Sunday, April 28, 2019

Dressed in Oil

The title is not about salad dressing.  It is about our clothing and climate change.   Polyester is a popular fabric which has been around for decades, so we don't give it much thought.  But Polyester is a petroleum product.  There is a reason why it is particularly bad for burn victims if they are wearing polyester - it melts into the skin like a plastic bag would rather than burning like cotton or wool would.
But if we are trying to fight climate change and we are helping, unwittingly, to create more uses for petroleum then we are also unwittingly contributing to climate change.  Unfortunately, getting off of Polyester is harder than you might think.  Because of the tendency of Americans to be overweight more and more garments are made with spandex in them (another form of polyester).   Bluejeans which were originally 100% cotton are now a heavy mix of spandex.   In fact most clothing is now a mix of fabrics - it is hard to get items that are a 100% anything (Well Polyester does tend to still be 100%).
In a spirit of full disclosure it is also worth noting that non-organic cotton has horrible chemicals added to it in processing, as well as pesticides while growing.  Cotton is also a water intensive crop.  Even bamboo or hemp clothing can have environmentally destructive chemicals added to them in the processing. 
So this winds up like the many other dilemmas before us right now with climate change - choosing the lesser of evils   For example EV's use less petroleum but have other conflict minerals in them.   Any food you buy can be produced with toxic chemicals or not, but labeling can be deceptive, and we wind up in a bit of a research project to try to be consumers for social and environmental justice until such time as our society is organized with these concerns in mind.
Yet societies change in response to the demands of the consumers.   Several decades ago we demanded the end of  aerosols and DDT and those things went away.   When we understand the issues around Polyester we have to make responsible consumer choices and try to effect change despite the fact that it will not be easy.
Early Friends wore black and white and grey.   They did this because the dyeing process was carcinogenic and grossly shortened the lives of the people who did dyeing.  It was a social justice issue.  They also did not wear lace which they said was a vanity and thus taking us away from God.
What if we again said we would dress for social justice?  If we said we would not wear clothes that contribute to the dying of the planet?

Sunday, March 31, 2019

On Death and Dying

A member of my Meeting has ALS and is slowly losing the use of each arm.   At his request our Meeting has held a session on Wisdom Weaving about how we live well into our dying.  Today we met with just two queries.  During our worship sharing time my head swirled with more queries and so I share them with you for your own reflection.

1) What have I learned from other people's death?

2) What do I believe happens when we die?

3) What is a life well lived?

4) Does death serve a useful purpose? ie what would it be like if we did not die?

5) Is there something useful about not knowing what happens when we die?

6)  What role do you believe God plays in death?

7)  Why do you believe people die under such different conditions?

8)  If the idea of reincarnation turned out to be true, what would the purpose of the soul living multiple times be?

9)  What kind of legacy do we live in the way we live?

10)  How do we graciously release others from this life even as we wish they remained?

Friday, February 15, 2019

A Democracy in a State of Emergency

Time for us to wake up and see what day it is.

What happened on Feb 27th, 1933?  Hitler declared a state of emergency.  He had been elected the year before.  There was a fire in the legislature – this was blamed on the communist party and so he declared a state of emergency, then under his super powers of the state of emergency the communist party was disbanded and by a month later his party voted in the 1933 “Enabling Act” which allowed him and his cabinet to make laws without the legislature (or Reichstag in German.)   The German Constitution was never suspended but the Reichstag did not meet for the rest of Hitler’s reign of terror.  Nor was there another regularly scheduled election. The first laws and regulations against Jews began in 1933.  By Oct 1933 the Nazi’s passed a law censoring the press.  Also in 1933 the League of German Worker Youth (which previously existed) was designated a paramilitary organization.  By Nov 1938 Kristallnacht happened and Pogroms began.  Parents were separated from children at the camps mostly to never be reunited.  By 1939 the Nazi’s invaded Poland and world war II began.

