Musical accompaniment for today's UPI Column

Gloria Lynne w/Eckstine - Call Me Irresponsible (live 1982)

Call Me Irresponsible

today's UPI column

So There I was...

In a rural town in Southern Oregon doing domestic violence prevention work. Traveling preacher. Traveling feminist. Public Quaker. And the guy in the back was yelling at me.

We were having a series of educational meetings: warning signs of abusive personality, universal rights of women, how to get a restraining order. That sort of thing. At the time, the county we were in had the highest rate of domestic violence in the state.

The first evening a man came in and stood in the back. He was pretty scary looking. Not a big fan of the bath. Not a big fan of clean clothing. Apparently not a big fan of me and my material, because every time I said anything, he shouted at me. If I said “X” he yelled “NOT X.” If I said “Y” he shouted, “Y is a lie” and added a few cuss words. I could have had him removed. One of the local leaders asked me if I wanted them to shut him up or throw him out, and I said “No, leave him be, for once I am not preaching to the choir – this guy needs to be here.”

So I just kept going. The next morning the guy came back, this time he took a seat and confined his comments to loud grumbling. He came back every session, until Sunday morning he came and sat in the front row. He had clearly washed his face – just his face, and maybe put on a clean shirt. I preached on the high opinion that God has of humanity, how we are loved, and that this love is extended to all, even the perpetrators of bad acts. Part way through my message, at the reading of some scripture passages about how God feels about you, this fellow suddenly caught my attention. He was shaking, silently; it looked like he was having an epileptic fit. Then there was noise, sobbing, and it was clear that the man was having some unaccustomed emotions. This time the elders did take him out, and I am told that he confessed to a long bad life and especially to a lot of spousal abuse. The elders paid a visit to his home, and provided assistance to the woman who lived there. The last time I saw the man he was sitting on the floor of the meetinghouse, playing with the babies, clean, sober and transformed.

This week they called Barack Obama irresponsible. They called him naive. This for saying that he would be willing to talk to our nation’s enemies. Not compromise with our enemies, not make concessions to our enemies, just to communicate with them, in his words to “to look them in the eyes and say what needs to be said.”

“How foolish, how unexperienced! They will use you as a tool for propaganda!” Say the more experienced.

Well, as for me, if this is inexperience, then we need more people with less experience. Because the inside the belt position is a position of fear, not courage: fear of being used, fear of looking bad, and fear of failure. In their thinking you do not go in and talk to the enemy until your agents and minions have already wired the deal. Then the leaders go in, pretend to hold talks, and look like heroes. They give the example of Nixon and the Chinese, where Kissenger brokered the deal in advance.

I say we need more heroes, not more people who want to look like heroes.

Moral courage takes risks. It does the thing that is unexpected.

So many of the people who criticize Obama’s position claim, quite publicly, to be followers of Jesus. This confuses me. Jesus said,

“You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 5:43-44

I am certain that “love your enemies” includes talking to them. It certainly precludes trying to kill them. It does not necessarily mean letting them have their way, but I think it does mean letting them have their say, and trust that the truth will be apparent.

I do not want to live in a theocracy. I do not expect politicians to run the country according to my religious opinions. I do not wish to legally impose my moral standards on others. But I wish people would stop proclaiming loyalty to the teachings of Jesus when they are really living out the philosophies that He specifically denounced. It would be more honest. It would be more clear.

But if they wanted a faith-based position for foreign policy, I have one to suggest. It is the words of George Fox one of the founders of Quakerism. He had this advice for his followers traveling about the globe.

“Let all nations hear the sound by word or writing. Spare no place, spare no tongue or pen, but be obedient to the Lord God; go through the work, be valiant for the truth upon the earth; and tread and trample down what is contrary. Ye have the power, do not abuse it...Keep down and low; and take heed of false joys that will change…This is the word of the Lord God to you all, and a charge to you all in the presence of the living God; be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone; whereby in them you may be a blessing, and make the witness of God in them to bless you.”
(G. Fox 1656)

To summarize:
Proclaim the truth you know.
Use every method of communication possible.
Trample deceit. (Not trample deceived persons!)
Do not abuse your power.
Stay humble
Live what you believe.
Presume that ‘the other’ has as much of God as you have.

Heresy, you say? That of God in everyone? That of God in Hugo Chavez? That of God is Osama Bin Laden?

I give you the Gospel of John, the first chapter the ninth verse.
“That was the true Light, (speaking clearly of Christ) which lighteth every person that comes into the world.”
John was not naïve about evil. He lived with the Romans; they killed all his fellow apostles before they got him. He lived through some of most appalling persecution, genocides and atrocities that human kind has ever committed. And he believed that every human had innate goodness somewhere in them.

It is possible to speak truth, even to evil. But you have to speak.


My all time favorite president and a darn good theologian

From The West Wing.
aimed, I presume,
at Dr. Laura.
Still good fun.


