Sunday, May 31, 2009


RantWoman is reflecting on another blog entry about Pentecost:

RantWoman wants to write of her own experience with people speaking in tongues. For quite some time, RantWoman's Little Sister has been attending services at a neighborhood affiliate of an outfit called "La Iglesia de Dios Pentecostes.

La Iglesia de Dios... features the sort of humble laborers who clean everyone's houses and offices all week and at hours when the white world more commonly goes to church. After all this cleaning and shoveling, the parishioners get all cleaned up in their Sunday best and come hear the pastor tell them they are precious in God's sight. The pastor has a sort of barrel-chested delivery and air of certainty that reminds RantWoman in certain respects of her own Reverend Grandfather, may he rest in peace.

The parishioners, being in many cases not highly educated, also at times became mightily worshipful toward such gringas as can read in English and Spanish and know their ways around bureaucracies, and Little Sister benefited from this adulation through lots of muscle to help with moves, occasional pots of soup and other attentions for herself and the World's Most Irrepressible Nephew.

At La Iglesia...Pentecost lasts all year. The service proceeds, not surprisingly in Spanish. RantWoman can hold her own, but once or twice for some family reason RantMom has had occasion to worship there as well and someone will generally help interpret, well except for the prayers. At prayer time, everyone prays loudly, all at once about whatever but not the same thing. Many pray in tongues RantWoman has not been given the gift of understanding, a fact RantMom does not speak of but does exude body language of the "this is MUCH too weird" sort.

Imagine the further effect at the times when Little Sister has been indisposed and numbers of worshipers have paid house calls complete with Bible readings, worship, song and of course full-voiced prayer. They pray at length. They pray more than loudly enough for neighbors to be discomfited and ask to keep the volume down. They pray with total glorious un-self-conscious abandon. After all Pentecost lasts all year.

Interview with God

Just when RantWoman is compiling a rant about the poor job some journalists are doing about another topic, along comes RantMom with the following link:

RantWoman's review:

Lovely scenery

Music so noodly and vapid it could make a pacifist homicidal.

Treacly philosophy rendered in some goopy presentation mode that RantWoman cannot read off the bat with her screen reader but MIGHT be able to if RantWoman would read all the info about her latest software update.

Another journalist who MIGHT have been able to do a better job eliciting well-rounded answers.

DON'T tell RantMom I said any of this! I WILL dutifully send her a thank you...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Cross before our eyes

RantWoman generally considers herself quite broadminded about questions of art, ministry through the arts, and participation in the arts as ways to draw people closer to God. Against this background, RantWoman sometimes surprises herself with the clarity and certainty of her visceral reactions to certain questions.

For example, once upon a time, RantWoman had an interview where the job description was going to involve munching and crunching data, something RantWoman has done a lot of and generally enjoys. However, on this occasion, RantWoman was to be munching and crunching data related to, drumroll please, text messaging and American Idol!

RantWoman has NEVER watched an entire episode, let alone a whole series. RantWoman is aware of the recent flap about Ryan and Adam. RantWoman could perhaps be amused by this flap, but this would involve interacting with something, blatant idolatry encrusted with commercialism, that RantWoman feels a total visceral need to avoid.

See, if the network is going to call it American Idol, no matter how ephemeral the whole concept is, RantWoman is going to take them at their words. Then for some reason RantWoman herself does not fully understand, RantWoman's anti-idolatry reflex is just going to kick in and clang, clang, clang, no, no, no just NOT for RantWoman. Fortunately for RantWoman's sense of herself, circumstances did not align even to force RantWoman to have to decline this job.

RantWoman found herself thinking of this story at last March's blogging workshop when someone read to RantWoman a passage from religious scholar Karen Anderson about keeping the cross before her eyes as part of her life in the convent. RantWoman does not even know where to begin about this topic. Once in awhile RantWoman turns over in her mind thoughts of contemplative life in a convent. RantWoman tends to turn the idea over once and put it back fast but not only because of the cross before one's eyes. Okay, it's not CALLED idolatry. Furthermore, RantWoman is aware that many faith traditions have colorful interactions with talismans of their faith. RantWoman knows dear people who are Russian Orthodox for whom kissing icons is really important to their expression of faith; when worshipping with these people, RantWoman tends just to greet the icons politely from a respectful distance. RantWoman has had tasteless and irreverant conversations about the Cross as seen in Catholic churches frozen with Christ's corpse and about lessons from Baptist Sunday School of protestant cross empty because of the Resurrection and Christ's presence among us.