The media is so missing the story when all the reports talk about Trump declaring a state of emergency so that he can build a racist wall.  We are confusing the symptoms for the disease. Yeah, he will be happy if he gets to build a wall.   But that is really not what this is about.  Muller is closing in on him, indicting more of his cronies, getting more evidence against him by flipping them.   The wall drama, even the govt shut down is a big distraction and now he is grabbing power right at a moment that could stop the progression of law against him.   He is two years in rather than 1 (in a country with a larger history of protest) but his laws and procedures against his target group: Hispanic and Muslim people started with months of taking office. 

He has already separated parents in the target group from their children and kept them in inhumane camps. Like Hitler, the targeting while racist, is really a means to an end.  It is a way of whipping up fear in the general population, convincing them they need a strong man to protect them.   Creating enough fear that they will give up rights and give up ultimately Democracy.  The month long shut down was a further salvo in the weakening of our governmental structures (already weakened by Secretaries whose goals are to dismantle the government work of the depts they head.)  It was a way of off balancing us, so we are disoriented when the next assault comes, as it now does.  He has attacked the press since the beginning, trying to undermine their legitimacy by calling it fake news and now cancelling press access. During the last year the Selective service (draft board) has been quietly been conducting a study just released in Jan recommending that we institute a “national services” which all young people would compulsorily serve in for several years. 

The Republican Party has a decision to make right now about whether they will be recorded in future history books as the next Nazi Party or whether they will remember the oath to protect the Constitution they each took when they took office.   Please stop contacting Congress to tell them to stop the bogus State of Emergency because we do not need a wall, and start contacting them to stop the state of emergency because only they can stop the loss of a democratic system.  The courts have already been stacked by Trump and thus cannot protect us – yes this is illegal by any definition of the State of Emergency laws – but that is not enough to guarantees courts will act appropriately.  Congress was designed to be a check against abuse of power by a President.  Yet Congress also is timid and does things only by the demand of the people.  We have marveled for years at how the German people “allowed it to happen”.  This is how, by not wanting to believe it was happening, and closing their eyes as each step happened.  Stay awake.

1.     1.   Write and Call all of the Republican Senators reminding them they swore to protect the        
2.      2.  Start the proper framing of this issue with every one you know – name what is really happening.
3.       3. Go to one of the many local protests happening on Monday (or organize one…see Move On site)
4.       4. Be prepared if that does not work for a national strike – stopping everything is the only way to stop      a dictator.
5.      5.  Resist all unjust and unconstitutional laws and policies.
6.      6.  Share this post.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019


Typically in polarized issues we think of it as sort of either or.  It is a or b, black or white, good or bad.   We do not as often think of the polls as falling on a spectrum, and we definitely don’t think of a spectrum as curving the point where the far ends might meet up (An example of this being if you put American politics on a circle the far left anarchist and the far right libertarians begin to meet up.)

It is painfully apparent that the US is extremely polarized right now on almost every issue and politics have become so divisive again (I say again because it is actually not the first time – remember families divided by the civil war? or not speaking to each other in the 70’s over hot button issues?) that once again there are families that cannot sit down to a civil Thanksgiving and where people I know are disowning family members.   I hear much despair both about how these gulfs will be bridged in families but also about how our country will be governable again.

Ironically, at the same time my Meeting has also become very polarized – but over a very different issue.   A registered Sex Offender has come to our Meeting and there was been far-ranging response to his presence in Meeting as well as far ranging interpretations of his behavior while in Meeting.  The Meeting initially came up with a policy regarding sex offenders and then after an incident where it became very clear that vagueness in the policy resulted in widely varying interpretation of whether the policy was violated or not, the Meeting has set out to rewrite the policy.  Sadly, the Meeting has also become very polarized in the process.

One Friend has helpfully asked us to think of this polarization as not whether x did Y or whether Z has unfairly accused x of something, but rather as that all of us in Meeting fall at different places on a spectrum that at one end values welcoming people, anyone, especially those who maybe underdogs in our society into the Meeting, and the other end of the spectrum those valuing safety for all the members of our Meeting and holding up the Meeting Community as of supreme importance.   This same member has then invited us in a series of conversations to notice the things we actually believe in common – which winds up being that:
* we would all like to feel safe
*that we believe in the redemptability of our fellow human
*we all want to be welcoming to other humans
*the world holds no guarantees anywhere about safety
*we believe in taking sensible precautions to reduce risk when we can, etc.  
By finding these initial values we agree upon we are slowly inching our way forward.