To Friends Everywhere

Be it known that the readers of the blog entitled A Silly Poor Gospel have heard the cry of the Rwandan young people. We have seen and heard about their courage and persistance and have joined with one of them to award a full year's scholarship. The student will be chosen by the Legal representative of Rwanda Yearly Meeting in consultation with the Pastor of Kagarama Friends Church and the Headmaster of George Fox secondary School, Kigali. May God bless and multiply the generosity of the Friends that have given and bless exceedingly the life of the one who receives it.

Imana i'shimwe
Jesu a'shimwe

Thank-you, Muracoze cane,

Gahongayire Juliette

Juliette is 19 years old and in the 5th form studying accounting.

I have never heard a story of more simple bad luck. She was born in Burundi while her parents were refugees from Rwanda. They arrived just in time for her father died in the bUrundian Genocide of 1993.

They returned to Rwanda just in time for her mother to die int eh Rwandan genocide of 1994.

She stays with her grandmother, and sometimes with a family near the school. She has three brothers and sisters, one of whom is in school. She relys on charity for her school fees, and the headmaster has been helping her. She lives outside of gihanga, so for her it is a three hour walk to school each day each direction. 6 hours walking, six hours in school, one meal a day.

She says that she has been feeling ill in her stomach.

She says “If I finish, if I get a job, I want to help others.” When they say this I do not have any feeling that they are giving me the answer that they think I want. They have a real concern born out of their own experience.

After each student shared, We thanked them, I asked permission to photograph them and told them that I would use the photos to tell people about students in Rwanda. They all agreed to this. The translation was very hard on my friend Augustin. He kept saying “sorry, sorry” in the middle of their sentences. I think it was as hard for him to listen without fixing, as it was for me. I tried to speak words of encouragement to each one – to predict a positive future based on God’s love and provision. We prayed with each one. And let them go.

It was a very hard morning. When we were done, Augustin breathed a huge sigh of relief, and said to me, Peggy, That was really hard. I thanked him for his tender and courageous work for me that day.

In his last e-mail to me he asked me to "remember the tears of the children."
Not a problem, my friend, not a problem

Two More Rwandan Students - Uurineza Claudine

Claudine is 16 years old and in the first form, a freshman in HS.
She is still a general student and has not specialized which happens in the middle of secondadry school. She was born and still lives in Gihanga which is a two hour walk from the school.

Her father is dead, her mother is living but ill, with four children. This probably means AIDS, although it could be TB or a host of other things.

She is a member of the friends church and is in school because her pastor in Gihanga has prevailed upon the headmaster to keep her. She was reported to be a very good student. She eats one meal a day. She walks four hours a day, then she helps her mother when she gets home.

She loves Chemistry, Math and physics. She asked us the most amazing question. She loves the sciences but has been advised to study something more 'practical' espcially for a girl. She asked me if I thought it was possible to benefit humanity by studying science - she truly did not know the answer to tha
t one.

Les Vulnerables Update

Well, It has been a very good week for some Rwandan Students.

Two collections were taken at Northwest Yearly Meeting in Newberg for this Portland Area project. Friends are excited to do something cooperative with their African Sister Yearly Meeting.

This week , Readers of This Blog, have used that paypal button and contributed 30 WEEKS of schooling for Rwandan Orphans!
On their behalf, I THANK YOU

If we had one more contribution of $35 US we would send one child to school for one full year. What say you Friends?

A friend asked for weblinks to the organizations working on this.

Rwanda Yearly Meeting does not have a web site:
but here is their presence at Friends World Committee for Consultation
Evangelical Friends International will be transmitting the funds internationally. They have people on the ground in Kigali.
Northwest Yearly Meeting is the Yearly Meeting for the Portland area.
The Portland area itself has no web presence, but the churches working the hardest on this project are West Hills Friends Church and Reedwood Friends Church. Carrie Hutchinson is the point person and a member of Reedwood, if you want to contact her personally write to me and I will send you her address.


You Move me

A little break from the Rwandans, today's upi column

So There I was...

On my front porch. I live in a nice old school kind of neighborhood. The housing is mixed, the mature trees are breaking up the sidewalks, front porches often have furniture, the people walking by will usually greet you, and the mosquitoes being not too bad, nothing is screened in. This I like.

Being that kind of neighborhood we have people going door to door. The occasional uniformed cookie salesperson still pulls a flexible flyer up the sidewalk – I would expect that the devil himself would be selling thin mints – they are that tempting. We get religious people, usually the Witnesses or the Mormons – I try and be polite. Oregon has a political climate that makes it easy to get things on the ballots so we get petitioners, some of them fervent volunteers and some paid by the signature. I won’t sign when they are doing it for the bucks. And we get regular salespeople of several varieties. Except for the cookie imps, I refuse sales at my front door, I prefer to decide when I am going to shop.

Then up came this young man, and he found me in a pretty good mood, and he was a pretty boy. College vacation job, no doubt.
So I was a little more tolerant than usual.

