves

today's UPI column So There I was... in a new house, trying to get to know my new neighbor. This old fellow was 96 years old, in relatively good health, living independently in his home. Besides always hoping to be a good neighbor, I am a collector of stories, and I saw him as a potential treasure house of material.

I made a few advances, brought over leftovers, and started engaging in over-the-fence conversation. This was a man who should have remembered the turn of the 20th century, should have remembered not only the First World War, but also the Spanish American War. He should have remembered Shoeless Joe Jackson and the Black Socks scandal. But I soon found out that this old gent had only one story, a list of nine decades of offenses the world had dealt him. If you listened long enough the story always came back to a beating with a buggy whip that his father gave him as a boy for a bit of petty larceny that he did not commit – It was the injustice that started a life of injustice-list keeping. He had no other stories; it took too much energy to keep his list. 

After failing to draw out any other story, I attempted to talk to him about a Galilean I knew who was also whipped for crimes uncommitted, but who managed to ask his father to forgive the abusers. When I used the word forgiveness, he gave me an odd look; as if it was a word he hadn’t heard for a long time. He fell silent for a moment and then with sudden passion said, “Forgiveness, huh? – When my old man was dying, he asked me to forgive him so he could die in peace. And I spat in his face and said ‘you can rot in Hell for all eternity if my forgiveness is what you need!’ I will never forgive that old man!” 

My neighbor died just before his 100th birthday, unchanged, as far as I knew. I think it was as sad a situation as I have ever known - and completely preventable. I wonder if he knew the old proverb, “He who seeks revenge should dig two graves.” 

The Apostle Paul says this, in his letter to the Ephesians, "Let all bitterness, anger, uproar, and blasphemy with all their evil, be removed from you. Instead, become kind and tenderhearted to each other, forgiving each other in the same way that God through Christ forgave you. Then you will be imitators of God, Acting like beloved children." (Ephesians 4:25) I notice four things about this counsel. First, that anger is a given, he wastes no time figuring out why it is there, it just is. Second, there is a process, not an event that is clearly injurious to the soul; anger turns to bitterness, which turns to uproar, which leads to blasphemy. Then there is another process described that is soul-nourishing, where anger leads to right choices, which leads to compassion which leads to forgiveness. The question is not how quick you forgive, or even if you get to the end of the process, but which road are you on? It seems that the essential key to resolution is direction. 

Some people want forgiveness to be a simple choice, a decision. Some want it to be an emotion - if you feel like forgiving, great but, if not, don’t worry – there are no bad feelings. Some want it to be an action you can take whether or not you believe it or feel like it – act like you forgive and maybe the other things will come along. I think that each of these is inadequate. So what it is then? 

What is this thing we call forgiveness? I may not be able to name it, I may have to settle for just calling it a mystery, but I can recognize another member of it's genus. It is like Love, which is also purported to be choice, feeling or behavior, but is in fact in its pure form a perfect integration of the three. Forgiveness is like this. For this reason I call it a Passionate, Decisive, Course of Action. Passionate, because it clearly requires and emotional capacity. If you aren't ready, you just aren't ready. Decisive, because it is a choice available to a free soul, it is not a commandment. And a course of action, because it has to be lived out. 

There are two traditional parts to forgiveness. The first requires that you are ready to seek no more repayment. The second is that you step out of the place of judgment. When you are ready to take these two steps, you have reached the placed at the end of this road, the placed called forgiveness. I liken it to driving a car to a certain destination. The cognitive part is deciding to make the trip and choosing the destination. This requires that you have knowledge of where you are going, or the ability to read a map. And like any destination, if you have been there a few times, it gets easy to find it again. It also requires that you look out of the windshield and assess information as you go. You must think all the way. The emotional part is like the dashboard full of little lights that tell you if you are running hot or cold, if you have enough fuel etc. We all have emotional warning lights within us if we learn to pay attention to them. The behavioral part is expresses by the fact that you have to actually do things; start the car, steer, brake etc. if you want to get to your destination. As you can see any of these parts can cause problems if your try to do without them. If you try to drive without gas or oil, and ignore the lights, you will fail. If you gas up but never look at a map or even look out the windshield, you will certainly not arrive at your destination. And if you plan, map, gas up but just sit there you will fail again. All system must be go; all systems must cooperate together to get you to your destination. So it is with forgiveness. If you decide to forgive, but ignore your emotional responses, you may get a ways, but your journey will be short. If you run entirely on emotions, and do not think or choose, your journey will be even shorter. And if you plan for the destination, and care for yourself, but do not enact your plan, it will be futile. You must decide that you want to be on the road to forgiveness, even if it takes your life to pursue it. You must know what it looks like and what it will require of you. Then you must assess your own emotional capability. Filling as many deficits as you can, and doing careful self-nourishment along the way. You can also ask others skilled in the journey to offer guidance and care. It is also important to note that you need divine help in this. Paul noted that we were to let these things be removed from us. We choose to be helped on this journey. Forgiveness must come from a position of strength. The journey will take as long as it will take. It believe the length of time will be proportionate to the hurt. For small hurts this process can be as short as a thought, a feeling, and an action in short succession, almost automatic. For the great injuries of life, this may be a long road, but it is infinitely better that the road of bitterness. 