Like most Friends in the Meeting I was so dismayed that we were having this conflict and also that it was having the destructive power that it was having in the Meeting. I wondered how this could possibly come out right?   But also being new to the Meeting it was very clear to me that the conflict like some sort of bull dozer was pushing up to the light of day all the dark places, all the dysfunctioning and broken places in the Meeting.   And it becomes increasingly clear that there is no way through this conflict without fixing all the broken places….which if we fail will leave us shattered and if we succeed will make us stronger and vastly better as a community.

Recently George Lakey came to town giving a workshop on his new book: How We Win.  One of the very encouraging things George shared was how in his research for his previous book Viking Economics he discovered that the Scandinavian countries, now amazing models for the world in so many arenas, were a “mess” before they transformed into democratic socialist countries.  He discovered that they were at their most polarized point right before that change in governments.  Out of the polarization the common people kicked the 1% out of rulership.  He then looked at our own US history and realized that out of the polarization and class divide of the Great Depression came all of the reforms of the New Deal and out of the polarization of the 60’s and 70’s came the civil rights movement, the Clean Water and Clean air act, etc.   In listening to a friend of his who did beautiful metal work he heard his friend talking about having to heat up the metal to make it pliable and George realized that this is what polarization does – it heats things up till they become changeable. George asks us to see the polarization of our time as an amazing set of possibilities about to unfold.

I have believed about the Meeting conflict that if we succeed that we may find some answers that our society has yet to find about how we allow people who have committed crimes against society to be welcomed back into society and integrated back in.   But this week I had the even more radical thought that the nations polarity on immigration goes on the same poll between those who want to be welcoming to all and those that want our country tot be a “safe place” that provides for those already here.  I realized that if the Meeting succeeds maybe we will find some answers on how the heat of conflict and the longing to be community allows for the transformation of our broken US society.   Maybe it will equip some of us with some ways to approach the yawning US political divide which I think begins with finding where we hold common values even when our rhetoric and preferred policies are worlds apart. 

It is also very helpful to remember that God exists at all points of our poll.  The Creator is not just hanging out on one side of that poll.  So if God is in all part of the poll, the Divine is able to hold the tension of those conflicting points of views and to keep seeing as loveable all members of the conflict.

Monday, December 31, 2018

The Blessed Community

Recently a query was read at Meeting, the query was "what do you long for in community?"  What immediately came to my mind was "the Blessed Community".   However, I then began to realize what do I really mean by The Blessed Community?  I think we all have this very idealized notion of the Blessed Community - it is one where love is the coin of the realm.   All our welcome, we are all kind to each other.   We act in union, apparently effortlessly and we are able therefore to do much productively.   God is the center of this community - holding us and connecting us.  There is joy and deep rewards from the connections and joy we experience in this community.

As I briefly enjoyed this idea I realized "what kind of people occupy this Blessed Community?" and this is where the ideal met reality.   I realized that the Blessed Community would not be some gated community where people who are dogmatic, or domineering, or annoying, or needy, or ignorant, or you supply the adjective are barred from entrance.   So if the Blessed Community must be made up of all who show up.....then all above described personalities are part of the Blessed Community.   In fact it would not be that different from your Friends Meeting or mine.  I think it is different than secular community in that it is a community of those who are bound by their relationship to the Divine.

But it does mean it is a community in which some people speak to long in business meeting (or in worship), some people make too much noise during worship, some people push their own agendas that others do not appreciate, some people speak in grating voices or inarticulately or not loudly enough or too loudly.  Some people agree to do things and forget to do it or just don't, etc. etc.

