Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Of Baseball, Basketball, Football, and Butts

Ah, Fall has fallen and the season of serious butt-patting by men has begun. I noticed that the other evening whilst watching the World Serious (as my Dad used to call it) and Ohio State Football simultaneously with my friend Lil. At the end of every good play, some guy's tush got touched -- often multiple times.

I know this is a sports phenomenon, but I still find it interesting (though I participate in it little since I'm too old for most contact or semi-contact sports and golf is not a butt patting sort of game -- "Great birdie" pat, pat). I mean, here we are in the good old US of A, still one of the most homophobic places around (other than Iran, where they don't have any gay people -- alive!) and our television screens from now until, well, forever, since it never stops, are filled with posterior patting professional athletes. It's just that autumn seems to be high season of heiny hugging as baseball, football, and basketball are all in full swing -- or pat.

This is not something that you see outside of sports. My boss does not tap my tush when I write a great grant report and I don't low-five the guy who changes my oil. To do so, would probably result in my personal oil being changed by a slap up the side of the head. And yet, it is completely natural -- expected even -- in sports.

What makes it even more remarkable is that football and baseball, especially, are dominated by Evangelical chapel services and chaplains. These players are not, for the most part, members of the United Church of Christ (open and affirming) or any other more mainline or liberal faith. Rather they tend to be pretty conservative and yet go around bopping each other's bippies like there's no tomorrow.

And even those of us who don't play any more, spend hours watching hot, sweaty men straining in tight uniforms and then pressing the posterior flesh. What is that about?!

I don't have any great thoughts on this -- just wonderment that the last hold out of acceptable homo-eroticism seems to be college and major league sports.

Excuse me, I have to adjust my jock strap and get ready for the next game.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Word Born in Silence -- A Writer's Meditation

Pierre Lacout once wrote that “The word born of silence must be received in silence.”

“The word born of silence…” While there probably as many writing techniques as there are writers, this is probably the one thing that most writers share – our words are born in silence. I know mine are. This silence is not a pure absence of sound. Depending on our style and circumstances we may be surrounded by music, the hum of traffic, children playing in another room, the roaring drone of a tractor (for me), or any other of the myriad sounds that go on around us and remind us of our connection to the great human experience.

What I am talking about is the silent, holy hush of dedicated writing time.

Whilst I think about my writing all the time, the time I put aside for intentionally paying attention to it in love results in words that speak to my soul and hopefully the soul of whoever who reads my writing. I think that’s because when we grow silent and still, we connect with the deepest parts of ourselves – and those are the parts that speak to others. As Thomas Kelly said, in relation to the spiritual life, “Deep calls to deep.” I believe that is true to the writing life, too – our deep calls to our readers’ deeps; our silence to their silences.

In the silence and stillness we also reconnect with God, a connection that we do not have when we rush. As the poet Kilian McDonnell says, “Swift Lord, you are not.” The things of the Spirit are not found in speediness and production. We slow ourselves to hear what it is that we are being given to write. We then begin the careful work with word, granted, as we are, the charge and task of sharing it with those who seek communion with the eternal. Our words, in that sense, become sacramental, a means of grace. While that may seem a bit strong – especially coming from a Quaker-type, a member of the tribe that eschews outward observances of anything even slightly of sacramentalism – I stand by those words. Indeed, I do believe that our writing, if the intent is true spiritual writing, is a means of grace. I find good company in that feeling in the work of Leland Rykins, of Wheaton College. Rykins once wrote that, “A means of grace, as I use the phrase, is anything in our lives by which God makes his truth and beauty known to us, and correspondingly anything in our lives by which God's presence becomes a reality to us.”

And so, at table, desk, laptop, or whatever we slowly craft the words that will hopefully help God’s presence become a reality to our readers. Our words, born of silence will be received in the silence of the reader’s soul. They are the gift we give from the gift given to us. An offering, if you will, of soul to soul, spirit to spirit from the Spirit who spoke all creation into being with a Word. A word that is alive and vibrant in us today, in souls that recognize that word even when our oh so rational minds do not. We then – writer and reader alike – experience what William Stafford did when he met his muse --

I glanced at her and took my glasses
off--they were still singing. They buzzed
like a locust on the coffee table and then
ceased. Her voice belled forth, and the
sunlight bent. I felt the ceiling arch, and
knew that nails up there took a new grip
on whatever they touched. "I am your own
way of looking at things," she said. "When
you allow me to live with you, every
glance at the world around you will be
a sort of salvation." And I took her hand.