Interestingly enough, when RantWoman heard of Karen Anderson's convent requirement, RantWoman immediately thought of...Sudoku! Not only does Sudoku help RantWoman contain her backflipping eyeballs, Sudoku has crosses all over the place, imbedded at every juncture of the matrix. Sometimes filling the squares as one solves the puzzle even brings new cross images to the fore! In short, Sudoku, among its other diverting features has crosses coming out its ears for those who need them.

Somewhere here, RantWoman decided to let the following blog entry pick up her mental excursion:

And for those of you addicted to American Idol, RantWoman is unlikely to minister about the topic in Meeting for Worship, but she may secretly be praying for your soul from the safety of her own dungeon.

Praying about Swine Flu

RantWoman is generally a rationalist sort who will sooner run screaming from the room and snort about covering your cough and hand sanitizer than swallow a blog entry with a title such as the one above. Tonight RantWoman came across the following item on

It contains both prayers for different kinds of people involved and various comments about science, previous epidemics, and even handwashing.

RantWoman is debating whether she will cross list to her obsesso-thread about swan flude.... Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Custody of the Eyes

One of the themes left over from the blogging workshop at the March meeting of the FWCC Section on the Americas is one Friend's writing about how she practices "custody of the eyes" by which she means trying not to look up every time aFriend enters Meeting for Worship.

RantWoman could be predicted to bounce from custody of anything either to tirades about the prison industrial complex or to meditations on sundered spouses' disputes about the children they have in common.

But custody of the eyes in RantWoman's case has whole other dimensions. First, let us consider the, cough, highly entertaining natual state of RantWoman's eyes:

The Reader's Digest version: RantWoman's eyes are an adventure in their own right. They have been so all of RantWoman's life, but approaching middle age and DNA lotto have added hitherto undreamed-of thrills and spills. Under the circumstances, "custody" of anything in the eyeball realm would be vanity.

RantWoman has a lifetime of experience recognizing people by their gait, shape, and a combination of features much cruder than facial characteristics. It would not even occur to RantWoman to suppress the reflexes such as they still are in the direction of recognizing people, not only because her eyes would never stand for it, but also because the sight of every person coming through the door is a fresh opportunity for prayerful appreciation, reflection, fondness or a raft of other emotions related to sharing our experiences of God within Meeting for Worship.

Here is the other part of RantWoman's problem with "custody of the eyes." It is at times physically painful for RantWoman to sit in the worship room. There are two issues here. One relates to the pointless, headache-inducing reflex of trying to focus despite the fact that RantWoman cannot, despite the fact that we added grey chairs to a grey room just to enhance the general level of visual fog. The other issue relates to light. RantWoman is happier in as much daylight as she can get. However, her pupils do not adjust normally to changed light conditions under the best circumstances and the high narrow band of windows in the worship room present a constant sharp distinction between bright and dark that is especially difficult. Strangely enough this problem is worse on cloudy days when the worship room is comparatively dark and the outdoor light especially full of glare.

Focusing on something close up such as Sudoku helps RantWoman settle into worship, prevents headaches, and generally improves her ability to participate as a worshipper. Sometimes this involves finishing a puzzle she has been working on on the bus. RantWoman considers many elements of bus experience part of worship: the exercise of walking to and from stops, the people RantWoman meets and talks to, the general Sunday crowd of people going to different houses of worship and sometimes other events more stressful and considerably more in need of worshipful energy.

RantWoman is clear that neither daily eye issues nor every element of life on the bus belong in meeting for worship in spoken form every Sunday. For one thing, RantWoman might find it alarmingly easy to channel slam poetry, some old-testament prophet or John Woolman. RantWoman is open, to a point, to information about others' worship experience and her impact on it. RantWoman is aware that other people knit, sew, read, warble tunelessly and probably do a whole bunch of other annoying things she blessedly cannot see during Meeting for Worship. RantWoman has learned that lots of what goes on in Meeting for Worship does not need her attention and yet it still feels important to make the effort every week to come and be part of corporate worship. RantWoman spends a lot of time in the rest of life filtering inputs and sometimes appreciate the skill when the experience extends to Meeting for Worship.

