Green and not just for children

If you don't live in San Mateo County, you may not be aware that there's yet another election coming up next Tuesday, June 3rd. (The third of four this year.)

If you do live here, did you know that we have the opportunity to vote on a county measure that would provide new, dedicated funding for local and county parks? As a mother, I know just how important our local parks are for my two boys. Measure O would be a small increase in the sales tax -- 1/8 of a penny or a less than $2 a month for most people -- that would raise $16 million a year countywide for parks and recreation.

South San Francisco's share would be about $650,000 a year, all funds to be spent over and above money that is already going to our parks. I understand the plan would be to spend the funds here locally would be to provide overdue maintenance and repairs to ball fields, street trees, and park restrooms, create new baseball and soccer fields near Calwater, complete Centennial Way bicycle and pedestrian pathway, construct a dog park adjacent to Orange Park, renovate picnic shelter and restrooms at Westborough Park, establish new park in the Sunshine Gardens area, and restoration and trail maintenance on San Bruno Mountain.

As a tax measure, Measure O needs two-thirds vote in order to pass. A similar measure was on the ballot in 2006 and won 55% of the vote. On any other kind of measure, that would be considered a "landslide" these days. If you care about parks, I hope you will take the time either to get your absentee ballot in this week or go to the polls next Tuesday to vote YES on Measure O. We need a good turnout of folks who care about parks to get out and vote June 3rd.

There's more information about the measure at www.ParksfortheFuture.org if you want to read up on it. My friend, Holly Van Houten, is the campaign outreach coordinator if you'd like more information at outreach@supportparks.org.

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Church Basement Roadshow - San Francisco edition

I've never been to a revival. Or a camp meeting. Not in the traditional sense of either of those.

I'm not sure I'd want to.

But I have met the three people who are going to speak/sing/act silly at Dolores Park Church in San Francisco on June 19, 2008.

I have also read (some of) their books. I can affirm that they are funny and smart and occasionally outrageous. And I'm going. So come on down.

I dare you to resist the altar call.

(Will there be an altar call? I've never been to one of those before either. Hmmm.)

Here's more about the event:

A biodiesel-fueled RV loaded with three of the most outspoken emergent church leaders and authors will crisscross the country this summer in “The Church Basement Roadshow: A Rollin’ Gospel Revival.” The tour featuring Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt and Mark Scandrette will hit thirty-two cities across the U.S., with a message that combines old time revival flair with a 21st century gospel. They’ll preach, sing and sell healing balm in church basements from San Diego to New York.

Jones, author of The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier; Pagitt, author of A Christianity Worth Believing; and Scandrette, author of Soul Graffiti: Making a Life in the Way of Jesus, are part of the emergent movement, a decade-old phenomenon of pastors, missionaries, artists, theologians, authors and “regular people” who are rethinking church and Christianity for a globalized world. Controversial for their “nothing is too sacred to be questioned” doctrine, Jones, Pagitt, and Scandrette have acquired many fans and critics based on their writings.

“This summer will be a defining time,” says Pagitt, “As we take our invitation of hope and good news to people around the country. We’re preaching a fresh way of life and faith – one that is in rhythm with the life of God.”

Taking a page out of the Billy Sunday playbook, the authors will spread the emergent message of a generous, hope-filled Christian faith in the style and cadence of the tent revival preachers of a hundred years ago. They plan to have fun with it, wearing frock suits and selling “healing balm,” but the goal is, as in the revivals of yore, to preach the good news.

“This will be unlike any book tour people have seen,” said Jones. “We’ll be barnstorming the country, shaking the rafters with our ancient-future message of hope.”

“People will laugh and sing,” Scandrette added, “But they’ll also be challenged to join the Jesus Revolution.”

[I heard a rumor that they're not officially selling their books; they're going to sell bottles of snake oil, each of which comes with a book.)

The Church Basement Roadshow has already attracted the attention of major sponsors, including Jossey-Bass/A Wiley Imprint, beliefnet.com, Compassion International, Restoring Eden/Creation Care Fund, International Bible Society, Zondervan/TNIV, Wesley Seminary, christianbook.com, Emergent Village, and BidForGreen.

Full information on the Church Basement Roadshow, including tour dates, can be found at www.churchbasementroadshow.com.

About the Authors/Performers
Tony Jones is the national coordinator of Emergent Village (www.emergentvillage.org), and a doctoral fellow in practical theology at Princeton Theological Seminary. He is the author of many books, including The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier and The Sacred Way: Spiritual Practices for Everyday Life, and he is a sought after speaker and consultant in the areas of emerging church, postmodernism, and Christian spirituality. Tony lives with his wife, Julie, and their three children in Edina, Minnesota.

Doug Pagitt is the founder of the network that became Emergent Village, and he is the founder and pastor of Solomon’s Porch, regularly recognized as one of the most innovative churches in the world. Doug speaks across the country and internationally about missional Christianity and church leadership, and he has appeared on ABC, CNN, PBS, NPR, and in the New York Times. He has written, co-written, and co-edited many books, including Church ReImagined and Body Prayer. His forthcoming book from Jossey-Bass is titled, A Christianity Worth Believing: Hope-filled, Open-armed, Alive-and-well Faith for the Left Out, Left Behind, and Let Down in Us All. Doug lives in Minnesota with his wife, Shelley, and their four children.

