What He Said!

A Few weeks back I wrote this post about how I viewed the work of the cross. Truly, I have no basis from which to write about technical things, but it is very affirming to find that those who do don't always scoff.

Over at The Wanderer, Gavin does a better job responding, than I did writing. He reminds me a of a certain preaching professor that I once knew.

And just for fun, this video which demostrates that the more things change the more they stay the same!

Easter Encouragement

My Father's Yellow Clivia bloomed again in time for Easter this year. It is such a joy to me.

The pup I separated last summer is doing fine. Two years old and counting. It has a 'twin' formation. I am wondering if my plant experts Elizabeth and Kenneth can weigh in about this phenomena.
Do I separate the two stalks at some point or leave it be?
Elizabeth has two pups of the same mother which are two years older than mine, I look forward to hearing that they have bloomed.


The Last UPI Column #100

This is what it looks like formatted for UPI - the 'bc' before the date means 'both cycles' a left over from morning and afternoon papers. The title is a reference to and play upon Larry Moffitt's memoir "Unroll your carpet and I will read your soul" which is itself a middle eastern proverb. I was hoping to attract his personal attention and did. I got a very warm e-mail from him this morning. He made three small corrections just for old time's sake. The reference to Helen Thomas is this. Helen was a famous white house reporter - aged now, short, feisty, a favorite of presidents. She work for UPI for decades and walked out the day that they were bought by the Unification Church. She has refrained from criticizing them because she is a class act. I will follow her lead, but that I could make such a reference is final proof of tolerance.

Peggy Senger Parsons – So There I Was
Salem. Oregon

Title:Unroll Your Soul and I will Vacuum Your Carpet

Commentary: So There I Was

Teaser:My crush on Jimmy Olson gets me into trouble one more time
-- -- --
So there I was…

Playing one more game of Spider Solitaire on a rather unremarkable Friday afternoon in January 2006. I don’t always open e-mails that start with Fwd:Fwd. But this one came from a good friend, and I was kinda bored. The missive was a general call for writings on spirituality. United Press International was starting a religion and spirituality page and was looking for a stable of writers from a broad spectrum of faiths, practices, and spiritualities to write weekly columns. Oddly, I had already toyed with writing in a newspaper column format and had a couple of samples already in the can. I sent off two of my favorites along with the requested bio to some fellow named Larry Moffitt. Within hours I had a response and an agreement.

Some people think that I have a bit of a superman complex, but actually I have always had a crush on Jimmy Olson – Cub Reporter. I loved the bustle of the newsroom. The shouts of “Hold the presses!” I am old enough to remember actual newsboys hawking papers between lines of traffic and on busy corners. I remember when newspapers came out more than once a day. I remember when any city worthy of the names had THREE daily papers. As soon as I could read a paper I was reading Mike Royko and Bob Greene in the Chicago Daily News and then the Sun Times. You have no idea how much I miss Mike Royko.

My first experience writing for a weekly was in eighth grade. I wrote the humor paper on that purple mimeographed rag. I also was the first writer to cause that paper to be confiscated by the authorities for the crime of mocking a math teacher. I managed to keep one copy hidden and have it tucked away to this day. I don’t actually think the math teacher was so offended until the other teachers told her that smart alec students shouldn’t be given so much rope.

Here, many decades later I wondered how much rope I was going to get from UPI.

A couple days after I wrote my first column I was really starting to appreciate my editor Larry. He seemed to be a real mensch. He was a light editor. He left me my voice. He let me get away with some pretty non-standard sentences. He let me noun my verbs. He also let me verb my nouns. I liked him right away. So I googled him. That is when I found out that UPI had been purchased in the late nineties by the Unification Church, Rev. Moon’s Church, and that Larry Moffitt was well placed in that organization. This caused me to do some pretty sincere thinking.
But rocks and glass churches certainly seemed to apply. I had recently taken to the renegade trail off of a sect of Christendom that itself was branded heretical at the get go 350 years ago. So I decided to test the promise of the religion and spirituality page and its progenitor. He said that he would not edit for content. He said that you could narrowcast to your heart’s delight. He said that he was trying to get as broad a spectrum as possible. Turns out - he is an honest man.

I wrote my heart out for this effort. I wrote from a place of expectant listening to the Divine. I pushed all the imagined boundaries – they all flexed. I read the columns of my fellows. What an amazing bunch of humans. Some of them regularly bring tears to my eyes. Some of them torque me off without fail. I respectfully and cheerfully hope that I torque some of them off too. This stable of writers not only has a left end, it has a left field. My kinda town.