RantWoman has another blunter perspective: someone distressed by another person doing Sudoku needs to ask themselves whether someone else doing sudoku is the worst problem in their life. If the answer is no, they almost certainly should focus on their other problems; if the answer is yes, maybe they should say a prayer of gratitude that that is the biggest problem they have. Then they should return to step two and focus on things they can affect, either that or say a general prayer for all the needs and challenges of people on the bus and all the ways many of them trundle bravely on.

But perhaps the proper response, before unleashing full RantWoman rant mode would be "well, Friend, how does 'custody of the eyes' help you worship?"

Sunday, May 24, 2009


If you just want to get to something sweet and special, feel free to skip to the link which says "Enough." If you even vaguely think the zigs and zags served up by RantWoman's soul might help you on your journey, please just keep reading.

Some might consider RantWoman a heartless witch. RantWoman used to have a job where a small part of the job description empowered and indeed required her to be severely and enforceably allergic to any piece of email that in the faintest degree looked, smelled, sounded anything remotely like a chain letter.

Decades have passed. This habit has persisted, though now the new term of art is spam. By spam RantWoman means not the canned meat product and not even the frightening email options for expanding body parts one either does not have or already has plenty of thank you very much. Spam in the RantWoman lexicon also includes all those bits of treacly sentiment, photoshopped preposterousness, wisecracks about aging and other such material delivered exuberantly by several retirees otherwise near and dear to RantWoman, especially if these missives include requests to forward them to 5 or 10 of 5 million of one's closest friends.

RantWoman also has a pretty steady need to get work done in volumes that exceed her easy capacity even when she does not take time to read every piece of email that comes in. RantWoman tends to leave items she thinks are likely to be this sort of distraction in her "maybe get to someday" file. Alas tonight in the middle of conversations on other topics. RantMom mentioned that she had sent and she hoped RantWoman would read the following item:

Begin excerpt:
ENOUGH: Recently, I overheard a mother and daughter in their last moments together at the airport. They had announced the departure. Standing near the security gate, they hugged, and the mother said, 'I love you, and I pray you enough.' The daughter replied, 'Mom, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I pray you enough, too, Mom.' They kissed, and the daughter left. The mother walked over to the window where I was seated. Standing there, I could see she wanted and needed to cry. I tried not to intrude on her privacy, but she welcomed me in by asking, 'Did you ever say good-bye to someone knowing it would be forever?' Yes, I have,' I replied. 'Forgive me for asking, but why is this a forever good-bye?' 'Well...I'm not as young as I once was, she lives so far away & has her own busy life. I have some challenges ahead, and the reality is - her next trip back will be for my funeral,' she said. 'When you were saying good-bye, I heard you say, 'I pray you enough.' May I ask what that means?' She began to smile. 'That's a prayer that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone.' She paused a moment and looked up as if trying to remember it in detail, and she smiled even more. 'When we said, 'I pray you enough,' we wanted the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them.' Then, turning toward me, she shared the following as if she were reciting it from memory. I pray you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how gray the day may appear. I pray you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more. I pray you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and everlasting. I pray you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may appear bigger. I pray you enough gain to satisfy your wanting. I pray you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess. I pray you enough hellos to get you through the final good-bye. Then, she began to cry, and walked away. They say, it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them, but an entire life to forget them. . TAKE TIME TO LIVE..... To all my friends and loved ones, I PRAY YOU ENOUGH

End Excerpt

RantWoman supposes this can serve as her ministry on the course of Meeting for Worship this morning. A newcomer committed the nearly unpardonable sin not only of reading aloud from the Bible, three different passages RantWoman believes but also then ministered a SECOND time with more Bible verses about prayer. This did not actually degenerate either into popcorn or into loud public eldering of the hapless visitor in the middle of Meeting for Worship. The other messages which ensued had to do with prayer and, more or less, continuing revelation with respect to multiple interpretations of the mentioned Bible passages. They occurred well enough spaced for good amounts of worship between. RantWoman felt a temptation to minister flitter through her mind but is grateful that flatout lethargy and even somnolence overtook at the time. Tonight though the item above from RantMom seems like just the right contribution to the theme. When in doubt, go for really touching over literal Bible verses any time.