Mark Scandrette is the executive director and cofounder of ReIMAGINE, a center for spiritual formation in San Francisco that sponsors city-based learning initiatives, peer learning groups, and the Jesus Dojo, a year-long intensive formation process inspired by the life and teachings of Jesus. Mark is a founding member of SEVEN, a monastic community working as advocates for holistic and integrative Christian spirituality. He is a recognized speaker and poet, and his innovative thoughts on Christian spiritual formation have gained him much acclaim. He also serves on the coordinating group of Emergent Village. Mark, his wife, Lisa, and their three children live in the Mission District of San Francisco. In 2007, Jossey-Bass published his first book, Soul Graffiti: Making a Life in the Way of Jesus.

I know, this is the less Quakerly end of the emerging church phenomenon. But I'm still going. Leave me a comment or send me an email (at the address in my profile) if you're thinking of coming. Maybe we can carpool or eat together or something. I don't know what time it is yet, arrgh, so I don't have the babysitter lined up yet, but that's another factor.

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40 Day Experiment in Truth with Re-Imagine

The workshop was advertised like this:


A laboratory for personal transformation.

Sponsored by ReIMAGINE

The master invites us to rethink or reimagine our whole lives in light of the Maker’s dream of greater wholeness for our world. This workshop explores the physicality of spiritual formation. If I change what I do in my mind and body or emotions, how will it effect my capacity to flow with the creators energy & love? (what I eat? how I spend my time? The media I consume? How I use my money? Who I spend my time with?) This practical workshop seeks to deal with the disparity we often feel between how we want to live and how we actually live. Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness fasting and facing his greatest shadows and temptations. Participants in this workshop will engage in practices aimed at confronting our own shadows and obstacles to the spiritual life through “experiments in truth.”

Wednesdays March 19th through April 30th. 6:30-8:30 p.m.

When I first saw this announced, I emailed right away to say I was interested. Nonetheless, I missed the first meeting of the group. At the last minute, I sent an email saying that while this workshop series was just what I had been looking for last fall, I realized that I had not made enough time in my life to attend this workshop this spring.

I knew that in addition to my ordinarily full life, over the next 40 days I would be traveling away from home for almost two weeks, one at the beginning and one at the end of April, as part of my public ministry. It was not a good time to add more nights away from my family. I knew that I would need to be careful about trying to transform my daily practices too much in a time that was already going to be out of the ordinary. But observing physical practices to sustain my spiritual health and stamina seemed very important. And the idea of participating in this experiment would not let me go. Then I realized that I really wanted to make time

The syllabus looked like this:
March 19: Introduction to spiritual formation and experiments in truth including how Jesus modeled and taught acetic practices and watchfulness.
EXERCISE: Develop and commit to a 40-day “experiment in truth” that addresses 3 key life growth areas with practices of abstinence and engagement.

March 26: Discernment and listening as individual and communal practices.
EXERCISE: Send feedback inventory to 5 trusted friends/ elders.

April 2: Developing your personal growth plan - setting goals for growth in various life dimensions.
EXERCISE: Work through outline for your personal growth plan.

April 9: How to identify and utilize the power of having a spiritual mentor.
EXERCISE: Make initial contact with a potential spiritual mentor or peer mentor.

April 16: Developing your personal rule of life - yearly rhythms, commitments and practices to sustain your spiritual formation.
EXERCISE: Develop a personal rule of life in conjunction with your growth plan.

April 23: Processing the benefits and insights gained through your 40-day “experiments in truth.”
EXERCISE: Complete your personal rule of life in conjunction with your growth plan.

April 30: Final check in and potluck party.

The three areas where I chose to make a difference were:
1. I want to be less anxious about having too many things going on
2. I want to consume fewer unsustainable/unnecessary things
3. I want to be more inclusive in my lovingkindness
In the end, this is what I wrote:
“I commit to:
  • Better sleep hygiene when I am at home – to go to bed at 10:00 every evening and to get up at 6:30 every morning. This is one of the things I know would be good for me but I have not been able to stick to it before. I made myself a chart – kind of like I would use for my kids – to record the times I go to bed and get up, so that I can measure my progress.
  • Exercise as a stress and weight management tool – to walk at least half an hour every day when I am at home, and as often as possible while traveling. I have done this before and benefited greatly, but I have fallen away from the practice over the last few months. The mental health benefits outweigh the physical, but they are connected.
These two practices are connected to sustaining my physical body in order to live up to the spiritually strenuous month I’m expecting. I expect to have less anxiety and more emotional stability if I am getting more regular sleep and exercise.
  • Not buying meat – I wanted to try not eating meat for 30 days, but I’d already bought a ham for Easter dinner, and it seemed a waste not to eat it. We did cook it this weekend, and I froze the rest for later, but if that’s all the meat I eat over the next month, it will still be a step towards more sustainable diet. I also know that I will be a guest in many places over the next month, and I would rather not set this as one of my dietary restrictions on my hosts – although it is common enough among the Quaker circles where I will be traveling. It is also true that my husband is enthusiastic about this practice – he’s been suggesting it for a while now, and is glad I’m considering it.
If I were not traveling, I would like to commit to a new practice – one of seeking out the least attractive visitor to my worship gathering every week and engaging that person in welcoming conversation. One of the things I want to work on over the long term is being more inclusive in my friendships. Over this month, I will just try to lean on the spiritual friends and mentors I already have.”
What did I learn from the experiments? I was right about sleep. Everything in my life is easier, less stressful, and more satisfying when I get enough sleep. My own personal sign that I am not observing a good rhythm is that my alarm clock goes off in the middle of a dream. When I am in a good rhythm, my dream cycle ends naturally when it’s time to get up. The whole day goes better when I wake up more easily.