“Hi!, could I please ask you a question?”
(points for not calling me ma’m – points for saying please)
“Oh, sure, ask away, but I may not answer.”” Do you rent or own this home?””Well, that’s a mighty personal question to ask a stranger.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, I’m Dan, and I’m with Blah Blah Security Systems.”
“Nice, to meet you Dan. I’m Peggy. Selling Security then?”
“Oh No, I’m not selling anything today, I am the point man for our company and today I am just out gathering marketing research. But we are concerned with security…”

Then he launched into a spiel about the dangers of living in “Crime soaked” Salem, Oregon. It was really pretty funny. I smiled a lot, but didn’t quite laugh. See top paragraph about front porch living – until last year when I dog died I never had a key to my own house, I mostly didn’t lock it when I was away and cannot conceive of locking it while I am home and awake. (My conscientious husband likes to lock the doors at night, but the kids know which windows never get locked.) Eventually, I interrupted Dan.

“Son, for the sake of honesty, I need to tell you that you are actually wasting your time here on this porch.”
“Aren’t you concerned about security?”
“Never felt safer anywhere, anytime.”

I didn’t bother to tell him about my recent trip to a war zone, or the fact that I pack my sense of safety with me, so that I almost never feel less safe either. He tried to restart the line.

“Peggy, a lot of your neighbors are worried about their security…”
OK – then I laughed.
“Son, you aren’t going to sell me a security system.”
“Ah, but see here’s the thing! I am not trying to sell you a security system today. We are just trying to make a presence in the neighborhood. We would like to PAY YOU to put our sign in your window for your neighbors to see. Then, when our sales people come around folks will have seen the name, and will feel like if you trust our company with your safety then maybe they should too. And the thieves will THINK you have the system, so it will deter them as well. Cool huh?”
“So you think false advertising is cool? Really?””Nothing false about it!””I am not afraid of crime, but you want me to pretend that I am so that my neighbors sense of concern will rise, and they will think that I have installed this system, even though I haven’t, and I am going to try and fake out the thieves, and you want me to do this for money, and you don’t call that false?”

Danny boy was starting to look a wee bit confused.
For the third time I tried the simple truth.

“Truly, Dan, you are actually talking to the wrong woman, I can’t say it any plainer than that. Have a nice day, son.”
I walked in the house.

“No, I don’t, it makes no difference.”
Dan went down the stairs, confused, mildly disturbed, dejected.

Poor Dan, he had his pitch down so nicely. I wonder how transparent they were at sales-boy school; did they tell him that they were selling on the two pillars of fear and greed? I wonder if they had numbers for how many people are motivated by these things. He certainly was presuming that I was. He was confused when it did not work.

Motivation – that which moves you – that which underlies your actions – this is a good thing to be acquainted with. If you know what moves you, and even better, if you can influence or even choose what moves you, you will have the power to resist those who would move you in their own interests.

But to look at your own motivations you have to be willing to look at your own dark side. Young Dan had no idea that the middle aged lady before him would be much more moved by power and control than by fear and greed. But even if he had, it would not have done him much good because I know those things about myself. I have taken them off auto-pilot and cruise control. I have surrendered them to a higher power. That’s my security system. If they get the better of me, it is not without plenty of warning, plenty of chances to turn another way. I am not likely to confuse them with better motivations like compassion and loyalty as I would have in the past. I am not perfectly secure from the darkness, but I am not an easy target. I bet my soul has a sign in the window.

I walked around my neighborhood last evening. I could not find a single house with the security company sign in their window. I am proud to live in this neighborhood. I feel kind of sorry for Dan, but we all have our lessons to learn.


Meet Twagirayesu Venuste

Venuste is 23 years old, he is in the 5th form. He is the only boy that the headmaster sent us. A dispropotionate number of Les Vulnerables are female, even in a region that does not have gender bias as deep as some.

He comes from the western province of Kirungi. He was orphaned before the genocide and lived alone with his brother and his sister during the genocide. Some good neighbors helped them to flee from the killing, and after the genocide he enrolled in school, but had to stop in the second form.

He was a street child for a long time. He lost track of his siblings.

Then a friend gave him a job as a house boy. He saved enough money for his fees and started at George Fox. He works during the breaks to try and make enough for the next term. Sometimes the headmaster takes less than the whole fee, but it is always everything that he has.

He has reunited with his little brother and sister. His little sister begs for food from the neighbors and tries to cook it for the brothers at night.

When asked what he wants to do with his life, he says that he wants to finish school and get a job, and help orphans who have nothing. We had to stop our interview with him to let him recompose himself – this while telling of being a street child.

He has five scars through his left eyebrow. I asked about it. He has no memory, but was told that when he was a small child he was sick and was taken to a traditional healer who cut him.

When I asked him to smile for a second picture, as I did with each, he tried but didn’t really have a smile – it was as if he did not remember how to make a smile.


Meet Mukantaganira Sylvie

Sylvie is 18 years old and in the 5th form.She was born in Kichukiro.

She has living parents, but they are so poor that they have been choosing to feed the children once a day and feed themselves only once every other day.

There are no jobs and no money for school fees. They have three children and three children who are orphans that they have adopted. Two of the six are in school.

Her father travels out to the villages to do work for food. She likes to sing and sings in the Kagarama Church youth choir.