Community Participation Requiem

RantWoman passed up a Friend's invitation at Folklife to attend a community participation sight-reading performance of a requiem. RantWoman now feels silly for not asking which requiem although the answer to that question would not have changed RantWoman's mind.

Even though RantWoman thinks this particular Friend would likely do her part justice, RantWoman is enough of a music performance snob that sight-reading a requiem sounded like really more fun than RantWoman at least should have after already spending a sunburnt afternoon among the lively folk at the festival.

Upon reflection, RantWoman thinks any kind of performance of a requiem is decidedly an interesting way to observe Memorial Day. Possibly a requiem is more appropriate for Memorial Day than, say, for Easter, another occasion when requiems sometimes get performed particularly by choral afficionados not wedded to the traditional liturgical calendar. As RantWoman understands it, the point of a requiem is the Rest in Peace part and that seems counterproductive to the whole Easter thing. RantWoman also notes that this year's national celebration features mention of all the family members returned home alive gosh dang it thanks to all the miracles of modern medical technology but with such horrendous injuries that they will need profound care likely first and foremost from their families for the rest of their lives. RantWoman notes that as tangentially as possible lest she get derailed multiple directions besides the observance of the national remembering and the distinct gap between this state of affairs and more thoroughgoing resurrection, reanimation.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Discernment and Alphabet Soup

RantWoman is conscious of the internet as one vast maelstrom of interconnected indexing. If RantWoman is going to use a blog to collect thoughts and comments, she wishes to facilitate this indexing when it seems advantageous and if possible to obfuscate it with regard to more infelicitous themes. This posting is definitely the latter, though RantWoman hopes that what she is thinking about will be clear enough to the people close to the problem to convey her thoughts.

Part of Saturday's discernment involved repetitions of themes beloved by Finance Committee about the extent to which our Meeting's practices subsidize other activities, including a longtime tenant of our building, a tenant whose ties to our Meeting have ebbed and flowed but currently seem to be at a pretty low ebb beyond regular payment of rent.

RantWoman thinks this topic needs prodding, for one thing because this organization does huge amounts of work that RantWoman thinks Friends need and want to do or at least want to have done if not necessarily always being clear about how to do it ourselves. RantWoman does not think her Meeting's relationship to this organization differs substantially from this organization's dances with the local Meeting in other parts of the country. RantWoman is also aware that for many people outside Quakerdom, this organization is the face of what people think of as far as Quaker activism, with no thought whatsoever of worship or corporate discernment as practiced in Meeting for Worship for Business. Likewise, people who come to this organization from other directions are sometimes surprised when something this organization is resoundingly clear and ardent about meets a wall of quibbles, cavils, and outright hostility when actually brought before a Quaker meeting's Meeting for Business.

RantWoman really does not expect to resolve these tensions. She is further conscious of her own inclination to go all John Woolman about relying on this organization alone to project Quaker presence in certain historically Quaker social concerns. In tough economic times,in addition to our Meeting's maintenance backlog, this organization's fundraising is also taking a hit and there seems to be some choice between maintaining an important steadiness in the relationship and possibly working out our economic vexations at each other's expense.

RantWoman is also considering whether or not it is of concern that she lacks sufficient information about the organization's current status even to evaluate whether or not there might be other internal matters within the organization playing a role in a sense of malaise.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The May Year of Discernment Retreat

RantWoman is still seasoning her impressions of the most recent Year of Discernment retreat at her meeting. Obviously she is going to post for the information of those who come after, even though she is having twinges of thought about airing community laundry all over the internet.

First, making the food a potluck works SO much better than trying to do food formally when attendance at an earlier retreat far exceeded the number who had gotten their acts together to put name on paper in advance. There was PLENTY of food both for lunch and for a mid-afternoon teatime after short work party and before more discernment and worship.

The work party included weeding, which RantWoman actually might have been able to put herself in the way of, windowwashing about which everyone agreed it was probably preferable for RantWoman just to play the blind card, little old ladies sweeping off the roof, big burly guys undoing all the spiders' handiwork on the ceiling of the worship room, and other tasks.

