Thursday, August 24, 2006

It's been a rough week for Friends in the Quaker City

On Tuesday, the Inquirer carried a searing front-page exposé on Philadelphia's best kept secret: PYM (Philadephia Yearly Meeting, or the regional organization of the Religious Society of Friends) has serious leadership and decision making issues. Said one high-ranking Friend (oops, my mistake! we don't have rank-- we're egalitarian...) "Even the purchase of an office copier seems to need a broad consensus."


First we Quakers make it into the Defense Department's secret TALON (Threat and Local Observation Notice) database. Now we're on the front page of the Inquirer. We'll probably see Anderson Cooper interviewing the outgoing general secretary in just a few.

OK, on the serious side, all I know about PYM's tenuous structure is what's on the organization's website. However, at annual sessions a couple of years ago it would have been impossible not to notice that all the committee members were sexagenarians, septuagenarians, and even octogenarians. (Hey, that Latin stuff really does come in handy sometimes!) Any group that will not let new, younger blood into key posts is definitely putting the organization's future in jeopardy. I've also noticed (along with numerous others) a marked tendancy toward the pursuit of individual "leadings" rather than group action. But ... is this really the stuff of page-one, investigative journalism? Or maybe it's just the Inquirer's answer to freed hostage Jill Carroll's series in the Christian Science Monitor.

Well, as if you hadn't already noticed, I don't have anything really astute to say. If you want to read some serious discussion about PYM leadership or lack thereof (and how we're not overtly religious enough), you can buzz on over to the Quaker Ranter's site.

I just have to say that --from my vantage point in the little meeting where I'm a member-- I think there's still quite a bit of faithfulness left in this "peculiar people" who can't manage to follow the leader like good little sheep, who don't ask Christ to bless their country's bombs, and who aren't licking their chops in anticipation of the day when Nicolae Carpathia and his minions will be cast into hell and they alone will be saved.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Random thoughts on a late summer's night

He's scared, he's sad...

...but most of all, he's worried about his grandson, a lovely 8-year-old whose pictures he shows us just like a proud grandpop. The only grandson he'll ever have, he thinks, since his daughter is a single mom with a high-powered career. The grandson whose diapers he used to change. The adored little grandson that he babysits so often.

He's been retired for 18 years. Used to do work somehow related to the Middle East, to he gets angry at our country's belligerence, at our elected officials' flagrant disregard for our Constitutional rights and for universal human rights....he's discouraged by the widespread apathy of his fellow Americans...but mostly its the warmongering that gets to him. So he comes to our local Amnesty International meetings. He's glad to have found a handful of people who feel the same...even if we have little effect on the status quo.

We talked about the drums beating for war with Iran...he thinks of his grandson. He's a real hands-on grandpop.

"You don't raise 'em to kill 'em," he says.


I peek into my son's room. It's so...empty!

So empty that now his narrow single bed dominates the room. "We're never going to fit all those boxes into the car," I tell him.

I remember back about 16 1/2 years ago. We had to get him out of the crib and into a big-boy bed in his own room before his sibling-to-be arrived. How would we get him to give up his crib?

I don't remember if I thought of it or my husband. We turned the crib on its side. "It's broken," we told him. "Pop-pop has to fix it." (My father-in-law used to fix everything from the car to the plumbing.) We got the spare bedroom ready.

He climbed into bed that first night. I sang him my variation of "Jesus loves me." He had a blankie, of course, a worn out baby blanket. He'd run his fingers round and round the border until he fell asleep.

I remember thinking to myself that I didn't deserve such a good little boy.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Two huge boxes dominate his room

He's busy these days filling them with videos, DVDs, books, stuffed animals, sheets, and other things that he just can't live without.

Then he'll pack a duffle bag with enough clothes for a one-week pre-orientation. Next Thursday I'll take him to get the train at that grand old station ... the Amtrak station with its grandiose vaulted, moulded ceiling, its bronze statue of the Archangel Michael bearing the body of a railroad worker fallen in WWII, and its panoply of gastronomical and junk food establishments.

My husband and I will see him again in just a week, when we'll bring him those two huge boxes and the rest of his clothes. That's when he'll move into his dorm room. Boarding that train next Thursday, however, he'll be embarking upon
his rite of passage.

He'll be going to the university whose motto gave my blog its title and whose serene, lovely emblem shows a dove bearing an olive branch as it hovers over an open book. Peace and the light of learning ... I hope he will find both and help to bring both to this hate-crazed, warmongering world. What a mess we've bequeathed to his generation!

I've been a joke as a mother, a real joke. But I've managed to learn one thing in spite of myself: children are God's vote of confidence in humanity, his conviction that we humans will one day manage to make something of ourselves.

And I'm going to miss him!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A joyful noise

It's going on right now in my basement. Electric emo rock ... amplifiers loud that even the air exchange plate in the floorboard can't resist the temptation to hum along. Feedback from the feet are getting a massage.

Five young guys: a drummer, a basist, two guitarists, and a singer.

One of the guitarists is my son #2 ... I guess he gets it from me, although I barely managed to finger the simplest chords on a guitar, even when I played regularly in a music ministry group. His fingers scamper from fret to fret.