I was really lax about exercise. I did make an effort to walk a little bit outside every day, even when I was traveling. I think this gave me more balance, a little quiet time to process all the stimulation, and helped me sleep. So I would say that while I didn’t live up to the letter of my goal, I walked more than I would have if I hadn’t made this commitment.

The main thing I learned about abstaining from meat is that it doesn’t matter to me. God is not nudging me to give up meat entirely. I understand the need to eat less and the environmental reasons why average US levels of meat consumption are unsustainable and I know that meat production in the US is fraught with abusive practices, but veganism or vegetarianism is not my calling. What was more interesting was that my scruple about fair trade chocolate grew considerably over the same period. I’m still fallible on that, but I am more and more able to think before I consume chocolate (in all its forms), and to choose some other flavor at the ice cream store, or just go without. What especially works is that more and more I associate the flavor of chocolate with the sweat and fear of slavery. Not nearly so appetizing. What’s hard is when I make that connection half way through something delicious. The next step will be to refuse to buy it for my children.

The second phase of the experiment was to do a personal examen – what is the state of my spiritual journey? This was followed by sending a feedback form to trusted friends to ask them to “affirm my strengths and potential,” “help me become more aware of growth areas,” and “share your wisdom and insight.” I sent the prepared list of questions to seven people and four of them sent it back. One good thing I guess is that they were all generally encouraging and they didn’t point out any glaring faults that I didn’t already know about. And they all basically agreed, which was also confirming/affirming.

The thing they didn’t say, that I secretly fear but am exposing here as an attempt to conquer that fear, is that only people who don’t really know me think I’m good at stuff. That the people who really know me think I’m a flake. Maybe that’s just my family. In many ways, I am gifted but undisciplined. Part of what I have learned over the years is that external structures, even artificial ones like this class or my to-do lists, help me to use what little self-discipline I have to accomplish larger goals.

The third phase was to connect with a potential mentor. I already have a spiritual director, an anchor committee, and some other project-based elders and spiritual friends, so I didn’t seek out anyone new. But I counted my blessings, that’s for sure. I also thought more clearly about the different roles that each of these people plays in my life.

The last exercise, and perhaps the least explained or helpful, was to develop a personal rule of life. We each received a worksheet with a list of points and questions, about “My Lifetime Vision and Purpose”, “Imagination for Making a Life in the Way of Jesus,” with subheadings like obedience/surrender, service & healing, community, simplicity, prayer, creativity, love; “Facing My Personal Shadows,” “Seeking the Maker’s Dream with My Life Energy,” and “My Personal Rule of Life.” I’m tempted to post the whole outline here, but I feel like it’s the proprietary information of Re-Imagine, and I don’t want to just give away what they work so hard to produce. I want to learn how to pose such good questions. Maybe when I finish my plan, I’ll post that.

It was striking how similar the categories, with their associated advices and queries, were to an individual book of Faith and Practice. To what degree do we see our common books of F&P as our rule of life? The core of Re-Imagine is a group that calls itself SEVEN, that has adopted a common rule of life. This is one of the things that attracts me to the group.

Actually, I think this exercise has a lot in common with my Plain manifesto. In fact, I think I should have started by identifying what I already do, rather than starting with “what else do I need to improve?” That is an important question too, but not the right place for me to start. I also wish we had spent more time in the group talking about this and how to do it. I spent quite a bit of time at home (and in the bleachers, on park benches, on my walks) working on this.

One part that was interesting was to think about what are the practices & patterns that I need to keep my momentum at significant life milestones. I had to ask myself, what life milestones do I have left? Here’s what I came up with:
  • menopause
  • children leave home
  • moving to a new home
  • starting/ending a job
  • retirement
  • needing glasses
  • other disability
  • children’s marriages
  • grandchildren born
  • death in the family/my own

  • It’s not really a fun list, other than the grandchildren maybe. I wonder, do you have other events that you celebrate/mourn/mark in your spiritual journeys?

    In the end, it was a good experiment. I learned a lot about myself, and it was a good opportunity to do some reflection and discernment, even if it wasn’t the best time for me to do that. I met a lot of nice and interesting people, but it was a class, not the formation of a new community. I struggle with how to make time to connect with other groups and people while being so involved with my family and Quaker community already.