(Here RantWoman allowed brief and frightening humility about one task, cleaning the refrigerator. If Nominating Committee had looked at RantWoman's own fridge, PERHAPS they would not have put RantWoman in charge of the Meeting kitchen. More to the point, even if the fridge needs cleaning, a day when the kitchen is full of people and potluck food is really NOT optimal.)

RantWoman humbly built community by catching up on different Friends medical and other difficulties, holding all in the Light, and staying out of the way. RantWoman will do dirt therapy another time.

The discernment exercises brought up numbers of themes. In the morning Friends spoke in small groups of times in the past when they had been part of corporate discernment processes. One Friend in RantWoman's small group spoke of the discernment about renaming the organization now known as Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns, or by some of us as Friends with the impossibly long unpronounceable acronym. This example vividly illustrates the clarity of discernment: the group kept having a leading to make this long name and it just got clearer the more they worshipped.

Another LONG moment of discernment mentioned was when RantWoman's meeting was discerning the path toward recognizing same-sex marriage the same ways opposite sex marriage are recognized. Curiously, only two of five people in the group were present during that long interval. Mention was made of some objectors eventually just falling away and dropping out. A small effort was made to mention that sometimes efforts at corporate discernment involved quite hurtful things being said in public during this process and possibly other points of unspoken conflict. RantWoman was also thinking of a conversation she was part of once where someone was explaining that she and her then-husband spent a good bit of time turning over associated questions over their own dinner table. RantWoman finds herself wondering what kind of kitchen table discernment is needed in the current interval.

Another theme that came from this conversation was the role of leadership. This theme came up in a few ways, both mention of some formidable presences now deceased, and mention from various angles about concern for who the next clerks will be, what phases people are at in their lives, and approaches to needs including manual labor. No one thought to crystalize the question of recognizing leaders or leadership behavior even when corporate discernment is the focus.

At some points in previous eras the Meeting included more people with skills in manual labor. Mention was also made of the value of experience. There are tasks which can be figured out by reasonably intelligent people, but there is simplicity in repetition and omitting mistakes in later rounds of work. Mention of previous times when the Meeting made big financial decisions included both the roles of key people and lack of clarity about how some of the decisions came together. Agreeing about whether or not to recognize same-sex marriage is sort of binary: either Meeting will come to unity or... By contrast, one aspect of economic decisions is a large number of choices and scenarios to work through.

It occurs to RantWoman that when all the discernment is said and done, do we ever look back with an eye toward outcomes? Did we spend money from the right pot of money to fix the furnaces? Did we accomplish what we attended by taking one step or another? Did we spend more money than we really needed to? RantWoman thinks she should probably prod the person who raised some of these concerns to bring them up to more than our small group. Since this person was also concerned about leadership, RantWoman should perhaps ask him what would be his idea of satisfactory leadership (not just decisions that suit him) for the current age.

The afternoon's discernment involved 10 ministries of the Meeting and allocating either 24 or 12 dots signifying our financial resources and only our financial resources among these ministries. RantWoman's group first dealt with a strong leading to put all our smiley faces in Worship assuming all other necessary decisions would derive from there. However, a member of Finance Committee kept pressing us to interact with the money question.

Discussion also wound up spending a lot of time on the costs / shared costs of two ministries that place a lot of demands on our building, the homeless ministry and one large longtime tenant. RantWoman was pleased that others share her view that these are very important ministries and there are different ways to total what seem to be related costs. This needs more followup though.

RantWoman thinks the items on the list of ministries were clumped strangely. RantWoman's group was also full of huge conflict avoiders. In the end all ministries got one dot; Worship and care of the Meeting each got 2. Against this backdrop, RantWoman was dazzled by some of the clumps suggested by other groups later on.

RantWoman also suspects that many people were misreading the titles: RantWoman's group for instance kept mentioning "sex abuse" in a peculiar light that had little to do with Meeting's ministry about this topic. RantWoman also thinks many people might have done what she did during the individual person placement of dots a week ago. RantWoman interpreted the category "Outside" to be activities outside meeting which might or might not include explicitly Quaker activities. Then she allocated half her dots there, to reflect her life and lving out her Quaker values in larger circles. RantWoman also thinks this is an important reality check: LOTS of Friends have things outside of Meeting which are very important and which feed back and forth to enrich Meeting as well as other parts of life.