I once read a quote in a book by Brennan Manning, he includes a prayer which he says was found by the body of a dead child at the Ravensbruck Concentration camp. I look at it now and then, not as a standard to be measured against but as an inspiration. "O Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember the suffering that they have inflicted upon us; remember rather the fruits that we have borne, thanks to the suffering - our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart, which has grown out of all this, and when they come to judgment, let all the fruits we have borne be their forgiveness." 




Why I like the idea of Convergence

I like the word convergent -
it is a pretty good descriptor for a thing I am seeing.
A thing that I do.
A thing I am called to.
A thing I probably AM

I think it is a useful way to describe
some of the winds of the Spirit presently blowing around Quakerism.

I don't think it is a "movement" - it doesn't have that sort of agenda.
It is not about making a new place, or stream, or institution.

I think it is a sensibility, a perspective, a desire,
a proclivity, if you will.

It is a fearless, non-violent, non-competitive,
cross border engagement
for the purpose of deepening the spiritual life.

It is about finding and keeping all the babies,
and some of the bathwater,
and tucking a new baby in every now and then
and then letting the Holy spirit add some
hot water and bubbles.

I like bubbles.

It requires no sanction.
It's goal is not unity of belief or structure.
It accepts that schisms happen, then finds a way through them.

It's been going on as long as Quakerism (Chistendom/humanity) has had divides.
Rufus Jones was convergent
Levi Pennington was convergent
Canby Jones and Vail Palmer are convergent.
FWCC is so convergent.
When Clerks meet Superintendents it's convergent.
The Multwood group is convergent.
The Northwest Quaker Women's theological conferences are convergent

Jesus was/is totally convergent.

Convergence promotes authenticity.
You cannot rely on code words and group-think in a convergent conversation.
You have to think about what you are saying and put it in fresh words.
You agree to acccept questions - to ask questions.
You accept the possibility that the other may have something to say to you.
That you may have something to say.
You are willing to be changed by the conversation. Change does not scare you.

Convergence prevents provincialism and isolation.
Humans are prone to this, and Quakers seem at times to have a gift for it.
Friends of all stripes can be in deep denial about the diversity of Friends

Convergence promotes spiritual growth.
Attention to the Fount of the Spirit, encourgaes Spirit's movement.
Attention to the power of our foreparents and their testimony
invigorates the Quaker family.
Attention to what God is doing now and next keeps us alive.
Convergence confronts the individual with evidence of God
in the person you think least likely to be holding much of God
- which results in growth.

Convergence challenges stereotypes and strawmen.

The primary agent of convergence is narrative theology.
Speaking from personal experience.
Telling our stories. Listening deeply.
Asking questions of clarification.
Identifying resonance and dissonance without clubbishness or offense.

Quaker convergence is marked by the desire to build relationships.
It is Bloggers who use their real names and desire to meet in person.
It is conferences that change lives.
This tendency alone will keep this from being a fad.
I find that I like these people - I intend to keep track of them.

Convergence is hindered by rigorous debate.
There may be a time and place for debate, but this is not it.
Debate does not often build relationship - does not bridge chasms.

Convergence is anchored by worship and prayer.
Sitting together in the Presence, together, bonds.
Carrying each other's burdens makes us strong.

Convergence finds differing beliefs to be interesting but not threatening.

Convergence is only one piece of a balanced spiritual life -
but it is an important piece.