So all that said is Blessed Community any different than what we might think of as "regular faith community"?  Yes I think there is something more we could keep striving for in our Meetings in the way of creating Blessed Community.   I do think that Blessed Community is a place of love and support for its members as well as radical truth telling   (ie loving eldering when we have fallen from our highest self and need to be called back to our greater self.)   It is a place where we hold each other in forebearance (see my Nov 2018 post) which gentles the edges on our encounters and reminds us to see that of God in each other and to speak to that spark even when we do not see it.

It also means that we are fed spirituality by our community.   That we are better off because we have this community.   That in our own dry spells that rather than sitting in thirst we are nourished from the well of our community.  That the spiritual depth of the Meeting is there to turn to and draw upon in those times of dryness or dark nights of the soul.  That we have spiritual elders, regardless of our age, to nurture and support of spiritual development.

Additionally, I hope Blessed Community is also a place of "barn rising" - that we collaborate and help each other in ways that strengthen each others lives, and that we carry this out in a spirit of joyful fellowship where a network of mutual support enriches us all.  That we have a feeling of breaking ground that is Holy Ground.

And finally I hope this creates in our community moments that feel like the "living communion" that Friends forsook the "empty ritual" of formal communion for.   That we have moments of breaking bread that feel like the sharing of the body of the Living God.   That our fellowship in general feels infused with the Divine Presence, unified and bonded by Love, enliving and renewing to our spirit and moving us forward in united action.

May we all, with deliberation, move into the Blessed Community.

Friday, November 23, 2018


Early Friends spoke of holding each other tenderly, in love and in forebearance.  In John 13:35 it is said: "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

In the age of Trump this can seem like a fairly foreign concept.  What is modeled from the highest office in the land is anger, hate speak, intolerance to any difference and bullying.  Unfortunately, as studies show, examples from highest levels trickle down.  Thus it is even more important that we act from love and give visible example to forebearance.

We long for the blessed community, but in truth in thru our doors come the same people who are "out there" - people who are carrying their wounds, some with anger, some with depression, some trying desperately to avoid all conflict in ways that also do not serve, etc.  At times we have conflicting needs and at times we are simply rubbed the wrong way by someone else's personality.   So what does it look like to hold that tenderly, in love and forebearance?

I think at the heart of it is this central idea of Quakerism that there is that of God in each person.  It means that at the moment you annoy me, or hurt me, or anger me that you are still a child of God.   And if we have come to know each other in the fellowship of community then hopefully I have seen your shining strengths, your gifts of the spirit, your good heart as well as in your vulnerabilities and your hurts.  In other words that I have already seen you as a child of God.  That aught to be a help.  It aught to make it easier to reach for the Spark within you rather than speak to the most clumsy or dark part of you, or worst yet project onto you my own darkness.  God did not say I will send you only the nice people, or the fun people, or the dedicated to be your fellowship.  The creator apparently loves all of us and intends for all of us to love each other too with all our warts and snarly parts.

Years ago someone came, relatively new to our Meeting, having left a previous faith.  He became excited at one point about a project he wanted to do and yet met some resistance from the property committee.  At a business meeting he lost his temper and yelled at people and made various accusations.   I called him later to talk about what had happened.  In the conversation he made various characterizations of individuals he was upset with.   He spoke of one woman who is known to be very gentle of spirit and actually sort of afraid of men, as being "unmoveable and patronizing".   I did understand how through his filter he had made that interpretation of her, but having known her for many years I felt this was a misreading of the situation.   It was an interesting moment for me of seeing how knowing the members of my Meeting was protective against misunderstanding them, their motives or their behavior.   That is not to say none of them never annoyed me.  It just meant I had another way to think about their behavior - through the eyes of love.

Certainly there are many examples of our tenderness with each other that has to do with service to each other: care committees that have cared for people onto death, loans that have been made at critical moments that buoyed someone over a rough spot, rides to meeting that were given to folks who would not otherwise have gotten there, etc.   These are important ways we come together as a community that resonate on the physical level.