One of my favorite moments in this process was the day I discovered that the editor of a solid mid-western conservative Quaker magazine had liked one of my bits and wanted to publish it. Being a pro, she contacted Larry for permission. If you had predicted, even a few months before this, that at some point in the future the stars would align in such a fashion that the editor of Quaker Life would be speaking to a ranking member of the Unification Church seeking permission to use MY words, I would have peed my pants laughing. And yet this is what happened. Do not tell me that God does not have a wacky, wacky sense of humor and a love of street theater.

When I went to Africa last year I went as a freelance journalist, religious stringer for the UPI. At the end of my trip I ventured into the Democratic Republic of the Congo, an active war zone prone to earthquakes and sudden volcanic activity. I needed to do this without escort or translator and it was going to be a bit dicey. I decided not to worry my loved ones, and sent my proposed itinerary to Larry Moffitt. I was pretty sure that he didn’t actually have to power to pull me out of a disaster, but I thought he might have the phone numbers of a few people who did. It may have been delusional, but I felt safer because he knew where I was.
I suspect that there are not many things on which the writers and editors of this forum could all agree. But I can name a few of those things. We believe in speaking honestly. We believe in listening respectfully. And maybe, just maybe, we believe in peace through tolerance. This would be the notion that broadcasting all voices produces a better result than attempting to silence some voices.
I am deeply grateful for the opportunity, the acquaintances, and the associations.

But with respect, I now follow old Helen Thomas, and gracefully exit, stage left.
-- -- --
{italic}{bold}Peggy Senger Parsons{/bold} is a motorcycling Quaker preacher, counselor and freelance provocateur of grace. She is pastor of {url} Freedom Friends Church{/url}. © copyright 2007 by Peggy Senger Parsons{/italic


This one hurts a little

These are orphans and malnourished children in Abeka. They are being led in a song of Peace before they eat. The singing is a gambit and celebration both. You see before each child a small plastic cup. In in is a cup of liquid fortified corn porridge. The song keeps them busy while the man at the left fills each cup. No one starts till everyone has theirs. I assure you these children are HUNGRY. This may be their meal for the day. Their restraint is amazing, and very African.

The flickr caption says that they are being supported by small donations from an American group. I shall see if I can find out who they are. We are told that when there are donations there is a feeding program. When there is no money there is no porridge.

Enjoy your lunch today!

More from the Congo

Friends Martin and Hazel from Manchester Friends Meeting are just back from the Congo. They have 80 some pictures in this flickr group

Here is one of my favorite pictures

The Yearly meeting was a perfectly serviceable Toyota Land Cruiser. Is is alas missing the luxury of a working battery. Batteries ARE luxuries, you know. You simply get a bunch of guys to push start it everytime. It is a bit messy when it stalls while you are fording a stream. Derek drove my little Toyota sprinter for weeks without a battery. This forms group cohesion!


A glimpse of a Home I have never seen

Here is a video of Uvira Friends Meeting.
Uvira is in the Democtratic Republic of the Congo
just across the border from Bujumbura Burundi.

I never made it across this border, the easier one to cross, even though I made it to Goma in North Kivu.

But these are my friends. Alas!, the camera person is on the facing bench with those I know best. On their left I believe I see Manasa Kisopa, and Milenge Jean, But I am certain of the tall distinguished gentleman in the suit and tie as the camera pans right. That is Pastor Lusungu. He looks into the camera for a moment, and I feel as if he can see me. Jambo Lusungu!

All these men were my students and brothers in 2003. They all live in my prayers,
Thank you friends from Manchester for posting all these videos of Uvira and Abeka.

This brought me tears of joy and longing this morning!


Chief! Chief! It's a Scoop!

C: Don't Call me Chief!
JO: But Chief....

.... ... ... ... It has come to the attention of the Silly Poor Gospel News Desk that according to a reliable source (ok - the NYTIMES story pg 2 - ok, it's a QUAKER Blogoshere scoop!) When the Governor of New York, hires himself a 'Ho he calls up under the name of GEORGE FOX! ... ... ...

What the heck is up with that?
This blows the Oatmeal scandal right out of the water!