I greet this vigorous convergence with joy.
Hail and well met!


Alexander April 1996 - July 2006

Ten year old second daughter was grieving the loss of a boy-buddy who moved.
She was taking it hard. I thought a puppy might cheer her up and give her something to do for the summer.

I went to a pet store that had three horse watering tubs with puppies in them. They were labeled small, medium and large. There was one puppy who was consistently escaping the medium sized puppy pool - that should have been my first warning. He was round, fuzzy, mostly black with droopy ears - mutt deluxe. And he kept running around my feet. We were looking for the smallish. But not too fussy dog to sleep at the foot of the girl's bed. I asked after the escapee as they dumped him in for the third time. He was listed as "Rottweiler/Shepherd/Doberman" No chance - maybe a little shepherd - not the other two. My second warning was when the lady said "You can have him half-price, and we will throw in a bag of dogfood free - a free visit with the vet next door was included.

I thought about what kind of person would buy a "rottweiler/shepherd/doberman".

I asked for a leash and walked the pup into the vet's. "What do you think this is?" I said. The staff, including the doc said terrier- maybe a little shepherd - the doc guessed an adult weight of 35 lbs. I took the pup home for daughter's 10th birthday.

The girl named him Alexander the Great

The terrier turned out to be Airedale.
The ears stood up.
His fur turned kind of golden.
He was paper trained in one day, and then forever preferred it to grass.
Never pooped on a walk - not once in ten years.

He flunked puppy kindergarten because he would not work for treats

He grew the legs of a reindeer, the nose of a horse, and the ears of a bat

And he was a runner - all legs and barrel chest - if he got off leash or through an open door there was no way to catch him - he would head for the horizon and never look back.

Except that he loved people and was trusting and did not believe it was possible that they would betray him. So, if he was running from you (which was just fun, not bad behavior) you could yell to any stranger - "His name is Alex - call him and hold him". And they would, and he would, and then he would have to most amazing look of disbelief "You're gonna turn me in????"

The first time he got away and was gone over night, he was really young. We were all worried - daughters were sleepless. #2 prayed "God keep Alex safe and help me find him" She went to school the next day dejected. It was show and tell day. She told "My puppy ran away and we can't find him" The girl in the next desk told "We found a puppy last night" Alex had spent the night with a golden retriever named Gwen, in a household with a child, in our child's school, in our child's class. Daughter believes in prayer.

He loved Christmas - he totally understood presents. He liked to unwrap his own which we put in newspaper. He loved stuffed animals that squeaked - the terrier need was to shake them real hard and then rip their squeakers out. CareBears lasted the best. He took the nose off daughter#1's favorite bear once but with much training he came to understand 'my bear' not 'you bear'. After he killed his bears he would carry them around in his mouth and sleep with their remnants for weeks - I think that was the shepherd part.

He tried to herd the family cat - this did not work any better than herding Quakers.

He loved visitors - it only took him eight years to learn not to bounce.

He grew to 80 pounds - daughter#2 had trouble walking him. He loved Children better than anything, but he was scary -
He never knew this about himself -
He would have been appalled to understand that he looked like the big bad wolf - so he had to learn to respond to the command "Down Children" and flatten himself on the pavement before they would be allowed to approach. He would do ANYTHING to be greeted by a child.

He and the patriarch Orville became best buddies. Alex knew a lot about greenhouses. Orville claimed that Alex was never fed scraps from the table, it was purely love that kept the dog at attention at his chair, nose on his lap. It is the only fib I ever knew my father to tell. Alex didn't fib.

Once a stray cat got trapped in the garage where Alex slept - in the morning they were found curled up sleeping together.

When Daughter #1 went off to college, Alex cried and grieved, and accused me of being a stupid woman who couldn't keep track of her puppies for weeks. When she came home from College with a boy he was ecstatic - until they left.

He was never reconciled to the notion of family members leaving. Daughter #2 brought home a boy - He LOVED boys - but this boy wouldn't stay put either. Alex took what boy he could get.

He was once prayed for by name at West Richmond Friends Church. I was preaching and found out just before worship that he was gone again, and that the girls were very upset, and mommy the fixer was 2000 miles away. It seemed appropriate to ask the gathered friends to hold the dog and children in the Light. They did. He was found.