The word born of silence and received in silence is a sort of salvation. Let us take the hand of silence now.


Monday, October 22, 2007

Quaker Thought for the Day

English Friend William Littleboy wrote:

God is above all the God of the normal. In the common facts and circumstances of life, He draws near to us, quietly. He teaches us in the routine of life’s trifles, gently, and unnoticed His guidance comes to us through the channels of ‘reason [and] judgment’… we have been taught by Him when we least suspected it; we have been guided … though the guiding hand rested upon us so lightly that we were unaware of its touch.

This guiding hand resting lightly upon us is best felt when we are silent and still.


Friday, October 19, 2007

A New Quaker Sunday School Curriculum?

While cleaning out my desk today, I found the following. It is, as I recall, a memo that was circulated around on of the Friends publishing houses (the name has been whited out) for a possible new set of First Day School lessons aimed at attracting younger members.


Memorandum – Friends XXXXXXXXX
From: XXXXXXXXXX, General Secretary
Date: October 19, 2005
Re: New Quaker Curriculum

Thought I’d let you know that your idea to piggy-back a young Friends curriculum on the re-release of the Star Wars Trilogy was a good one and that I’ve done some work on it, too. It’s obvious that we need to do something to attract young people to Sunday school and that they are media-saturated. How about calling it “Fox Wars” and doing it in three parts also (again, modeling the “Star Wars” theme). We could base the curriculum on the early years of Quakerism (by far the most exciting). Part One could be “A Primitive Hope Revived,” followed by “The Puritans Strike Back.” The final part might be “Return of the Quietists.”

Of course some liberties will have to be taken to bring the story up-to-date and make it more appealing to young people. How about instead of George Fox, we have Luke Leatherbritches? William Penn could become Wm. Penn-Kenobi. James Nayler’s new name would be I.M. Solo. Solo’s occasional side-kick could be Chewnotobacco (consistent with one of our testimonies). Wm. Penn-Kenobi could instruct Luke in the use of his “Inner Light Saber” and wear it as long as he can. Dark Evader might be a name for the Oliver Cromwell figure, a one time supporter of the rebel seekers, but now determined to crush them.

We could also possibly turn this into a video series. George Lucas has expressed some interest in seeing a script and Brad Pitt would like to play Luke. Keep me informed of your progress.

Hmmm. Wonder if it ever took flight?
-- Brent

Friday, October 12, 2007

I'll Take the Fish

If you're a fan of quirky movies, check out "I'm Reed Fish." The plot sounds pretty simple -- small town radio dj's Reed Fish's life becomes chaotic when a girl he had a crush on in high school comes back to town three weeks before his marriage to thre richest, prettiest, and queen of car sales in town. Katey Sagal stars as the astrology spouting mayor and DJ Qualls as a convenience store manager who's a cousin of Reed's highschool flame (and a madly in love wack-job).

Schuyler Fisk plays the highschool sweetie Jill -- or does she? That's about all I can say without giving away what makes this such a fun little film. Fisk's music is also good -- and the soundtrack's lots of fun, too (one of my few downloads from i-tunes).

Check it out -- not deep, but fun.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Sow in Peace

“I believe there is more thought and attention given to the cause of peace today, both in this country and Europe, than at any former period. … I think we may reasonably hope that this is the beginning of a new era in the history of the world.”

Those are the words of Daniel Hill, secretary of Peace Association of Friends in America in his 1872 annual report to the yearly meetings. Human activity in the years to follow proved him right, though not in the way he meant. The world was about to embark on a new era — one of mechanized death and wholesale slaughter of civilians on a scale that no one in 1872 could imagine. The numbers of wars and rumors of wars is hard to fathom even today.