But forebearance happens on the emotional, spiritual level.  Last year a member of my Meeting died of Alzheimer's.    For years he has certain messages that he gave over and over and over again.   I believe there were some members of our Meeting that found this annoying, and certainly his wife was very uncomfortable fearing he was annoying us.   But most people listened with love in their hearts for him.   When he would raise his hand in business meeting the clerk would lovingly say: "OK, hold on a minute I will come back to you."   He would allow us to navigate through the item at hand and then at the end call on this member so he could speak, but not disrupt us with a somewhat incoherent thought.   For me it became a spirit exercise to listen to the repeated messages and hear the heart which was underneath them, and indeed I found this easily - the messages spoke to what inspired him, or to what amused him or a concern he had for us - and that was where the love lived even in dementia.  I spoke at his memorial to this perception of mine and a member later thanked me saying the message was useful to her in terms of seeing how to listen in tongues.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

To Pray as If Climate Change is Over

I try to pay attention to synchronicities because I believe they are a definite sign of God speaking to us.

Recently while going to Quaker Earthcare Witness national gathering I first while listening to a Wayne Dyer tape in the car heard him quote Nevil, a guy from the early last century, who talked about prayer in a different way.   Then someone at the conference also handed me a flyer about prayer with a quote from Nevil.  Dyer talks about a concept that Neale Donald Walsch also talks about as well: the idea that we are also divine, that we were created by the divine as part of the divine, not separate from, and that when we are connected to our Spiritual Source we have the power to create and experience everything.  All three postulate that we (the collective we) co-create the universe with God.

This carries with it some implications for prayer, that Walsch talks about in his book Happier than God.  The implication being that if we pray “I need money” that we are simply creating more need. If we pray “stop the war” we are simply focusing on war and thus bring more of that energy- that the Divine matches what we bring.   So a better prayer would be ….well not to pray for peace to come because that still carries the idea that peace is “not yet”.  But rather to place ourselves in the frame of mind of really sensing and feeling in our body the world at Peace, getting totally in touch with what it would really feel like.  Interesting the Kabbalah which was practiced by Jewish mystics also directs people to imagine as if it were now that which the person prays for.

So all of this has lead me to really think about the idea of what if we really focused ourselves on the end of Climate change.  (There is almost not right words for this – like how do you describe the absence of oxygen that does not still really convey oxygen?)  The trick of this is not to just sort of imagine going back to some idealized notion of the 1970’s as if climate change was not then beginning.   It means having to fully embrace all the science of climate change – to acknowledge that the burning of fossil fuels, as a reality of physics, warms up the atmosphere.   So it means having to go to a state of living that does not include burning fossil fuels.   That also does not mean going to a time before the industrial revolution.   It means actually seeing a new future that we live into now.   Does anything sound familiar about this?  Early Friends believed that the Society of Friends were trying to live the Kingdom of God NOW, not later.   That we were going to live it into existence.   That Kingdom was also believed to be a world of social justice.

You may be familiar with the Naomi Klein’s idea that we will not be able to solve climate change without addressing the deep flaws of capitalism (and I would add colonialism) which has created climate change.   In other words, a paradigm that allows us to see the earth as something we have dominion over and to take from, a paradigm that can see people and places as sacrifice zones is a paradigm we must abandon.   It is literally not possible to solve climate change from that paradigm.

So my invitation to pray into a picture of the world whole, with climate balance is an invitation as well to see a world of environmental care, of humans living in a new paradigm of being part of the earth and all living things.  Climate change involves how we build buildings, grow food, transport ourselves, heat and light our homes, manufacture objects, and interact with trees to name a few things.   So this prayer is for a radically different and reorganized world.   It is to vision a world of social justice and peace.  Nor does it mean being released from the need to do anything for in fact it means being drawn passionately by that vision of a world made whole to live into it.   It is what I believe early Friends envisioned the Kingdom of God to be.  Can you feel your body relax as you imagine it?  Breath into that image.   Hold it in your heart every day.   Believe in it and start to live into its reality.   Hurry we have no time to waste.   We have lived too long in the kingdom of destruction, hubris and greed.