I asked her how her life was going and she said in English "50/50". When I asked her to explain she said the good part was that she was in school. The bad part was that there was no medicine when she was sick and that sometimes there is no food. She hopes to finish her studies in accouting and continue her schooling.

I asked Augustin, who was translating, if it was more important to get Sylvie food and medicine, rather than school fees. He told me that if we gave her money for those things that she would pay her school fees anyway. Education is the absolute priority for these kids. They are resolute. They are determined.

Absolutely shameless guilt producing post

I will be speaking about the Rwandan Student Project tomorrow evening at 5pm over a cheap fundraising dinner at Paul and Miriam Bock's House on College Street in Newberg during Northwest Yearly Meeting.

So far today we have a paypal contribution of Five weeks of school for a Rwandan Vulnerable, Thank You Friend!

A week of tuition costs $7.00 US.
Think about that when you buy your lunch tomorrow.

Anybody out there paying private school tuition?
Would you like to talk to your children about pairing them up with a Rwandan? How about one student for every pet you have in the house?

Paypal takes a very small transmit fee, Which I will gladly match so that not a franc of your contribution will be lost between here and Rwanda. I would love to see the blogosphere make me put a bunch of money where my mouth is. Come on - bring it!

EFI has agreed to transmit the fund to Rwanda YM without any overhead fees. You will not get many chances to have such low overhead costs!


Meet Mukankiko Josiane

Mukankiko Josiane

Josiane is 25 years old. She is in the 6th form. She was born in Kichukiro far from Kigali. Her mother died when she was in the 4th form. Her father died in the 94 genocide when she was 13. She lost years of school after each parent's death. She lives alone with her younger brother who is also in secondary school. Where she lives there is no public water – you have to buy water. She says that she has a good neighbor who once a week lets her use soap and water to wash herself and her uniform. Last week she was dismissed from school because she could not pay fees. She has been coming anyway, and they have let her sit in class this week. She has been feeling ill. She likes her accounting class and just wants to finish school so that she can help her brother finish. (Josiene is very shy, looks at the floor while she speaks)

Les Vulnerables - Meet some Friends

The next six posts will be introductions to some of the students being helped by the cooperative project between Rwanda Yearly Meeting and Portland area friends, NWYM.
These students are the ones
I met in February in Kigali.

We promised these kids nothing but to tell their stories. I have been doing so since I returned home. Due to the money already raised these six each already received one term of school fees. If you choose to help, you will be helping students like these, unfortunately their stories are all too common.

Our first student is
Musabimana Marie Louise

Marie is 20 years old. She was born in Gahanga, which is far outside of Kigali. Both of her parents are in prison - whether rightly or wrongly accused no one knows including Marie. They have been held 12 years without being brought to trial. She is one of 12 children, eight of whom survive. They live in their parent’s house, which she describes as falling down due to the rains - houses being made of adobe mud bricks. The oldest of her siblings hires out as a cultivator for small money and attempts buy enough food for the other seven. Besides Marie they have one of the younger ones in primary school. Marie is in the 6th form. She walks two hours to school each direction and eats one meal a day after she gets home at night. She says that studying is hard. Her dream is to go to university.


Les Vulnerables, A Cooperative Project

Rwanda Yearly Meeting of Friends, and Portland area Friends of Northwest Yearly Meeting are working to help vulnerable students in Rwanda. The next few posts will be about this project.

I am not a member of either of these Yearly Meetings, but I have many dear Friends in both. In February I visited Augustin Habimana and he and I did some research into the project which I brought back to Oregon. Portland Area Friends have taken this on as a project. The coordinator of the project is Carrie Hutchinson of Reedwood Friends Church. mother of Calder, an extremely young Quaker activist.

Contributions will go through EFI, I can put you in touch with Carrie if you want that address. If you don't need a tax deduction, or don't want to end up on EFI's mailing list, that paypal button on the left works, and for one week, all contributions will go to the vulnerable students project.

Les Vulnerables

Vulnerable Students being assisted by
Rwanda Yearly Meeting and
Kagarama Friends Church,
Kigali, Rwanda

Interviewed by Peggy Senger Parsons
And Augustin pastor  of a  Friends Church

On February 19, 2007

On February 18 I met with  Augustin and RYM Legal Representative to discuss the possibility of a cooperative effort between Friends in Oregon and Friends in Rwanda to help children orphaned in Rwanda.

This inquiry was a response to a request by A. in the spring of 2006 for help in feeding and educating orphans.

I was informed that at one point in 2004-06 RYM had been assisting with the feeding and educating of up to 300 orphans from preschool through secondary school. Funds to continue that work had dried up and new sources were not found. The YM worked with local NGO’s and local churches to place the children in more stable settings. The youngest orphans were placed first and most easily. Eventually all but 50 were taken off the care rolls of the YM. The fifty that are left are secondary students enrolled in Friends Schools, or somehow attached to Friends churches. The pastor and the legal rep agreed that these students are, without a doubt, the most vulnerable.