    I highly recommend any event or class sponsored by Re-Imagine. They do good, thoughtful, fun, and well-organized work. I will write soon about the upcoming Church Basement Roadshow, which is tangentially connected

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    Prophetic Witness: Using What I've Learned

    Here’s a quote from my introduction:
    “I’m going to give a little introduction, then we’re going to share our complaints with God. We’ll do a body prayer for re-creation and we will literally groan in solidarity with the world. We will read a few passages from John Woolman, Isaac Penington, Marge Abbott, and the Bible. At the end, you’ll have some time for silent reflection and to write some notes for yourself before we move into worship sharing and then a brief period of closing worship. Interspersed will be a few songs I find inspirational. This not going to be like last week’s workshop, it may not be like any other Quaker thing you’ve been to before. Some of this will feel uncomfortable, or just uncool, or too vulnerable. I invite you to try it anyway. If you need to stop and just hold the rest of us in the Light for a while, that’s okay too.”
    I think this all turned out to be true. It was uncomfortable for some people. Not everybody liked all the songs I played. But my lasting impression is that it was what it needed to be. I tried out some of the exercises I’ve done with emerging church groups in a Quaker context and they worked. I think there was a good balance between me talking, individuals reading aloud, the group reading together, and some experiential learning.

    I’m really, really glad I did this before my FGC workshop this summer. That won’t be exactly the same, but I will be much better prepared, and much more confident about my material, because of this experiment at home.

    So what do I mean by prophetic? I think prophetic has elements of clear-seeing and clear-listening and elements of God’s Truth-telling.

    What do I mean by witness? My six year old asked me that question last week. I said it’s “the things we do that show what we believe.”

    Does that work for you as a definition?

    One of the things that was said by and about early Friends is that they were changed men before they set out to change the world. An important part of prophetic witness is removing the beams from our own eyes, of removing the seeds of war from our own possessions, of identifying the traces of hypocrisy in our own lives. However, if we only aim to improve ourselves without sharing our time, energy and gifts with the suffering world, our efforts are certainly incomplete and maybe ultimately wasted.

    At what point does that right living, that righteousness, becomes a beacon? When does it become a search light shining on the world, including the uncomfortable places in other people’s lives? How do we witness to our beliefs and hopes for the world in a way that invites people to change too, neither shrinking from the hard things nor abusing the privileged relationships we have?

    In the course of the evening, we read some complaints from the Psalms and added our own questions for God that start with “Why…?” and “How long…?” I pointed out that sometimes we don’t even know the words for our prayers. We took turns reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans, about how the whole world is experiencing the pangs of labor and delivery. I invited the participants to, “Join me in vocalizing our pain, our longing, our fear and hope. Reach down into your gut and literally groan, as if you are the voice of our suffering world.”

    These exercises were based on a series developed by the folks at Re-Imagine for a workshop I went to with them last fall, called “Entering the Story.” They said it was okay to borrow them, and I want to give them credit for the really helpful way that they framed and opened these themes.

    In between, we did another exercise, from a book called “Body Prayer: The Posture of Intimacy with God” by Doug Pagitt and Kathryn Prill. In part, it went like this:

    Let’s all stand up if you can. Feel your feet connecting you to the ground. Take another deep breath.

    "God is never finished with creation, and God is never finished with us. We are constantly being re-created, and we are invited to join God as co-re-creators of the world. This re-creation happens in our attitudes and spirits as much as in the physical world. We re-create when we replace hate with love, hurt with healing, despair with hope. Our prayers beckon re-creation. We join this re-creation as we ask God to do anew in us what God has done throughout time. We pray for sight returned, babies born, lives revived. We seek mercy unmasked, love unimpeded, and faith remade. We join with all creation in seeking re-creation. For we know that all creation groans in anticipation of being remade. And we join in the groaning, to be released from pain and suffering. We wait for God to give us our full life as children, including renewed bodies; we eagerly look forward to this freedom.

    Lift your arms out and up in a V position. Drop your shoulders, stiffen your fingers, and stretch by pushing up through your elbows and forearms. Reach toward God, the One who remakes and re-creates all of creation. Reflect on God’s ongoing work of recreation in your life and in the lives of those around you."
    This felt good. Good to stand up and stretch. Good to not sink into just complaining and groaning, but also asking for help and healing. Like the Psalmist, we can also trust in God’s unfailing love.

    Towards the end, we considered where we each are feeling God’s nudges. Where are we called to bring God’s love and healing to the world?

    It’s true that some of the things we are called to do seem really small and trivial.

    It came to me in worship one day when I was thinking about the question “how can I be of service?” that it’s really unlikely that God is going to say, “Hey Robin, lead my people out of slavery,” or “Hey you, stop the Iraq War.” It’s probably gonna be more like “Robin, stand there and hold that door for all these people.” Or “Robin, sit down and listen to your grandmother tell that story AGAIN.”

    But it is in the process of discernment and obedience in these small things that we develop the habits and the spiritual muscles to be able to do larger, more difficult things.

    A personal example is how difficult it is for me to stick to my resolution to eat only fair trade chocolate. I mean well; it seems small; it seems obvious, but it’s harder than I thought.

    A larger question these days is about war tax resistance. That is definitely going to be a heavier trial. Lots of Friends today have been to jail for shorter or longer times. That doesn’t seem like such a big deal. My real question is whether I am called to re-live the days when being a Quaker meant the government could seize all your property? What would that mean for our prophetic witness?

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    Links about marriage

    I'm trying to catch up with my housework and my writing before a job interview this afternoon. I hope to finish three posts about my Prophetic Witness workshop, the Re-Imagine Experiment I recently finished, and the upcoming Church Basement Roadshow.