We all play music
  but to each group its own style
  its own sound
each one vibrates at its own
  unique frequency

Don't crush someone else's beat
  if it doesn't suit you
  just let it gyrate on by

Find the one that makes you dance

Monday, August 14, 2006

OK, so I'm going to stand here just for the sake of standing

A letter that I wrote to our local newspaper appeared today. Since our local paper no longer puts much of its content on the Web, I'll display my letter here. After all, what's a blog for? Ah, but one thing that html allows me to do is to link to the writers who inspired me (and who write so much better than I do):

I woke up last Saturday morning with the weight of the war between Israel and Hezbollah crushing me. Sounds silly now as I write it. With all that I needed to live comfortably, I had nothing to complain about except the summer’s high temperatures and humidity. Most of all, my loved ones were safe. I was not awakened that morning by the crash of missiles. I did not have to pull my children out from beneath the rubble of our house.

I thought of the interview our President had given on Fox News, back on the last day of July. He had dismissed the idea of an immediate, unconditional cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah as merely “stopping for the sake of stopping.” I was still aghast. Had the two parties been persuaded to stop for the sake of stopping, at least 16 children would still be alive in Qana. Had a cease-fire been negotiated before today, the day I write these words, more than 900 Lebanese and almost 100 Israelis would still be alive, not to mention the thousands that would have escaped injury.

Waiting, taking sides, and calculating who did what to whom first will lead nowhere. As one writer recently put it, this tragedy will not be solved with a calculator. All sides must put down their arms and deal with the here and now...or there will be no future for anyone, let alone for the children who are innocent, no matter which side their parents are on or whose stockpile of weapons happens to be located in their neighborhood. Children belong to everyone, no matter the side. They are the sign of our common humanity.

We in the U.S. spend so much time thinking about how best to preserve all that we have, lest “they” attack and take it from us. We forget that we are the most influential country in the world. “They” –especially those in a position to make crucial decisions—actually want to be on our good side. We have clout far beyond our military’s explosive tonnage. If we used our brain instead of our brawn and urged warring parties to do the same, we would reap more cooperation and goodwill. Most of all, we would save the lives of the children growing up in the most dangerous parts of the world.

Heartsick, I went to participate in the peace vigil in front of the courthouse last Saturday. What good was I doing standing there for peace? After all, stopping the hostilities for the sake of stopping was not reason enough for our leaders. But then, who knows? My presence might move one more person to write to the President and to the Secretary of State, urging them to act for peace now. One child might live who would otherwise have died.

So I'm going to stand here for the sake of standing.

Sunday, August 6, 2006

It's official: Quakers can sing!

Today I played guitar for the first time in at least 15 years. It wasn't easy. Somehow I had to find time to relearn chords and strums and grow callouses on the fingertips of my left hand. (If you're a guitar player, you know what I mean.) Along with other members of our monthly meeting, I had promised to take a turn teaching First Day class during the summer so the regular teachers could have some time off. I had noticed awhile back that the kids and grown-ups could use some ...encouragement...when it came to singing. So I thought I'd dig out my old music ministry stuff and teach a few songs, accompanying myself on the guitar.

I started preparing for today way back in March. I got my guitar restrung, bought a capo and a supply of picks, and a new guitar strap. Then I promptly put the guitar back in its corner.... Seeing the date approaching, I finally got down to business about 6 weeks ago. Even the easiest chords were agony to play. What's more, I had a hard time remembering a 4/4 and a 2/4 strum! Fortunately, I picked the right songs ... with a capo, they could all be played in D (except for those pesky F and Bm chords!). By humming and tapping out rhythms to myself during the last week or so--hopefully, no one was watching-- I figured out the strumming patterns. I had everything pretty much nailed down by the other day.

The songs:
  • "This is the Day" and "I Heard the Lord Call My Name," from Songs of Praise, Book 1. -- Simple melodies and repetitious lyrics ... very easy to learn! How was I to know that my brief career playing for a charismatic congregation was preparing me for today?
  • Sebastian Temple's setting of the "Prayer of St. Francis." Though probably one of the most popular contemporary hymns in Catholic circles, my newfound F/friends had never heard it! I showed the kids a picture of St.Francis and told them how he tamed the wolf of Gubbio.
  • "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" -- Who doesn't know that one??? After struggling with chords and strums on the first 3 songs, I decided to accompany this one simply with clapping.
I guess I've been a bit up tight and worried about how things would go, because last night I had a whopper of a bad dream. I was playing not in our little schoolhouse, but in an amphitheater (obviously the result of having gone to see the movie A Prairie Home Companion last evening). I flubbed everything, the kids got bored and walked off as I shuffled sheet music and tried to execute chords, and a colleague whose judgment I most dread in the whole world was in the audience -- and she's not even a Quaker! I figure God was having a bit of fun with me while putting my fears to rest. I realized that no matter how ineptly I played, it wouldn't be anything like the fiasco in my dream!

It was fun. And now I want to play some more!

And I'm happier than I've been feeling during these last two weeks of bad news from the Middle East.
This is the day that the Lord has made
Let us be glad and rejoice in it!

Friday, August 4, 2006

Somehow... some day... somewhere...
(words by Stephen Sondheim from West Side Story)
There's a place for us,
Somewhere a place for us.


and quiet

and open air

Wait for us


Some day!


We'll find a new way of living,
We''l find a way of forgiving,

Somewhere . . .

There's a place for us,
A time and place for us.

Hold my hand and we're halfway there.
Hold my hand and I'll take you there

Somehow, some day, somewhere...

...the only somewhere we'll ever have