Which gives a Quaker pause. What is the worth of working for peace if, after doing so for 350 plus years (in the case of the Quakers), it has made no difference in the world?

Or has it? When somebody asked Winston Churchill how he could be such an evil man and still say that his faith was important, Churchill is reported to have replied, “Madam, imagine how awful I should be were I not a Christian.” Indeed, that might be a point for us to consider — how awful might the world be if we, in the face of seeming futility, did not proclaim and work for the way of peace?

The Quakers have always held that the way of peace was an integral part of Christian faith and could not be separated from the heart of the gospel. As Robert Barclay said “Whoever can reconcile ‘Resist not evil,’ with ‘Resist violence by force,’ … and ‘Love thine enemies’ with ‘Spoil them, make a prey of them, pursue them with fire and the sword,’… may be supposed also to have found a way to reconcile God with the Devil, Christ with Antichrist, … and good with evil.”

Strong words to back a strong conviction. Why then, should people of faith work for peace today? Ron Mock, Associate Professor of Political Science and Peace Studies at George Fox College, once wrote three essential teachings which are the basis for working for peace today:
1) the belief that we are intended by God to have an eternal loving relationship, even with our enemies
2) the belief that forgiveness is even more central to relationships than is justice of revenge
3) the belief that an omnipotent and loving God will always, without exception, provide a way to give
everyone means to meet their needs, if we can only find it and follow it.

These are all teachings which call for action. We are called to be active in the cause of peace. Jesus does not call us to passivity. Jesus does not say “Blessed are the pacifists.” Instead He says “Blessed are the peace-makers.” Peace-making is action — love in action.

The way of love as a way of life, the way of the peace-maker, finds its foundation ultimately in trusting God and to remember, in the words from the 1959 edition of Christian Faith and Practice, “that God is not alone the God of things as they are but the God of things as they are meant to be.”

If we are children of the God of things as they are meant to be, and followers and friends of Jesus, then we must ask the Spirit for power to live lives of peace and to work for peace. We must try what Love will do in the assurance that if we do we will find greater peace in our lives, neighborhoods and world. And the hope contained in Daniel Hill’s words may finally be realized.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

A Pilgrim Life

Early Quaker mystic Isaac Penington wrote:

Know what it is that is to walk in the path of life … It is that which groans, and which mourns; that which is begotten of God in thee. … The true knowledge of the way, with the walking in the way, is reserved for God’s child, for God’s traveller. Therefore … be no more than God hath made thee. Give over thine own willing; … and, sink down to the seed which God sows in the heart and let that grow in thee.

I love the idea that, as Pennington says, “The true knowledge of the way, with the walking in the way, is reserved for God’s child, for God’s traveller.” As I look at my life, I see one of motion. Though firmly rooted in the Midwest, as an adult I’ve lived in sixteen houses in two states, held fifteen full or part time jobs, and owned way too many cars. My life is one of various – careers, family, spiritual, and other changes. They all fit well with the concept of way opening. Way opens implies motion; a moving along life’s pilgrim way. What a winsome discovery.


Friday, October 05, 2007

Quaker Thought for the Day

Isolation of spirit ... comes to most - perhaps all of us - at one time or another. There are times in our lives when the tides of faith seem far out, times of dryness, times when we do not feel the comfort and guidance of God’s hand. … within, we feel the agonies of isolation and the longing for light to lighten our darkness. I can think with thankfulness of Friends who have brought light to my darkness - perhaps a single sentence, a friendly letter, a walk on the downs: their help was perhaps given unconsciously, but it was because they were sensitive to God’s leadings that they were able to do it. Do we seek to be the channels of God’s love and caring? ‘Caring matters most.’

-- Edward Milligan

quoted in Quaker Faith and Practice: Second Edition (London: The Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

I wonder....

What do you call a woman who goes on television dressed like a sluttier version of Britney Spears, spewing venom about anybody she disagrees with, confusing being a smart-ass with being funny, and spouting things completely against Jesus' message?

A "conservative Christian." At least that's what Ann Coulter said about herself yesterday on "The Today Show."

True conservative Christians like Billy Graham must be so proud.

-- Brent