Friday, September 28, 2012

To Know and Be Known...

Why some of us write -- well, at least partly.

A Watcher

The mail doesn't come
and doesn't come.
The mail doesn't come.
It's three o'clock, I've been
downstairs to check, and up again,
and down and up — it
doesn't come.

Incognito in the little shops
is how I want to go.
And in and out
about the neighbourhood,
observing unobserved.

And yet I long, I long.
Long to be known, and know.

"A Watcher" by Robyn Sarah, from Questions About the Stars. © Brick Books, 1998. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
From The Writers Almanac

Be converted to love...

Be converted to love every day.
Change all your energies,
all your potential,
into selfless gifts for the other person.
Then you yourself will be changed from within
and through you
God's kingdom will break into the world.

Source: Rule for a New Brother

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Cinema' ala Brent: T-Shirt History

Ah, well it was finally time to bid adieu to most of the logoed t-shirts, sweatshirts and golf shirts I've had or designed or both over the years.  Some had already departed to various friends (the Friendly writer Haven Kimmell (A Girl Named Zippy) for example got all my "Quaker Haven" t-shirts).  But I found more than fifty stashed in the back of my closet and in a drawer, so decided to say good-bye.
It was a bittersweet parting -- shirts from softball teams I'd played on and coached, T's from friends and Friends, sweatshirts and football jerseys I'd designed and worn during my youth group leader days, and one from the "Quaker Cousins Cultural Tour" (aka "Quakerpalooza" with Carrie Newcomer, Scott Russell SandersPhil Gulley and me) that said "Shhhh.  I'm with the band." And there's the infamous "First Quakerterian" softball team shirt from the combined First Friends and First Presbyterian churches' team in New Castle, Indiana circa 1990.  It features George Fox carrying a "Pendle Hill Slugger" bat and, instead of seeing a "great people to be gathered," he's looking toward left field where he intends to clear the homerun fence.  It's one of the designs I'm proudest of (with apologies to the artist who created the iconic picture of Fox atop Pendle Hill).  BTW, the team motto that year was "It Just Doesn't Matter" -- and we won the league.
At any rate, I decided to photo all these shirts so I could remember them in my dotage.  And then, for your viewing pleasure, I turned them into a little movie.

Monday, September 24, 2012

To Ninety

To Ninety

A city sparrow
touches down
on a bare branch

in the fork of a tree
through whose arms
the snow is sifting —

swipes his beak
against wood, this side
then that,

and flies away:
what sight
could be more common?

Yet I think
for such sights alone
I would live to ninety.

"To Ninety" by Robyn Sarah, from Questions About the Stars. © Brick Books, 1998. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
From "The Writer's Almanac"


A touch of cold in the Autumn night
I walked abroad,
And saw the ruddy moon lean over a hedge
Like a red-faced farmer.
I did not stop to speak, but nodded;
And round about were the wistful stars
With white faces like town children.
Autumn by T. E. Hulme

Friday, September 21, 2012

Becoming Myself

Now I Become Myself

May Sarton

Now I become myself. It's taken
Time, many years and places;
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people's faces,
Run madly, as if Time were there,
Terribly old, crying a warning,
"Hurry, you will be dead before-- "
(What? Before you reach the morning?
Or the end of the poem is clear?
Or love safe in the walled city?)
Now to stand still, to be here,
Feel my own weight and density!

Source: Collected Poems, 1930-1973

Thursday, September 20, 2012

You Are God's Promise

A Promise to the Universe

Brennan Manning

In our faithful listening to God's Word, we often neglect his first word to us--the gift of ourselves to ourselves: our existence, our temperament, our personal history, our uniqueness, our flaws and foibles, our identity. Our very existence is one of the never-to-be-repeated ways God has chosen to express himself in space and time. Because we are made in God's image and likeness, you and I are yet another promise that he has made to the universe that he will continue to love it and care for it.

Source: Ruthless Trust

Friday, September 14, 2012

Supporting Each Other in Sickness and in Health

Supporting Each Other in Sickness and in Health

Following the Living Christ --Or a Committe?: A Response to IYM Proposal

I've resisted, of late, addressing any of what's going on in Indiana Yearly Meeting and its apparently impending separation. But after reading Chuck Fager and Stephen Angell's pieces in Quaker Theology and Doug Bennett's "Update on the Schism in Indiana," I feel led to add my voice to this issue. I commend their pieces and links there-in to all who wish a deeper understanding (or any understanding!) of what's going on there. 