A Very Practical Man

This weeks UPI #99 We had ministry at FFC on Sunday about the practical applications of Quakerism. ONe minister was speaking about the piece of the Serenity prayer that reccomended Letting go. The Friend said that he could not get serenity about what our government was doing. I caused me to think that the real hard part of serenity is having the wisdom to know the difference and that often, we give up while there is still something we can do. Well, I still have a voice, and a Blog and at least this week a column at United Press International.

So There I was…

Watching “The City that works” work.
I grew up on the edge of Chicago. Much to my mother’s dismay, I had a profound interest in politics. Late in adolescence I wrangled an entry level job in the office of the 44th Ward Alderman, the Honorable Dick Simpson. Mr. Simpson was one of the two aldermen in the city who did not belong to what was lovingly referred to as the “Daley Machine.” Richard J. Daley – Richard the first, as he is now referred to - was in the waning years of his power, but that power was so immense that the waning was not much noticeable. This regime is considered by many to be one of the most corrupt oligarchies ever to exist in America. It was also one of the most stable.

Because it worked. The snow got plowed, the garbage got picked up, the river got dyed green every St. Patrick’s day without fail. People knew what to do to get their problems fixed. The regime failed certain groups of people rather badly, but they were, after all, minorities. The majorities knew that a certain level of corruption was tolerated, but as long as the garbage got picked up, they did not seem to care.

I got to watch the workings of the City Council from a slightly closer vantage point than the average citizen. Because I was a pup, and a girl to boot, no one paid any attention to me. I watched and listened. The first surprise that I absorbed was that by and large these men were not evil. With a couple of notable exceptions they appeared to be sane. Many of them considered themselves to be religious men. They certainly considered themselves to be practical men. This was their bottom line. They absolutely believed that the ends justified the means. They did not usually say that out loud, of course, because when I was a child, society still nominally agreed to general moral truths, and most children could have told you that the ‘right’ answer was that the ends did NOT justify the means. But the right answer was not the practiced belief of that oligarchy.

We are presently witnessing the waning days of a president who considers himself to be a practical man. He considers himself to be a religious man. And surprisingly he is slightly more transparent than the pols of my youth. The other day, he stood up there on the porch of that stately old house and said approximately this.

I know y’all don’t like torture. I don’t like torture. But we need to keep it in the tool box, ‘cause sometimes it is the only practical tool for the job. My job is to keep all y’all safe from the bad guys, and the bad guys are bad, and they want to hurt y’all. And sometimes the only way I can stop them is to let my boys, hurt them first. It’s not nice, but it is practical.

He only got this honest when push came to congressional shove. He had been saying for a long time that we never used this tool, and didn’t have this tool.

Thank-you, Mr. President for the last ditch transparency.

I wish the president had gone one step farther, and given us a similar spiritual transparency. Something like this.

I know y’all like Jesus. I like Jesus. I talk to Jesus. But Jesus was never president. Bein’ president is a hard job. The stuff that Jesus said is just not practical. Not for dealing with these bad guys and keeping y’all safe.

I think the president also believes that most people, when it came down to it, would agree with him. That torturing ‘bad’ people to save the lives of ‘innocent’ people is ugly, but perhaps necessary.

Maybe he is right. I hope not. But it is the natural and logical result of a nation that believes that war is sometimes justified. After all, if you can sometimes honorably kill people on the field of battle, than doing something less than killing them off the battle field for the purpose of saving civilian lives is certainly the lesser evil.

The only person I can speak for is myself. This I say. Please, do not torture anyone to save my life. Do not torture anyone to save the lives of those I love – that includes my children, I do not think they would disagree.

I believe that the means are more important than the ends. I am going to die. Everyone I love is going to die. I accept that. But I believe that I am safe in my life now, and that I will be safe in the hands of God when I die – regardless of how that death comes to me.

If you can prolong lives by promoting justice, and thwarting evil, please do so. You have my permission to capture, interrogate, charge and put on trial anyone you suspect of plotting evil. You may, with my permission, use any method that the police department here in Salem Oregon, could use on me, if they suspected me of plotting evil. But not one right more than they have. And yes, I accept the consequences of that.

I have had another life experience that most American have not had. I have met, worked with, learned to deeply respect, and earned the respect of, torture survivors. I have done this in both the US and in Africa. I have also listened to young American veterans, ones who have implemented your practical policy. They tell me that the ‘spooks’ (the CIA) do not like to do the work themselves, and often delegate the actual implementation to whatever enlisted person is nearby. I have learned that torturer and tortured are both gravely damaged in the process. The long-term damage to society is far more expensive than the obscenely expensive wars that we commit in the name of practicality. The legacy of the present regime will be costly in ways we cannot quantify or qualify.