He was dedicated to his family
He was uniformly welcoming to strangers
He did not bark much
He never harmed a living creature

When father Orville died last year his friend took a nose-dive. With much intervention he was brought back, but continued to struggle. When his health went south again this week we didn't have the heart for anymore interventions. He did not appreciate modern medicine.

When he hadn't eaten for a week, drank for a day and was having trouble getting up. I made him an appointment for euthanasia.

Euthanasia SUCKS.
He had no clue. He trusted us. They say it was quick and didn't hurt.

Hurt us - tons.

The Postman sat with me today and grieved - that is a pretty good doggy epitaph.


I should not be blogging

Because I have a virus
and I think I have a temp
which makes public writing dangerous.

I once preached with a 104 degree fever
was told it was powerful ministry.
I don't remember

But I just have to say
that the whole idea of
Wess and Joe having coffee
is way cool.

There is NO WAY that would have happened
without the blogosphere

"How you gonna keep em down on the farm, now that they've seen Paree?"

Quel Suprise!

Saw my copy of QL in the mailbox,
knew it had Blogger Wess in it.
Thought it was cool that he gave links
to Robin and Martin.
thought it was way cool that my friend
Danny-boy Gilliam was in there
(he's doing a Colorado, post-mod,mega-church thing)
Then I noticed an article called
Quakers: not just for Breakfast anymore
I thought - wow - that's getting around
then saw it was MY column
then remembered that Trish had asked
and I had said ok,
sometime ago.
she said she
hoped to find room for it someday.
I forgot.
The renegade path
has been very good to me.


The Death of Perfection

Today's UPI column

So they tell us…

that the last word that the pastor said was “Why?” Seems like a good question when you wife has just emptied a shotgun into your back.

We may never really know what happened to the Winklers of Selma, Tennesee, but what is being described as incomprehensible, seems quite understandable to me. I think I can describe quite clearly why this, or something near to this, might happen in many parsonages in America.

First, I have two caveats. One - I can’t judge this particular woman – there is not enough information, and once the lawyers are involved the full details may never be known. Two – no matter what happened – nothing, I mean NOTHING justifies murder.

That said, from the reports of Mary Winkler’s words after her arrest I can see a perfect storm for murder brewing in that house and that community.

I have spent 15 years in counseling. I have been invited into the secrets of many “Christian marriages”, many of them lived out in parsonages. I can tell you that I believe that there are thousands of people; pastors, elders, deacons and their wives whose private gut reaction to the news of this crime was “There but for the grace of God, go I.”

Here is the recipe for a Christian matrimonial murder.

Start with a church culture that says that pastors and their families have to be, if not perfect, then better than everyone else. In these cultures, the pastor’s family is seen as the proof of the Gospel. If they live a blessed, Biblical life then God, the Bible and the church are proved true. If not – then they are hypocrites and all their teaching is lies. This is way too much pressure. Nobody can live up to it, but a lot of people try and ironically what that effort requires is the ability to lie and fake. Fake happy when you’re not. Fake nice when you feel crabby. Pretend concern when you are really too tired to care. You cannot admit normal human mistakes. You cannot admit lapses in judgment because if you do it reflects badly on God.

This kind of falsehood has a backlash. When you hold in ugly -- it just gets uglier. When it comes out -- and it will come out, usually towards the people your love the most -- it can be truly nasty.

Now add to this a theology that says that you especially cannot admit or fix a mistake if that mistake was a marriage or an ordination. You can’t divorce your spouse simply because they are consistently mean to you. You can’t admit that you were totally unprepared for marriage. You can’t admit that while the choice of the ministry sounded like a good idea at the time, you now have discovered that you are not cut out for it. Marriage and ministry are not choices, they are sacraments and holy callings. You can’t change your mind or admit a mistake about these things without being disobedient to God.

Stir in some theology that tells women in particular that they cannot stand up for themselves in the day to day business of life. The flipside of marriage as a sacrament and unbreakable holy calling is that women actually have a lot of power in these marriages. She can take a stand, choose her battles and win if she chooses to. He can’t do much about it either. But often the theology and church culture does not tell the woman about her power. Some matriarchs in these cultures find and wield their power, but often it is not spoken to in public – it is not transmitted to the next generation.