First, let me say that I first came to Indiana (and Indiana Yearly Meeting) in late 1978.  I have served as the released minister of two congregations in IYM and was recorded as a Friends minister there in 1980.  I have a deep love for IYM and the people there -- many of whom have been instrumental in my spiritual growth over the years.  And that's people on both sides of the current issue.  My current membership in Western Yearly Meeting has not changed how much I care for IYM and the good people there.  It has, however, given me a different perspective allowed by both geographical and emotional distance.

Second, my concern is not with the good, kind, thoughtful, faithful people of IYM.  I know a good number of people serving on the task force.  I believe they have served well and faithfully.  They have labored long in an attempt to find a way forward that will speak to the conditions present among Friends in Indiana Yearly Meeting and its member congregations.  I am grateful to them for this work.

My concern is with is the task force's continued attempts at pushing for a solution.  This has nothing to do with my disagreement over the solution they propose.  The solution seem rational and well considered.  It makes sense in an intellectual way and offers a way to resolve many issues.  I trust that these good people offer it as coming from their best collective wisdom and after much prayer and worship.

Still, it seems, from the documents I've read (Angell and others) that there is no clear sense of unity among the ENTIRE membership of IYM about the way forward.  In the face of that, it seems (I humbly submit) that IYM task force should decline of offer a solution.

We Friends say we believe that Christ is our present teacher and the God's will can be known and obeyed -- in community.  Where is the trust that God will lead God's people Himself?   Why the persistence in asking one group of wise, seasoned Friends to come up with a solution?

Perhaps the task force should take another tack.  Maybe it's time for them to say, "We have labored faithfully at the task with which we were charged. You other good people across this Yearly Meeting all hear the tension and concern expressed by our members  on all sides of this matter. We, therefore, as servants of the living Christ, will not offer any more solutions/ideas. We have discharged our duties. We return the matter to the Yearly Meeting and its members. Let us endeavor to listen to the voice and will of God and labor until we have unity."

What would it be like, then, for the Yearly Meeting to commit every time it gathers over the next year (including Yearly Meeting) to sit as a people and labor together.  Everybody!  Let committees do their Christian education, evangelism and outreach, and more.  But let the times when people come together be set aside solely for worship and prayer together, listening for and to the voice of the Jesus we profess to love and follow.  That includes Representative Council and Yearly Meeting.  Clear the agenda.  Have no reports.  Gather in worship. Sing together.  Pray together.  Listen in love to each other. Trust Christ!

What greater spiritual exercise, and model of Christian discernment and faithfulness, could there be?

"'Have you anything to declare?' is a vital challenge to which every one of us is personally called to respond and is also a challenge that every meeting should consider of primary importance. it should lead us to define, with such clarity as we can reach, precisely what it is the Friends of this generation have to say that is not, as we believe, being said effectively by others. What, indeed, have we to declare to this generation that is of sufficient importance to justify our separate existence as part of the Christian fellowship?" -- Edgar Dunstan

Well, in this Friends humble (and I say that with all sincerity) opinion, the Quaker assertion that we are the Friends of Jesus is something we cannot truly declare if we are not willing to put all our trust as a community of faith in Christ's ability to lead us.  What have we to declare to a world that needs the peculiar proclamation of the Quaker message of immediate, personal encounter with the God who is present with us and leads us into truth and righteousness if we don't practice that ourselves?

With sadness and hope in my soul,

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Monk in the World Meditation Silence from Christine Valters Paintner on Vimeo.

Features one of my photographs. ;-)

The Power and The Glory...

At the County Fair, 1956

For a nickel, a machine
called An Expression of Faith
would take your dime
and squash it.
All tubes and gears and lights,
the thing would groan, squeak,
fart, smoke, and finally drop
a little silver oval in your hands,
hot as a pistol,
with Jesus's face on one side
and the Lord's Prayer on the other.
I took my medallion
home for Grandma,
but she wouldn't keep it
because it was Catholic
and had "trespasses"
instead of "debts"
and left out the part
about the kingdom
and the power and the glory.
She gave it back
and I went downtown
and set it on the railroad track.
And after the train went by
I had a piece of silver
smooth as glass and that
says something about
power and glory, by God.

"At the County Fair, 1956" by Charles Darling, from The Saints of Diminished Capacity. © Second Wind Press, 2005. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Slouching toward Bethlehem...

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

-- William Butler Yeats

Monday, September 10, 2012

Look For Me As You Go By....