Stay tuned for further seasoning.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

My Lai Peace Park

RantWoman is transfixed. RantWoman had not planned to stay for the event after Meeting for Worship. RantWoman did not even initially sit down; she was too busy banging around the Meetinghouse kitchen. Then, lo, the dishes were done, and the bits of the presentation RantWoman had been listening slightly to drew her in.

Today's guest was Mike Boehm, the CEO of Madison Quakers Inc., a remarkable peacebuilding and reconciliation project connecting Madison Quakers with the town of My Lai and the province where it is located: My Lai Peace Park .

Mike is a Vietnam vet who came back after his service, took classes under the GI Bill, spent a great deal of time thinking about US foreign policy and eventually returned to Vietnam the first time with a group of other vets. This trip led Mike to a series of one construction and reconciliation project after another: compassion houses for severely handicapped child victims of Agent Orange or for others with very extreme need, projects with the mountain tribes of Vietnam and a peace park in Hanoi.

The peace park in Vietnam was inspired by the healing that resulted from many different meetings and conversations at the Madison WI Vietnam American Peace Park, a place where US and Vietnamese veterans met and found healing in their shared distress, in their shared concern for those Missing in Action, their shared striving for reconciliation, and in their desire for a future different from the horrors of the past.

RantWoman is not doing these projects justice and she highly recommends the website above. The other point: Mike has been doing this work for decades. He thinks the projects have enough of a track record that they would have better success with grantwriting than a previous effort in that area. If anyone is touched as strongly as RantWoman was and knows something of grantwriting, there are contact options on the site.

The most revolting Vice President ever is on TV flakking for torture. The US public is pondering the friendly fire death of Pat Tillman and just how do dozens of civilians wind up dying in US bombing raids in Afghanistan. There is another round of torture pictures poking at our consciences if mercifully not so far at our visual streams. Against this background, simple measures to memorialize, to take brave steps of acknolwedgement across enormous gaps, and to take concrete, constructive steps for reconciliation and rebuilding is so refreshing.


Early Quakers often wrote lengthy journals about their "sufferings," the sufferings of their communities. These items either made it into print or got written out longhand with giant, below-the-line capitals S. These look to many with clearer vision than RantWoman like capital F's, hence: "fufferings."

Blogging Live

One of the coolest things RantWoman did at theFriends World Committee for Consultation Section of the Americas annual meeting was to go to an evening workshop about blogging.

RantWoman was a little skeptical. She was not sure what to expect first of all because Quakers are famous for either staying up all night at gatherings singing or going to bed by 10 pm. Second, although internetworking has taken on a much more human scale, RantWoman was half expecting some flock of geeky exceedingly earnest propeller-heads in plain dress cranking away with bicycle-powered generators for when the off-the-grid solar cells were not enough to power their computers. Perhaps RantWoman exaggerates. Those who came were surprisingly ordinary, basically indistinguishable from everyone else at that gathering.

The workshop was set at the nearly unQuakerly hour of 9:30 pm and by the time everyone arrived, there were close to 40 people there. The workshop opened, RantWoman thinks, with some silent worship and the standard introductory go-around with lots of people also announcing their blogs. (RantWoman thinks she picked up several readers there.) The cool thing though was that the workshop was set up to simulate the post and response pattern of blogging without a single electronic gizmo.

The facilitators posted printed excerpts of blogs with different Quaker themes on paper all around the room and then provided pens and paper to allow people to respond. Okay, this was not the easiest format for RantWoman. RantWoman trundled up to one of the printouts, decided she really could not read it, used the pen to post that comment, and then wandered off while others started to interact vigorously.

RantWoman has no idea what all eventually got written on these wall papers. She herself was delighted to run into a Friend she had not seen in some time and they took to chatting. This Friend said she had given up the computer, well RantWoman suspects due to job concerns only given up social networking, for Lent. However, the Friend was more than happy to read to RantWoman, something from Karen Anderson about all the ways to keep The Cross before her eyes, and something about a Friend who practices "custody of the eyes" trying not to look up every time others come into Meeting for Worship.