    In between, I treated myself to reading Jenell Paris's blog this morning. She had a great post about the true meaning of marriage.

    Maybe this will make up for me not posting last week about the California Supreme Court's logical decision to uphold equal rights.

    Last, and probably least (important, interesting, etc), here is the link to my own definition of marriage.

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    An Exploration of Prophetic Witness

    May 20, 2008 6:00-8:30 pm
    San Francisco Friends Meeting
    65 Ninth Street, San Francisco, CA 94103, Near Civic Center BART & Muni

    Where do we hear Creation groaning?
    Where are you called to bring God’s love and healing to the world?

    We will read passages from the Bible, John Woolman and Isaac Penington about the cry of the Earth and its people, and the Divine response of Love.
    We will share our complaints with God, ask for healing and literally groan in growth and rebirth, seeking our own personal point of intervention, large or small, where we feel God is calling us to service. With music and movement and maybe poetry.

    Come for unprogrammed worship at 6:00, followed by a brown bag supper at 6:30, and discussion at 7:00. Worship and the shared meal will be integral parts of the workshop, come as early as you can. Childcare available. Expect Christian and inclusive language.

    This is the second of two evenings that are also trial runs for the workshop "Primitive Quakerism/Postmodern World" that Robin Mohr will lead at the FGC Gathering this summer. Her report from the first evening workshop is online.

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    Live blogging from CPQM

    I feel odd, blogging while at College Park Quarterly Meeting, but I'm going to try anyway. The main reason I brought my computer was to finish a report I have to give this afternoon regarding the Ben Lomond Quaker Center, since I'm currently clerk of the board. I'm ready for that and I have a few minutes before I have to go get my kids to their program. Wi-fi is now available in the office at Quaker Center.

    It's a smaller group than usual, maybe only 80 or so Friends this weekend. But there's still a nice group of kids and a vibrant group of teens. It's lovely to see so many old Friends and some new folks too. Including David J. who commented on my blog a few months ago, but I met for the first time yesterday!

    A funny thing is that at our last Quarterly meeting session, a group of young adults from my meeting came, but hardly any others. This time, no YAF from SF came, but there's a slew of other young Friends. Sigh.

    The theme of the session is about our various dimensions of diversity. The clerk stated that the point is to practice careful listening to Friends who may not be just like us. There will be more this afternoon and tomorrow.

    We heard a brief report from Marianne Kearney-Brown, a local Friend who was fired and then reinstated to her job as a Cal State professor in an ongoing controversy about the state of California's loyalty oath. Some of the side effects of the publicity around her case has been to raise support for another professor who was fired for the same reason earlier last year, to encourage her 11 year old daughter to come to meeting and to encourage another person to ask her if she knew Friends in Nicaragua that he could work with on a project he was engaged in.

    We heard a longer report from the Nominating committee, reflecting the growing concern among Friends about the level of over-busyness, the ethical concerns of travel, and the difficulties of finding Friends to serve on the committees that do the practical work of the meeting - children's and teen programs, arrangements and registrars. Nothing new, but it's good to make it official.

    The last thing I want to lift up was the occasional reference to the question whether this Quarter ought to become a separate Yearly Meeting. That's a long term question, for sure.

    Time's up, I've got to run to get my kids.

    [Monday morning update: The discussion about the Quarter becoming a yearly meeting was expanded to include whether our current Quarter ought to be divided into three parts.

    I embedded a few links this morning. In addition, here's the link to my previous post with the schedule/theme for this CPQM session: Quarterly Meeting Looks at Diversity

    And here's the link to Chris M.'s report as well: Trees of Righteousness


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    Quarterly Meeting Looks at Diversity

    Ever wonder about what Quarterly Meetings really do? Here's an abridged version of the schedule for this weekend's gathering of College Park Quarterly Meeting. Meals and the children's programs are also important parts of our Quarterly Meeting, but I have not included them all here.

    Fifth Month 16-18, 2008, at Ben Lomond Quaker Center

    We will examine the range of issues and beliefs that can generate polarization within our local and regional communities, and practice careful listening to those who are not just like we are, although they are Friends, too. Our dimensions of difference include these axes:
    young <> old
    well-off <> poor
    Christ-centered <> universalist <> nontheistic
    new-to-Friends <> seasoned members
    gay <> straight
    man <> woman
    activist <> contemplative
    ... and more
    [Editorial note: I would add shy vs. outgoing, race/ethnic and physical ability dimensions to this list, but they did say and more....]

    Saturday, May 17
    6:45 Sunrise worship; Bible study
    8:45 Family worship; opening plenary
    9:30 – 10:30 Plenary I – Nominating & Naming; clerk’s report; differences exercise; report on loyalty oath;
    10:45–12:15 Worship-sharing

    12:15 LUNCH – Topical tables:
    1. FCL
    2. Teens: What kind of Quaker am I?
    3. Unity with Nature
    4. CPQM Quaker reference library
    5. Membership
    1:45 – 3:00 Interest Groups (preliminary)
    1. M&O: The $ cost of being Quaker
    2. The Quaker activist
    3. The Quaker contemplative
    4. Scripture as a guide for Friends
    5. Non-theistic Friends
    3:15– 4:45 Plenary II: reports; representatives of divergent viewpoints (panel).
    7:30 Family Night/Talent Show
    9:00 Singing

    Sunday, May 18
    6:45 Sunrise worship; Bible study
    8:45 – 9:45 Plenary III –reports
    10:00 – 11:00 Closing Plenary: presentation on living with differences; children’s & teen reports
    11:00 – 12:00 Worship
    1:00 – 2:00 Clean-up & departure

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    Plain workshop report

    10 people came to Tuesday night's Plain workshop at SF Meeting, some new attenders and some longtime members. We read a few excerpts from old and new explanations of what plain living means to different Friends. I talked about how and why early Friends developed their testimonies of plain dress and speech, how they became codified and how they largely disappeared from Quaker life around the turn of the 20th century. I shared my observation that a new wave of plain testimonies is arising today.