Hang my head low, so low.
Don't see me only as I am but
see me how I long to be.
Shining like a flowering tree
under a gray Pennsylvania sky.
Look for me as you go by.
Hang my head low, so low.
Every burden shall be lifted.
Every stone upon your back slide into the sea.
It's me for you and you for me.

"Don't see me only as I am but/see me how I long to be...
It's me for you and you for me..."

How I hope to be viewed by all those I've called friend -- present, past, future, lost, eternal...

God Is Love -- Innocence Mission

Am finally able to listen to "Innocence Mission" again -- what wonderful tunes and lyrics.  They tug at my heart.



Arrayed as if this ward were some bright deck
scrubbed for a long, romantic, costly cruise,
they wait for passengers, steel arm and neck
gleaming with welcome. Three, exchanging views,
huddle like cronies glad to be aboard
together among strangers; here and there
a loner muses; two lean close to hoard
some gossip much too scandalous to share.

Nurses in soft pastels chatter and smile;
light music tinkles somewhere overhead,
and floral paintings in a sprightly style
conjure the ghost of summer, long since dead.
But wheelchairs, glinting, wink as if to say,
Not now, not yet, but you and I, someday..."
"Wheelchairs" by Rhina P. Espaillat, from Playing At Stillness. © Truman State University Press, 2005. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
From "The Writers Alamanac"

Friday, September 07, 2012

Communion ...


Daniel Berrigan

Sometime in your life,
hope that you might see one starved man,
the look on his face when the bread
finally arrives. Hope that you
might have baked it or bought it
or even kneaded it yourself.
For that look on his face,
for your meeting his eyes
across a piece of bread,
you might be willing to lose a lot,
or suffer a lot,
or die a little even.

Source: Unknown

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Wrong Turn

Wrong Turn

I took a wrong turn the other day.
A mistake, but it led me to the shop where I found
the very thing I'd been searching for.

With my brother I opened a packet
of old letters from my mother and saw a side of her
that sweetened what had been deeply sour.

Later that day the radio sang a song from
a time when I was discovering love,
and folded me into itself again.

"Wrong Turn" by Luci Shaw, from What the Light Was Like. © WordFarm, 2006. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
From "The Writers Almanac"

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Invitation to Photography: Silence

South Starksboro FriendsPendleHill - HatPendleHill - Petra100_1414CIMG0969[1]100_1950
IMG_0913IMG_0927IMG_0915ReflectionsLeytonville More talltrees
SolisticeSilent buddhaArtichoke head2012-07-17 20.16.32Frosty Imprints frosty sparklers
Frosty seatSilence of VigilsScreen Shot 2012-09-05 at 7.59.01 AMShirin2portraitDSC05258

A wonderful collection of photos by photographers around the world on the theme of silence. the silence...

It is in the silence
that my hope is, and my aim.
A song whose lines

I cannot make or sing
sounds men's silence
like a root. Let me say

and not mourn: the world
lives in the death of speech
and sings there.

---Wendell Berry, excerpted from "The Silence"

Monday, September 03, 2012

Quakers are More than Oats -- We're SPICE-y!

I'll be teaching a new Sunday School series beginning Sunday September 9th at West Newton Friends (6800 S. Mooresville Rd, Indianapolis).  It's on the Quaker SPICES -- to learn more, click the video!

Love & Care

Learning to Care
Leonardo Boff

When we love, we care; and when we care, we love. That is why the ethos of loving is complemented by the ethos of caring. Caring is the key category of the new paradigm of civilization that is struggling to emerge all over the world.
The lack of caring for scarce resources and the way nature is treated--the absence of caring in relation to the power of science and technology, which has built weapons of mass destruction, of devastation to the biosphere and to the survival of the human species itself--is bringing us to an unprecedented impasse. Either we care or we perish.
Source: Unknown

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Love Not Addiction

Choosing God

Gerald May

God refuses to be an object for attachment because God desires full love, not addiction. Love born of true freedom, love free from attachment, requires that we search for a deepening awareness of God, just as God freely reaches out to us. In addition, full love for God means we must turn to God over and against other things.

If our choice of God is to be made with integrity, we must first have felt other attractions and chosen, painfully, not to make them our gods.

True love, then, is not only born of freedom; it is also born of difficult choice. A mature and meaningful love must say something like, 'I have experienced other goodnesses, and they are beautiful, but it is You, my true heart's desire, whom I choose above all.'

We have to turn away before we can come home with dignity.

Source: Addiction and Grace