I believe that the means of Jesus are eminently practical, and get results as good as or better than your means.

I believe that that the simple, secular ethics that our country was founded on are practical. Dick Simpson taught me this.

Do the right thing. Let the chips fall where they may. It will work just as well as the practical corruption that surrounds you.


Geek Squad Jesus

Today's UPI column

So There I was…

Inside an organ. The church organ was old even during my childhood. It had fallen upon hard times, having been sold with the building by the Lutherans. It was as big as a small house, from the motor in the basement that filled its mighty bellows to the 16 foot pipes soaring above the sanctuary. My mother played it every Sunday. Trained on piano she taught herself how to play the two keyboards and the extra keyboard of pedals that she played with her feet. She had nearly perfect pitch and the organ that hadn’t had proper maintenance in a decade must have driven her to distraction.

This is how my father came to be the organ’s repairman.

He claimed it started with a toaster. She wanted to throw it out. He told her it was perfectly good, it just needed a little work. He was kinda cheap. She handed it to him. “Fine, Fix it.” So he took it apart and figured out what was wrong and fixed it on the spot. He was proud. She was cautiously impressed. She said “You think you can fix anything, don’t you?” He allowed as this might be close to the truth. She said “Fine – fix my organ.” And his career as a repairer of fine wooden tracker pipe organs began.

He climbed around inside that thing for years. And when there was occasionally something he wanted to reach in a space to small for an adult, he sent in one of us children. We learned obedience – touch this not that. Put your feet here not there. He was good with machines, and good with children. He was bold. And he knew that you couldn’t fix the organ from the keyboard you had to get inside it to do the job.

I cannot help that fact that he shaped my theological impressions. I wouldn’t want to.

I have previously stated that I think that the death of Christ had nothing to do with punishment. Even Pilate knew that this was a farce. So what did happen on that day outside of Jerusalem almost 2000 years ago?
I think something broken got fixed. I see Jesus the redeemer, as Jesus the repairman, tech support if you will. See, there was this system called ‘time and space’ and running on this system was a program called ‘humanity.’ And it got all buggy. And the code called ‘the law’ just wasn’t working. So the system designer had to crack it all open. Get inside, wipe some stuff, patch other stuff, write some whole new stuff.

It’s a frustrating job, but somebody’s got to do it. It helps if the somebody doing the fixing knows what they are doing. It also helps to have patience. Sometimes, people are just dumb, they do not interface well with the program, and you have to very patiently explain to them, again and again, how the thing is supposed to work. But if the code is all glitchy, you have to get your hands dirty. And you can’t fix the code from the desktop.

So for me the incarnation, life, teaching, death and resurrection of Christ is all part of the same repair job. He got in, bringing with Him tools, skills, and a supremely solid connection to the designer. He ran the program, personally. Diagnostics were completed. One of the buggiest parts of the program was death, so he ran that too. But death was not the end, Resurrection - the reboot to end all reboots was needed. Emptied the recycle bin called Hell while He was at it.

The Law was wiped, and with it the concept of clean and unclean. Do you know what a time saver that was? Efficiency upgrade deluxe. Religious practice within the confines of tribal groups was made obsolete. Limitless grace was written in.

Then the lovely fixed program had to be turned over to the users. So a help desk was established. Some people call it the Holy Spirit, some people call it the Present Christ, some people call it The Inner Light – there are lots of names for it. But it is there 24/7.

So we run the program. Seek the Kingdom. Pursue peace. Get Serenity. Achieve enlightenment. War and hate are options under the free will part of the program. So are glory, sacrifice, and love. Calamity is just part of the set up. Calamity makes room for altruism and compassion. The whole thing works imperfectly, very imperfectly, but that is because of the human interface, not the program. The program works just fine. The human learning curve is steep but it is also part of the design.

Everybody in the program has a task. Finding it and performing it is the work of being human.

I am a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I work for tech support. I run tutorials. I coach new users. I scan for viruses. I help people with their upgrades. I try and keep a very solid connection. Occasionally I help people bust out of dead end spots they get themselves into. It is a good gig.

Frustrating at times, but very satisfying at others.

I come by it naturally.

Dad would understand.