If you live in a culture like this, and under a theology like this, a marriage of constant belittling, criticism and bickering can be soul killing. People always look for the big bad secrets like adultery, sexual abuse or physical abuse when murderous rage occurs. But consistent verbal meanness can be just as toxic or more so. And if you cannot talk about it or get help for it, the pattern persists and gets worse. And if the toxic couple also has to pretend that their partner is a saint when they are in public, the dissonance and private rage can reach volcanic proportions.

Now take this situation and add in just a little of one or more of these common human problems: a little brain chemistry issue, a bit of postpartum depression, a childhood abuse issue, a little familial mental illness, a minor league addiction, consumer debt problems.

Add in only one thing more, a loaded shotgun in the hall closet at disaster lurks at your door.

I would be willing to bet that the Winklers never saw this coming – their family and friends sure didn’t.

Let’s learn something from this, ok? God is all about choices – any theology that makes you feel trapped is not really from God. And God’s reputation isn’t really going to live or die on your perfection. Lighten up on your clergy and their family. Set a new church culture that tells the pastor that she or he may model how to get help for problems, not pretend to live without them. Let’s start telling our young people that they can make mistakes, admit them, and fix them. Let’s tell all our children that they have the power and the right to stand up for themselves. The proof of the Gospel is less about how good your cleric is, and more about how good we can be to each other in our humanness. Let’s try harder.


Giving Women What They Deserve

This week's UPI column 

So There I was... young, poor and pregnant. 

This was ancient times and there were no in-home-pregnancy tests. You had to go see somebody. I didn’t have my own doctor, or any insurance, so that left me to the free clinics and people who had agendas. I found my way to Planned Parenthood. I was a little nervous. They were kind. They were respectful. They gave me a test – I was pregnant. I was also days away from starting graduate school and I was waiting tables full time at a pizza joint to pay for school. It was about the worst possible timing. I was not happy. The doctor (nurse practitioners were unheard of in those days) could see my unhappiness. He sat with me for a few minutes. He listened to me. He made no judgments or suggestions. When my words and tears had run out, he asked me if I wanted to know about my options. I told him that my option was to be a mother, because aborting a healthy fetus did not fit into my faith, values or ethics. He smiled, and he said, “I think you will make a fine mother” and he told me where to get free pre-natal care, and about a program for free food for pregnant women, and where the free counselors worked. I was very grateful for his listening, concern, and advice. It helped. 

Five years later I had another unplanned pregnancy. Ironically I was getting ready to put the previous baby into kindergarten and re-start my education. Still, there were no at-home tests. I was still pretty poor. I was between health insurance plans. This time, due to hours and transportation issues I went to a “crisis pregnancy center” near my home that did free pregnancy tests. There was no doctor; instead, nice Christian ladies staffed the center. They were happy to help me. They gave me a test. I was pregnant. I wasn’t very happy this time either. The lady asked if my pregnancy was planned, I said no. She got really nervous. She started spilling statistics. She made some inaccurate presumptions. I thanked her and tried to leave. She got more nervous. She tried to set up a video. I declined her offer, thanked her again, and got up to go. She actually blocked my way to the door and said “I’m not supposed to let you leave without showing you the video! I escaped. She yelled after me – “Please don’t kill your baby!” I didn’t, of course, and I also never got near these people again or the churches that supported them. 

Eventually I did restart my education, earned a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology at an evangelical Christian seminary, and raised two daughters. In my fifteen years as a pastor and counselor, I have walked many women through many difficult decisions including unplanned pregnancies, serious birth defects, and grief over pregnancies lost and ended. I have learned that the decision about whether, and when, to become a mother is never black and white, and it is not one that women make frivolously. I tired to be there with listening and support. I tried not to make presumptions about their situation.

This I believe. Every woman deserves a quiet, calm, unanxious, unbiased listener. Every woman deserves to know all her choices and every woman deserves to make her own choice free of coercion. She deserves to have her decision respected. She deserves to have her basic needs met, and this includes, safe housing, adequate nutrition, affordable health care including contraception. We can afford this for every mother and every child. For me, this is a faith-based position.
For me, Planned Parenthood was that presence and that support. They were there for me when I needed them. They did a good job. They listened to me, and respected my faith-based values better than the Christians did. 

This I know - government intrusion into this most personal of situations would not have improved my situation, or the situation of any women or families that I have counseled..