They are living in precarious situations. Their food and health care is insufficient and their place at school is in danger because they cannot pay school fees. These students are orphans or functionally orphans due to imprisonment of their parents or homelessness or extreme poverty of their parents. Most of them live in sibling groups. Some are living in the houses of their dead parents. Some live with relatives. Some do the Rwandan equivalent of ‘sofa surfing’. None of them have hope of any decent employment without finishing Secondary School. Very few are able to pay much of their school fees. These students are in school at the forbearance of the headmaster/s. But the strain on the school of keeping these students contributes to problems like teachers not getting paid or other basic expenses going unpaid.

The men asked that a program be considered whereby these students be assisted with school fees. The men considered this to be more important than food or health care in the priorities of these kids. They feel that these kids can find enough food, and can arrange the other details of their lives, but have no chance at earning cash for school fees which amount to 250$ USD per year which covers thee trimesters.

I asked to be allowed to interview and photograph a handful of students the next day. I was very clear that this was exploratory, and that I could not promise that any funds would come of this, but that I was willing to try and tell their story This was agreeable, as long as it was presented as research. The men were very clear that they did not want me offering hope of anything to these kids if I could not back it up. I was impressed by their protective concern. They were not willing to exploit these kids for gain.

The next morning Augustin accompanied me to George Fox College a secondary school on the grounds of the YM/Friends Church center. We met with the headmaster Samvura Antoine. We talked with him about the school and vulnerable students. 78 of 918 students at the school cannot pay their fees. He sends students away on a regular basis for failure to pay, but attempts to protect the most vulnerable. We asked him to choose six students to talk with us, one on one, who would represent the students in the vulnerable class. We asked him to tell him that the lady from America was meeting students to educate Americans about Rwandese students and their lives.

Some important things to know about Rwandese Students: Many of them are older than they should be. They look younger than they are. Everyone in Rwanda lost years of their life to the war. Most children had their educations disrupted During the 1993-1994 year at the very least. Many lost several years. In Central Africa, Primary School is six years, then you takes comprehensive exams to be admitted to secondary school. Secondary School is then six years. So a sixth form student is a senior is high school. Most of these students were primary school students during the genocide. After the genocide the new government arrested and jailed without trial hundreds of thousands of people. Some participated in the genocide, some were denounced by others for various petty reasons and have been held these 12 years without access to law. There is no way to know in any individual case whether someone is imprisoned justly or not. The children of the imprisoned usually do not know. Some are members of the Friends Church, many are not.

There are a hundred ways to become an orphan or a functional orphan in Central Africa. The AIDS rate is about 20%. Malaria and TB are endemic.

The next six posts will introduce some of these students.
If you want to know how to help - read here.


Put Down the Duckie - redux

Before leaving for Africa I wrote a column that talked about the problem of trying to do more than one thing at a time. I referenced a Sesame Street bit. Here it is for your enjoyment. Can you name all the cameos?

My post is at:


Waiting Worship

Today's UPI column

So There I was...

At the airport. Waiting. I was early. I had planned that. Then I became earlier as my expected person was delayed once, twice and then three times.

I ended up with eight hours of wait time.

I was able to see the blessing in it pretty quickly since it was 102 degrees outside and the airport had refrigerated air. I had the ability to purchase a good meal and a good book, and I like the airport.

It is a great place to people watch. Every type of person on every type of business passes through. The extremely elderly and newborn babes are assisted on their way. Business, commercial and personal, is pursued with determination. The entire repertoire of human drama gets replayed every hour or so, re-cast with every arriving plane.

As a bit of an empath, I have a distinct seating preference.
I stay away from the screening and departure area if I have a choice. People there are sad, leaving or being left. They are anxious and in a hurry. They are frustrated and sometimes angry at all the security nonsense.

I like waiting in the arrivals lounge. The anxiety is the good kind. It builds and builds as people wait, watching the clock and the corridor until it bursts in an explosion of joy when they see the much-anticipated one.

“MOMMY!!!!” screamed the three year old who escaped dad and got neatly around the guard and into his mother’s arms, and everybody, including the security guard, smiled.

Grandmas, babies, soldiers home from war.

Nothing stronger than the wave of relief coming off the weary young mother traveling with three under five, when she sees her parents waiting to help –
“Made it, made it, worth it already!”
The dramas are the same regardless of ethnicity or class. It’s all pretty intoxicating.

I spent a lot of time watching one young man. Twentyish, cool in a 70’s sort of way; self-possessed, long curly hair, a neat beard, dark shades. He’s wearing baggy jeans, but a clean shirt – probably his best shirt. It has buttons.

He paced, checking the time on his cell phone, checking the arrivals board way too often. He was wise enough to have discovered an important life secret. Always bring flowers to the airport. The flowers were purple daisies – dyed – poor man’s flowers, which made him more endearing.

He held the flowers like a man holds flowers. Blooms down, drooping, casual, light grip, like he was carrying a bat up to the plate. He doesn’t care about the stupid flowers.

He cares a lot about the girl.

I wait with him, wondering what she will look like. Wondering if she loves him as much as he loves her. Hoping she hasn’t missed her connection. Would she have preferred the one red rose? Hope, belief, doubt, swirling around him like a cyclone.

The wait is getting to him. He presses one hand on his heart, and blows out a deep shuddering stress-filled breath. He adjusts himself – hold on, tiger. Then his phone rings and ends his agony. She is on the ground and couldn’t walk the length of the concourse without calling him. He grins, and charges the gate just like the three year old.

She’s pretty – very pretty – and runs to meet him.

Hugs, hugs, rocking hugs, and he kisses her on the forehead.
Then he remembers the flowers. Of course she likes them.

Waiting is so holy. Anticipation is so holy. Joy is so holy.

We Quakers say that we practice “waiting worship”.

We sit, silent, waiting, expecting the present Christ to arrive.
Our meetings are sacred arrivals lounges, or they should be.
I wonder how often we experience the level and quality of anticipation and joy that you see at the airport.

Maybe we should bring flowers.



Hamid Karzai

Afghani President Karzai pardoned this boy, named Rafiqullah, a 14 year old Pakistani who had entered Afghanistan wearing a suicide bomb intending to kill a local governor.

Here is what Karzai had to say about it:

Mr Karzai said Rafiqullah had been deceived by the "enemy of Islam" while attending a religious school. "Today we are faced with a fearful and terrifying truth, and that truth is the sending of a Muslim child to carry out a suicide attack. "[His parents] sent him to study at a madrassa (religious school). The enemy of Islam deceived him. I forgive him and I wish him the best of luck."

I cannot remember a better act of sanity, righteousness, and true religion. Behavior such as this takes so much power away from the enemies of compassion. From the comments of the boy and his father, I believe this child has been saved not only from death but from the influence of extremism. He will remember who put explosives on him and who sent him home to his family.

Those who mock our Quaker faith say that this sort of action is impractical.

Here is concrete evidence to the contrary.

Now, everyone of you knows that if this boy had been so deceived

and crossed into our borders and caught he would be in prison for life.

If we had caught him in Afghanistan instead of the Afghanis

he would be at Guantanimo.

We have teenage boys at Guantanimo.

Mr. Bush, I call upon you to follow President Karzai's example and pardon one of them. You could make it an annual event.

How about calling it the "Scooter Libby Annual Pardon."

Mr Bush, you who publically claim to be a follower of the master who said

"Love your enemies" have been surpassed by Mr Karzai, a hero of his faith, a hero as measured by our faith, a hero of any faith.

the full story at


Catorze Juilliet!

Happy Bastille Day !
I added this day to my personal list of Holy Days a few years back.
Storm Something!


The Spiritual Discipline of Supplication

Today's UPI Column

So There I was...

Trying to talk to Annabelle. I had known Annabelle for about fifteen minutes. It was my first day, on my first visit out of the USA, to the least developed country in Africa, Burundi. Annabelle was to be my household helper. I knew this because I was dropped off to an empty house, and introduced to her.

My host knew that I had no Kirundi, Annabelle’s first language, and he believed that she had none of mine. I was trying to learn Kiswahili, and though my helper had not had much school, she had plenty of Kiswahili, so my host commanded her to speak nothing else to me. Then he left.

I was to run my own household. Annabelle had no clue what I wanted, but understood the basics of what I needed. I needed to know when she would be coming, what services she would provide, and we needed to negotiate her pay. Our attempts to communicate in Kiswahili lasted about fifteen minutes until we were both good and frustrated, and fell into our native tongues, and a bit of prayer. We discovered that we both had some French vocabulary and that Annabelle had a lot more English than she advertised. We started communicating in a badly mixed mess of four languages.

Annabelle’s best sentence was
“Give money moi” She said it with authority almost a demanding tone.
I had “kwa nini? (Why in Kiswhaili.)
“Chakula, market” she said. (Food – Market)
OK, money to go to the market to buy food.
`We worked on the currency and she left me.

After she left I felt flustered. She seemed awfully bossy. I wondered if we were going to get along. It was only later that I found out an important fact. Kirundi has no word for “please”, so Annabelle had no concept of “please,” no way to ask nicely, no word to indicate supplication. She had the simple imperative, and nothing else. I started to think about a society with no way to implore. The educated classes had picked up the French “Sil vou plait”, if you please, but Annabelle did not observe the French niceties.

At that point I needed Annabelle a lot more than she needed me. She did need a job. She was twenty-one years old, and functionally an orphan taking care of seven younger siblings. She lived in the Ghetto of Kamenge, and at that time, they were being chased out of their house at gunpoint three or four times a month. She was resilient, and resourceful, but a little cash was going to help.

I was also in need. I had no idea what I was doing. I had no way to feed myself. I didn’t know what water was safe. Some of the insects in my house were harmless and a few turned out to be deadly, I didn’t know one from the other. I didn’t know how to get a taxi. I didn’t know if it was safe to walk anywhere. I didn’t know what to do when the electricity company came around and threatened to turn me off, unless I paid them off. Annabelle was my key.

I was relieved to see her arrive the next morning with coffee, pineapple and bread. I knew I needed her help and I knew I needed to learn to communicate with her. So I started learning, and by example teaching, the art and Spiritual Discipline of Supplication.

“Annabelle, please, sil vou plait, tell me…” and we started around the house naming things. After things, we started working on behaviors, and then higher concepts. She asked me questions. We still mixed four languages.

You cannot know how important supplication is until you recognize your need. I think everybody should be dropped on the equivalent of another planet once or twice to make this real. Another way to learn this is to develop a nice raging addiction and let it mess up your life. Then you get to do the First Step that every recovering alcoholic knows so well – “I came to realize that my life was unmanageable.” Recognition that you cannot make it on your own is a foundation for spiritual growth.

Americans are just so blessedly arrogant about this. We think we can manage anything, our lives, our country – your country. And it is just so obvious to everyone else that we are not so good at it. Michael Moore is talking to us about our broken Health Care system. But we like the illusion that we are in control. We don’t like letting go of that illusion. What we have now is a Medusa-headed private system. We might trade that in for a lumbering but simpler single payer system and that just might work. But the insurance industry Medusa tells us that we have all the choices and we shouldn’t give that up – and they make obscene profits while we pretend we are in control. We won’t likely change that opinion until things get worse for most of us.

Spiritually, a lot of people have to hit bottom before they recognize that they have a need for a God. There are a lot more atheists in the middle and upper classes than among the poor. The poor and the sick, will tell you that they know they need help.

After you recognize you need, you have to ask for help. Stop and ask for directions? How good are we at that? Not very. Let somebody else see our unmanageability, our need, and our weakness? Not our long suit – by a long shot. Welcome to Step Two – “I came to believe that a force greater than myself could help.” You have to believe help is possible. You have to recognize it. You have to approach it – willing to be seen for what you are, and where you are.

Then you have to actually accept the help that comes your way. Step Three – “I made a decision to turn my will over to that power.” This means that you ask, and you lay down your personal preferences and take the help that is given, not necessarily the help you asked for, or the help you thought you needed. They call this taking Life on Life’s terms. Third Step

You can sum this process up thusly: “Oh Crap! Oh Look! Oh Help! OK.”

This is actually an optional Spiritual Discipline. God will love you just as much if you never ask for help, or fail to recognize and accept the help that comes your way. But ignoring this discipline may shorten your life exceedingly. And I guarantee it will impoverish you life tremendously.

I learned to ask Annabelle for many things. I didn’t worry about looking like a Muzungu Ujinga – (stupid white person) – because I was a Muzungu Ujinga. And she learned to take risks and ask me for things. She learned to ask for what she really needed.

“Paygy”(that’s how she said my name)
“Payge – pleeze - mange chakula moi? ” (Peggy, please can I eat food?)
“Annabelle – vou mange today, Samedi?) (Have you eaten today, Friday?)
“Oya” (no)
“Ayya! Annabelle, vou mange chakula niumbani moi, ego?”
(You eat food here at my house, yes?)
“Oya, never.” (no, never)

I discovered that this girl came hungry to my house each morning and never touched a bite for the six to eight hours she was there, as she cooked three meals for me, because she believed that eating my food was forbidden. That was how it had been before. Thieves lose their jobs. I had no clue. I was sick.

“Annabelle! – Chakula Moi – Chakula Vou!” I said it with authority.
(my food is your food)

The next day my host came in and found Annabelle sitting at my table having her breakfast with me, I had gotten up for the coffee pot and topped off both our cups, and offered him some. He looked surprised.

“Why are you serving Annabelle?”
“Why not?”


Big Wheel Races

I so want to live in
San Francisco!


Pursuit of Happiness

As far as this blogger is concerned there is not a whole lot better than an afterdark motorcycle ride on a hot night. Add to that my favorite outdoor group activity - watching fireworks - AND a very successful game of Guerrilla Croquet and what could be a better tribute to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Freedom Friends Church gathered to eat Barbequed Whatever you got, and...

Guerrilla Croquet is played on a very rough course for individual skill, by a simple stroke count formula. Our Par 90 course had a water hazard, a pea gravel pit, extremely rough and unpredictable terrain inlcuding stretches of concrete, lots of hills and holes and a full sized Liberty bell that you rang with your mallet as you made a particularly wicket. Some of our more mathematically advanced members played not only with real but imaginary numbers.

The Fireworks were at Mount Angel. A small municipality outside of Salem. They let you lay out on the football field as they blow off the pyrotechnics directly over your heads at not too high an altitude. Depending on the wind flow you can get ashes in your mouth if you oo and ah too much. They had lots of fancy rockets last night, but my favorites are the big boomers that you feel deep in your chest.

Then the ride home in the dark on curvy farm roads. They irrigate at night this time of year so there were water hazards there as well. We had 92 degrees yesterday and for a couple of hours after dark on a day like that the pavement radiates heat so you can ride in the dark and still feel very comfortable - temp wise. We took some familiar but curvy back roads. Couldn't see through the turns so we were riding by faith not by sight - Didn't the Apostle say something good about that? It was crystal clear last night and we could see all the stars - "ride towards the dipper - turn now away from the dipper - now turn back - Ha thought I remembered this road!"

Grateful Indeed!


God does not need your Praise

today's UPI colimn which mysteriously has not yet appeared on UPI.