These readings are still lurking in RantWoman's mind; she promises a posting about bad eyesight, these themes, and her vexatious to some practice of doing Sudoku at some times when other Friends might knit, sew, or God knows what else to keep hands and mind settled. Equally important, although RantWoman is generally still very ambivalent, impatient and not necessarily gracious about needing to be read to, this experience was most definitely tolerable and even quite moving.

Here, the obvious thing for RantWoman to do would be to share the links for some of the places she learned about. RantWoman is posting some links and is kicking herself because the piece of paper with other notes has subsided into the general maelstrom on her desk. (Ouch).

RantWoman is thrilled to discover the vast Quaker blogosphere with its streams of thinking for many very different Friends, Quaker pastors, ordinary seekers, and people who have come to be Quakers via many different paths. RantWoman of course still has no time to do as much reading and thinking as she migh want. However, RantWoman is so thrilled to find this material online and therefor accessible to her and Mr. JAWS unassisted that she can hardly contain herself.

Being RantWoman, exhilaration is not of course RantWoman's only thought. Latin American Friends at the FWCC gathering have a project to get their own experiences of lived theology down into words. RantWoman would be delighted if these writing projects included access to computers to get these writings down faster and to deliver them sooner to Friends who need to hear them. RantWoman does not want this quibble to get in the way of what is already going on, but she does note it.

RantWoman also knows some extremely weighty, often greatly experienced Friends who never touch electronic keyboards. RantWoman respects this stance actually and is fully prepared to meet these Friends in person; however, RantWoman also kind of wishes these Friends words would be captured as part of the online conversation.

And for those Friends whose electronic engagement includes photos and videos, PLEASE TAG YOUR CONTENT so the screen reader has something to go on. If RantWoman were a nice person, since she posted several links to blogspot blogs, she would look up how to do it on blogspot. Stay tuned.

War and Peace, unconventionally

RantWoman notes Quakers' historical fame for interest in matters of War and Peace. RantWoman notes that without theological commentary at present and offers here a slightly different take on such themes. RantWoman offers this link only in case she finds herself led to poke further at a recurring theme of eye issues and Quaker gatherings and grace and misery and other tendencies not always welcomed when one is trying to be spiritual and have a good time.

War and Peace at the Medical Provider

Bilingual Business Meeting

RantWoman owes the world some reflections on her trip to the annual gathering of the Friends World Committee for Consultation Section of the Americas annual meeting held in Canby OR in March.

RantWoman previously penned the following facetious evaluation Mortification of the Flesh but apparently fuller commentary has been awaiting the creation of this blog. Okay, so the gathering may have faded from others' consciousness. RantWoman is, um, still seasoning and some themes from today's Year of Discernment Retreat at her own Meeting need the background of the earlier gathering.

The March gathering was RantWoman's first experience with this specific body's annual meeting. RantWoman tends to make a special point of going to big events when they are in her back yard, when she does not have to travel all across the country to participate. Canby OR, just south of Portland qualifies as RantWoman's back yard for purposes of this conversation.

The FWCC Section of the Americas has a very important feature for RantWoman: all plenaries and many other sessions are conducted bilingually in English and Spanish. English and Spanish are actually not entirely inclusive: thanks to the missionary zeal of one strand of Quakers in earlier generations, there are yearly meetings in the Section of the Americas who speak both an Alaskan native language and in Peru or Bolivia, Aymara.

That said, Friends are clear that English and Spanish are ALL that can be managed for interpretation, especially when Gringoland is completely arbitrary about visas for friends from south. They do a VERY thorough job with a glossary that accumulates over time, professional interpreters who donate their time, a certain amount of oppportunity for novices to try their hand and numerous other measures to cultivate a respectful and professional environment as much as possible.

Of particular interest, all plenaries and some larger meetings are conducted bilingually with SEQUENTIAL interpretation through the PA system. This does not necessarily make two-way participation exactly automatic, but it does ensure that a lot of Gringos with somewhere above high school Spanish get exposed to specific vocabulary and to the worship of hearing things twice, listening and trying to be inclusive. It also really helps for the sessions conducted entirely in Spanish: even when people are fishing for words, at least their brains have been seeded with some of the needed terms.

Full Disclosure: RantWoman's standard is that she speaks but does not interpret in Spanish. