Author Archive

Steps on the path, part 1

September 22, 2014

Hello, this is Elizabeth. I haven’t posted on this blog for years, but here I am. A lot of things have wanted to be written for quite a while, but I haven’t given them their way until now. Here’s one of them.

My earlier theological history tended to be on the vague side. That’s not always a bad thing. My father was a theologian who talked himself up, down, and around in circles, with (so far as I can see) the primary objective of proving himself Not Wrong. That, I came to recognize, is even more important than Being Right. Being right, hedging bets, or being noncommittal are all fine, because nobody can point at you and laugh at you for Being Wrong. Naturally, I grew up with similar biases.

I couldn’t “believe in God” for a long time when I was young, although we’d been taught to as children. I thought believing meant “thinking something was factually true.” I couldn’t believe the Bible’s origin stories or the idea of a bigger and better dad in the sky called Our Father. I couldn’t inflate the image of my father into a model for something to worship (though I’m sure he would have liked me to). I couldn’t believe in a lot of the words people said about God.

What started to soften that stance was music. I was a violinist and a choral singer. In the latter capacity I experienced a lot of sacred music from the inside. I detested the soupy, sappy, sentimental kind (and generally still do), but I also had the chance to sing great music under the direction of a good choral conductor in high school and a superb one (Iva Dee Hiatt) in college.

The thing is, I didn’t agree with the words, but from my place in the midst of the music I knew that in the best of it the whole thing, the music and words together, were True. They were about something absolutely real that couldn’t be denied, but neither could it be expressed with words alone. (Music without words could be True in a similar way.)

I came to admit that the True Thing I was experiencing had something to do with God that was closer and more real to me than anything anyone had ever said about God. It was akin to my awe at the beauty of nature, although not identical.

I continued to hedge my bets for a while but became increasingly comfortable with calling that True Thing God. And once I’d committed myself to that, my experience of God became deeper and broader and more certain. It’s been quite a few years now since I would have said I wasn’t sure if God existed. God is sure and certain, and God’s seeds are growing in me all the time.

I’d be as unwilling as ever to write a Credo that defines what I “think” about God, or lays out a series of beliefs that others must agree to if they are to share my faith. I do sometimes find it hard to communicate with people who rattle off questions at me designed to determine whether I meet their criteria as a believer. Even my beloved John has a more literalistic view of God than I have, although thankfully our differences are a matter of dialogue and mutual querying rather than trying to convince each other that we’re Right.

Some would say my theology is still vague, and by their standards it may be. But I know God. I have no doubts at all that God is real, even if undefinable. I’m immensely grateful that God snuck up behind me and bypassed all those theology words and yes/no questions. God knew that the music, the love, the moon and the trees and the water all orange and purple in the sunset, would find the place in me that the words couldn’t reach.

And I know I am growing into a better and better person (still not necessarily all that good, but much better than I once was) because of the God I know. I have that most precious of things, a place to stand.

And now, yes, there are words that speak to that same deep place: Holy, holy, holy.  Dona nobis pacem.  Et lux perpetua luceat eis.  Jerusalem, Jerusalem!  Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?…when the morning stars sang together, and all the children of God shouted for joy?  Even though I walk in a dark and dreary land, there is nothing that can shake me — She has said She won’t forsake me — I’m in Her hand.  And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish thou the work of our hands upon us.

And the word became flesh, and dwelt among us…full of grace and truth.

To be continued.

Fire haiku

November 18, 2011

Bring the bitter boughs:

throw them on the fire of Love

until they burn sweet.

(Message that came to me during Meeting for Worship while visiting Chatham-Summit Meeting: a haiku version of an image that first came to me at a Powell House retreat on “Dealing with Difficult People.”)

Seated around a virtual campfire, we were asked what about ourselves we’d like to throw in.  My bitterness, I thought.  If I were to throw that in the campfire it would be a log heavy with bitter sap. But the campfire, the refiner’s fire, isn’t just destructive but transformative.  What began as bitter is broken down and made anew as sweet-smelling smoke.

Our Mother

July 7, 2008

I’ve been the silent partner in this blog, for the most part — I think the only posts I’ve made have been silly ones about Talk Like a Quaker Day.

Something suddenly prompted me to post the following prayer/poem, which I completed on August 18, 2007, at Powell House.  It seems to have spoken to both Christians and Wiccans of my acquaintance.  That’s what I was hoping it would do!

Our Mother

Our Mother,
who art among us,
holy do we name thee.
Thy home be here,
thy grace appear
in Act as it does in Spirit.
Prepare with us our daily bread,
and heal us of wrongdoing
as we learn to free those that wrong us.
Test us not beyond our ability,
but keep our souls from destruction,
for in thee is our home,
and our strength,
and our beauty,
now and always.

Completed at Powell House, August 18, 2007

More on how to celebrate International Talk Like a Quaker Day

September 30, 2007

So far, nobody has followed up on my call for Quakified ads to sponsor ITLAQ Day. I have, however, some further thoughts on appropriate ways to celebrate the day:

  • Have an ice cream firstdae
  • Wear Friend Size pantyhose
  • Post a video on TheeTube
  • Watch George Fox News
  • Turn off your computer and write with a Penn
  • When crossing the street, be sure to mind the light
  • Sing madrigals like “Now is the month of fifthmonthing”
  • If you hit your thumb with a hammer, affirm loudly
  • Then make like Barclay and Apologize profusely
  • Shop at Friend & Taylor
  • Sow some tame oats
  • Put plain dressing on your salad
  • As George Gascoigne wrote in 1575, anticipating Quaker values, “Do you, if you will follow my advise, eschue prolixitie and knit up your discourse as compendiously as you may, for breuitie (so that it be not drowned in obscuritie) is most commendable.” Or, in modern English, “Get to the point.”

…and, of course, BE QUIET if you have nothing inspired to say.

International Talk Like a Quaker Day – Sponsorship suggestions

September 26, 2007

In quakers: International Talk Like a Quaker Day, jeanne_d_arc wrote,

In the same vein as International Talk Like a Pirate Day and National Quaker Week in the UK, I have decided to declare October (Tenth Month) 24 (which just so happens to be United Nations Day and William Penn’s birthday) as International Talk Like a Quaker Day.

I think this is a splendid idea — so splendid, in fact, that we should consider getting corporate sponsors and placing ads on the site. My first suggestion for an ad is


I’ll ask Thy Friend John if he might wish to post an ad he designed a while back.

How about you? Anything to ad(d) to the Quaker Sponsor Prospects roster? (If it has anything to do with oats, it had better be good.)

Nonetheless, I fear I must Query one of jeanne_d_arc’s examples:

Friend, I’m afraid I must elder three for what thee said on First Day.

Before thee elders all three, please search thy heart to be certain that the other two bear equal responsibility for what one of them said. Eldering by association is not in keeping with Friends’ tradition.

Eldering three for the price of one also smacks of trinitarianism, which is not a traditional Friends’ testimony. If it were, we would have to use the acronym SPITE instead of SPICE as a mnemonic. While there may be extremely rare occasions in which that acronym might apply, it is Quaker tradition to ignore them.