So There I was...

Sitting on a polished hardwood church pew. I couldn’t have been very old because my patent leather Mary Jane’s were swinging freely well above the floor. We were all singing the Doxology, of course at that age I didn’t know it was called the Doxology, it was just the song that came after they passed the pretty wooden plate with the red velvet liner. I had been singing this song since I was about two; of course I had been singing it by rote memory syllable by syllable without understanding.

Prays God frum who mall bleh sings flo
Prays Hih mall cree chairs hear bee low
Prays hih ma buv yee hev in lee hose
Prays Fa thur sun and hole ee Ghost

I had been singing this on call in my baby soprano to much applause. But as far as I was concerned it might have as well been in Latin, or Martian.

And then on that one Sunday, about age five, something in my brain clicked and I realized the song was in English and that I understood the words.

Praise God from whom all blessing flow!
Praise Him all creatures here below!
Praise Him above, ye heavenly hosts!
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!

It was quite a little epiphany. And it was my first chance to actually do any praising, since it was my first understanding that any praising was going on. I dutifully reported to my mother that the song actually meant something.

But it started my little head a thinkin’. First, I had to work out my confusion about the trinity. I had a notion for God the Father, and Jesus was a regular figure on the Sunday School flannelgraph board, but this Holy Ghost guy was confusing. Back then he was definitely billed as the Holy Ghost, not Holy Spirit, and this caused great confusion for me with Caspar the friendly Ghost. This was made worse by visiting the church of my Pentecostal cousins, because every time the Holy Ghost showed up, all the grownups started yelling and running around, which was precisely what happened in the cartoon.

Life can be confusing for children in religious families.

Then, after a while, I started to wonder about the whole idea of praising God.

I had a great mother. She believed in praising children for their good behavior and accomplishments more than punishing them for their wrongs and failings. I knew my mother loved me, and that she enjoyed her children, but even as a kid I understood that there was an ulterior motive in the praise. She was manipulating our behavior, and mostly it worked. It was a good system.

So I mean, really, did God need to be flattered, to have his good behavior reinforced? To prevent Divine temper tantrums? Did He need to be told how good He was? And weren’t we God’s children, so shouldn’t He be praising us? To let us know when our deeds were approvable? Church music telling God how good He was began to be a problem for me.

Things did not get better with the introduction of pop music into the church in the 60’s and 70’s. In a decade we went from preachers who tried to convince kids to smash their records of “the Devil’s Music” to preachers in white-guy afro’s trying to do Jesus pop/rock.

In most protestant churches, music wars resulted. In bigger churches segregation of worship services by musical preference became common and continues to this day. Refugees from the Christian style wars started their own churches where they did not have to argue about it. They embraced the theory that cool, hip new music would bring people in the door and you could work on their belief systems later. In many churches the balance of the worship service changed from an egalitarian mix of music, prayer and preaching, to lots of praise music with a medicinal capsule of doctrine slipped in at some point. Of course most of the music was neither hip nor cool, it was third-rate treacle imitating the second rate treacle of the popular genre.

Melodramatic, sexually frustrated, mostly drug deprived teenagers, especially the girls, loved it because you could work yourself into a nice emotional state with a semi-orgasmic conversion experience at the end, all the while keeping it public and Holy.

And we were told that this was precisely what God wanted. That God just eats this stuff up. That Heaven is pretty much going to be an eternal praise service with a kick-butt band. Well, at least we could hope the band would be better.

I watched this and wondered what kind of God this was, some cosmic, insecure Hollywood starlet who needed a multitudinous posse of sycophants to prop up the divine ego? I had better self-esteem than that, and I was 13.

After taking a long break from the whole thing, I came back to my faith, and back to Christian music through my hillbilly roots. Bluegrass and Southern harmony had a lot more meat, reality and integrity than the vast majority of Contemporary Christian Music.

But as I became more involved in organized religion I had to deal with the issue on an adult level. There was no doubt in my mind that scripture praises God and recommends praise as an activity. King David did it, Jesus did it, Paul did it. Two Thousand years of Christian history included the practice. I really couldn’t just blow it off. But I could never come to grips with a God who needed our praise, or who was moved by it.

Then one day while swinging my heels over the edge of another pew I had another little epiphany. God doesn’t need my praise. God isn’t changed by my praise. I need to speak about the goodness of the world and the world’s creator because it detoxifies my soul. I hear constant messages about how this life stinks and how the world is going to hell in a hand basket and why I should be very afraid, and maybe despair, and none of it is true. I have to counter that poison with something. Gratitude and praise is that something.

When I sit in my Quaker meeting we have no preacher and no band. We reach a nice balance. We sing a little, often positive affirmations of God’s goodness – no shame, no guilt. We find the truest stuff that we can. Some of it is new, some of it is very old, some of it we have had to write. We try and avoid treacle. We detox ourselves and start to detox the space around us when we put the truth out there. We pray a little, and then we get real quiet and listen. No big Sunday emotional feast that leaves us hungry by mid-week. And no notion that God sits hungry, waiting for us to show up and offer a meal of flattery.