    The reasons I gave why I think living a Plain life is important are twofold.

    One is about living in integrity – living up to the Light we have been given. A Friend has talked about how we suffer when we don’t do the things we believe we ought to – whether that is telling the truth or wearing logo-free clothing or using less of the world’s resources. Any of these could be seen as a sacrifice, but the reports from the field of Friends who have lived into these testimonies say that they feel freer, more joyful, more at peace. I think it’s important that we start living the way God is leading us, so that our pain and sense of hypocrisy stops distracting us when we want to move on to changing the world outside us.

    The second is simply about developing the habits of discernment and obedience in what may be trivial matters, of dress or speech, or other external things, that are preparation for more important matters. We need to build up the spiritual muscles we will need for the prophetic witness (next week’s topic) that Friends are rightly called to.

    The two cautions I have are related. One is to try to be respectful of the different leadings that people have been given. What may seem like showing off to you may be a cross to bear for someone else. The other is that this conversation is an opportunity for grace and humility. The point is not to set up an external rule to measure other people by. It helps when we can both articulate our leadings and admit to the ways we fall short.

    As an exercise, I invited each person to write their own plain manifesto.
    “Make notes for yourself of what are the Quakerly plain testimonies you already or wish to practice. What is your definition of plainness? What are your current commitments? What are the criteria you use? Examine what God has to do with it. Where are your growing edges? Write it out. It doesn’t have to be beautiful, or in complete sentences, but take some time to record where you are at this moment in your spiritual journey.”
    You can see my original attempt at this exercise in my Robinopedia entry for Plain. It’s a permanent part of my blog’s sidebar as well.

    The feedback I received is that people would have liked to talk more about plain speech: is it about more than using “thee”? (Short answer: yes.) Traditionally plain speech included honesty, numbering the days of the week and months of the year, and direct communication. I think there could be a whole day’s retreat devoted to talking about plain speech in a postmodern era, to include these traditional concerns as well as the new movement towards Marshall Rosenberg’s teachings about non-violent communication, examining the media we consume and produce, etc.

    As always, there wasn’t enough time for everything we’d have liked to do or say or hear. Heck, I could have talked for the whole hour and a half and not been done. But I restrained myself.

    Actually, it’s more like I had to force myself to start. At the beginnng, I nearly chickened out. As in, who am I to teach these people anything? Half of them probably know more about this than me. That kind of thing. But my attempt to leap right into discussion mode didn’t work. So I backed up, went ahead and gave the little lecture I had prepared and things went better from there.

    I cited a lot of resources from the QuakerQuaker.org plain page and QuakerJane.com, with some photos culled from QJ, some from blogs and some from The Conservative Friend.org. I am extremely grateful for Martin Kelley’s Quaker Ranter site, which has become a repository of some of the most interesting (and easily accessible) contemporary writing about Quaker plain witness.

    Another day, I would like to take more time to look at what commonalities are arising in our current individual leadings towards Plainness or simplicity. What is God trying to tell us about our individual lives and our society? Which of the historical, traditional, Quaker Plain testimonies are important to recover from the dustbin of the modern reformation of Quakerism in the early 20th century?

    I’ll close with my favorite quotation about plain living, from Fran Taber:
    “It may surprise some of us to hear that the first generation of Friends did not have a testimony for simplicity. They came upon a faith which cut to the root of the way they saw life, radically reorienting it. They saw that all they did must flow directly from what they experienced as true, and that if it did not, both the knowing and the doing became false. In order to keep the knowledge clear and the doing true, they stripped away anything which seemed to get in the way. They called those things superfluities, and it is this radical process of stripping for clear-seeing which we now term simplicity.”

    I love this:
    Plain = a radical process of stripping for clear-seeing.

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    Fundraiser for Access Exchange International

    "A Fun Concert of Light Classical Music by Dawn Harms & Friends"

    Saturday, May 17, 2008 7:30 p.m.
    at Temple United Methodist Church
    1111 Junipero Serra Blvd., near Holloway and SF State

    Dawn Harms is a member of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and also performs as co-concertmaster with the Oakland East Bay Symphony. Also contributing their talents pro bono to this outstanding program are Dennis Johnson, piano accompanist; JungHae Kim, harpsichord; and Amy Duxbury, bassoon.

    A reception will follow the concert. A tax deductible donation of $15-$50 per person is suggested.

    All proceeds benefit Access Exchange International (AEI), a non-governmental organization promoting accessible public transport for persons with disabilities and seniors in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and eastern Europe. Learn more at www.globalride-sf.org or call AEI at 415-661-6355.

    AEI was founded in 1991 by Tom Rickert, a friend of mine and a former member of S.F. Friends Meeting. AEI has had startling success sharing accessible transportation knowledge and skills here in the Bay Area with developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

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    Birthday Goodies!

    Chocolate cupcakes for the party with friends...

    Glazed Strawberry Pie for actual birthday dinner with family...
    (It was too hard to put 10 candles into a pie without a top crust, so we compromised on one giant candle to wish on.)

    Prepare one baked pie shell and allow time to cool.

    Wash and hull six cups fresh strawberries.

    Using the smallest berries, crush enough to make one cup strawberry puree.

    Cover and refrigerate the remaining berries.

    In a heavy bottomed saucepan, combine 1 cup sugar and 3 tablespoons cornstarch.

    Stir in 1/2 cup water, then the strawberry puree.

    Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously, until the mixture thickens and the gel is clear.

    Remove from the heat and stir in 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice and 2 tablespoons butter until the butter is completely melted. Let cool to room temperature.

    When the the crust and the glaze are cooled, cut the pointy ends off the reserved strawberries and set aside. Thinly slice the rest of the reserved strawberries and fold into the glaze. Spoon the glaze into the pie shell. Arrange the strawberry points in a decorative pattern on top of the glaze, pressing the cut sides into the glaze as far as you can without the glaze running over the sides of the crust.

    Refrigerate pie until serving time. At the last minute, top with sweetened whipped cream.

    Thanks to Marilyn Moore's Wooden Spoon Dessert Book. The birthday boy went on and on and on about how good it was.

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    A Plain Workshop

    May 13, 2008 6:00- 8:30 pm
    65 Ninth Street, San Francisco, CA 94103, Near Civic Center BART & Muni

    How did traditional practices like plain dress or plain speech arise and how did they affect early Friends? What are the postmodern equivalents? What criteria can or do we use? How do we get the exteriors of our lives in order so that we (and God) can do the inner work?

    We will read some explanations of old and new testimonies of plainness/simplicity and discuss our own postmodern criteria for plain living.

    We will each choose a practice to “try on” and write a brief statement of our own beliefs & commitments in this area.

    Come for unprogrammed worship at 6:00, followed by a brown bag supper at 6:30, and discussion at 7:00. Worship and the shared meal will be integral parts of the workshop, come as early as you can. Childcare available. Expect Christian and inclusive language.

    This is the first of two evenings that are also trial runs for the workshop "Primitive Quakerism/Postmodern World" that Robin Mohr will lead at the FGC Gathering this summer.

    [Update: Here's my report on the workshop, published Friday, May 16, 2008.]

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    No rest for the weary

    This weekend, I have a Quaker Center Board meeting to clerk, a nominations report to prepare, and a 10th birthday party to bake for. And it's my mother's birthday and then it's business meeting and mother's day and then the ten year old's actual birthday. And I'm in the middle of writing a book review, and a whole backlog of blog posts and magazine submissions half done or still floating in my head, which are going to drive me crazy until I get them down on paper. And next week is the first local evening workshop which is serving as a trial run for part of my FGC workshop this summer. No wonder my housekeeping is veering into the disaster zone.

    Feel free to vent here too about your crazy to-do list.

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    Got hope?

    That was the slogan on a t-shirt I saw in the airport last week. It looked like part of the now ubiquitous “Got milk?” campaign. When the young woman got closer, I could read that it was actually an Obama for President campaign t-shirt.

    Later that same day, I was talking to a new friend, my hostess for the evening, about hope. She said she’d been thinking about hope a lot lately, partly because of the presidential campaign and partly because of difficult situations in her life. She reminded me that in the Greek myth of the box that Pandora opened, releasing all the misfortunes of humanity into the world, hope was one of them. Maybe that was how the ancient Greeks saw life, I replied, because they believed that the Fates were in charge of our lives, so there was no point in hoping for anything better. I pointed out that there were other ancient teachings we could look to, like faith, hope and love being God’s greatest gifts.

    I’ve been thinking about that conversation ever since. I know there are Christians who believe in predestination and God’s personal plan for your life. But I don’t. I believe that we constantly make decisions, large and small, and then we learn to live with the consequences,. We live with our own consequences and the consequences of decisions that other humans have been making for thousands of years, from the first man to hoard food to Mohandas K. Gandhi to our current government representatives. I believe that the Divine Interpreter helps us to find meaning in what happens, not that God plots our lives’ joys and sorrows according to some greater plan.

    This week, I’ve had further opportunity to reflect on the negative side of hope – the side of disappointment, when a job I really wanted for a long time, felt really called to, went to someone else. It has been painful. I understand more clearly how hope could be seen as a negative thing. If I hadn’t held so much hope, maybe I wouldn’t have been so hurt when it didn’t turn out the way I wanted. Maybe I should practice more detachment. There’s another ancient teaching to consider.

    But it’s not my natural state of mind. It’s certainly not what I learned at home. My father is a nearly pathological optimist. He doesn’t admit to risks or possibilities of failure. He doesn’t want to think or plan for “what if it doesn’t work?” scenarios, because, he says, they just distract you from focusing on how to make it work, whatever “it” is. I’m not that bad; I did acknowledge, out loud, all along that I might not get this job. But I didn’t rehearse how to tell all my friends that I didn’t get the job either.

    How do we as Friends support one another through our periods of hope and our periods of disappointment? While my family and friends have been hugely supportive (and patient with me), what I keep coming back to is that hope and faith and love are indeed gifts of God. Even when circumstances are much worse than my current situation, the Divine Interpreter can also be the Holy Comforter. I know that in one of my darker hours a few years ago, Jesus came to me, with his arms of comfort and hope. I haven’t had any thing quite so vivid this week, even though the pain is more dramatic and personal this time. Nonetheless, my theme song for the next week is “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.”
    What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
    Leaning on the everlasting arms;
    What a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
    Leaning on the everlasting arms.

    What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
    Leaning on the everlasting arms;
    I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
    Leaning on the everlasting arms.

    Leaning, leaning, Safe and secure from all alarms;
    Leaning, leaning, Leaning on the everlasting arms.

    (Hoffman/Showalter, Public Domain, p. 1887. I recommend the Iris DeMent recording, on her 2004 album Lifeline.)

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    Checking in

    I'm looking at my new year's resolutions again, one third of the way through 2008:
    (In no particular order, it’s just how they were set out in an earlier blog post.)
    1. gardening and composting again, even just on my little balcony
    2. disciplining myself to carve out time for writing
    3. finding paid work that I respect and that respects me
    4. organizing my papers/files
    5. communicating with my husband
    6. living "as if" in the kingdom of God
    I can see progress on all of these.

    1. Check! Herbs and flowers growing nicely on the balcony. Even with the decrease in humidity, my houseplants reacted favorably to repotting in February, growing like crazy. Our new worm bin is more of a feel good item than actually useful for waste management – it can only take a small proportion of our compostable waste. But it’s fun to see the worms in the bin and a little bit of composting is better than none.

    2. Discipline and writing – this was going well over the winter, but was much more difficult in the last month of so much traveling. My backlog of ‘things to write about’ is huge. This contributes to a vague sense of confusion in my brain – too many ideas floating around, getting lost while waiting to come out. The discipline I instituted around sleep hygiene over the last month has been helpful though.

    3. Finding paid work. Well, I have my resume together and my LinkedIn profile up and running, and I’ve entered the “telling everyone I know I’m looking for work” stage. Lord, have mercy on me.

    4. Organizing papers: I put most of this off in anticipation of a major reorganization of my home office that isn’t going to happen now. So I am looking at it in a different light. I have everything in one place now; the next phase will be another round of paper purging, and then a redistribution of reference materials, archives, working files, and tools. No real hurry, but as my mentor Kay Sprinkel Grace says, “Systems liberate.”

    5. Communicating with my husband. This is a personal matter but I’ll just say things are good. It’s interesting (and healthy, I think) to both be doing personal inventory and vision work at the same time in different ways. Through the ups and downs and roundabouts of this year, we’re pulling together. It’s good to be here, sixteen years into our relationship.

    6. Living “as if” the Kingdom is here and now. I’m working on discipline in some small areas, like only eating fair trade chocolate, and discernment in some big areas, like how to earn my income. This is not one of those resolutions that I expect to reach completion in this year, or this lifetime, but it helps me keep my sense of perspective and set priorities.

    I am trying to hold "what's next?" lightly.


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    Monday morning update: May 5, 2008

    I’m home. For a while anyway. No more airplanes for at least a couple of months. Which is good because my bouts of vertigo after airplane flights are getting worse – I’m still dizzy this morning and I’ve been on the ground since Saturday night. I enjoy flying, but my body wasn’t meant to travel so many vertical feet in one day, much less six flights, twelve ups and downs in the last ten days...

    My travels across the US and through several Quaker circles have been rich and blessed. I’m trying to make time to write more about the sights and insights I’ve encountered over the last month. Quick, while my kids are still in school.

    Oh yeah. We’re moving into the last month of the school year. It’s been a good year for both my kids, kindergarten and fourth grade.

    Next week is Affordable Housing Week in San Mateo County. A major project of the Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County – and my beloved Chris M.

    My 98 year old grandmother is dying. She’s been in and out of the hospital in the last month, and will probably not live more than another month. It’s not completely unexpected but it’s still hard on my family, especially my mother.

    I finished the 40 day Experiment in Truth with Re-Imagine. I plan to write more about that here soon. It was a great exercise but not the right time in my life to really do it properly.

    I’m looking for paid work. I just found out that I didn’t get a job I’ve felt called to for the last ten months, so I am back to the drawing board. At least I have an up-to-date resume and I’ve done a lot of personal inventory work – professional and spiritual – in the last few months. My work experience is in program management and fund raising, in religious, educational, and social services. I’m open to suggestions…

    I'm working on having faith that if I keep my eyes on the path of following Jesus through this world that the next steps will become clearer.

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    Window Sign on Integrity

    Another excerpt from Faith and Practice on a poster in our front window:

    The testimony of integrity calls us to wholeness;
    it is the whole of life open to Truth.
    When lives are centered in the Spirit,
    beliefs and actions are in harmony,
    and words are dependable.
    As we achieve wholeness in ourselves,
    we are better able to heal
    the conflict and fragmentation
    in our community and in the world.

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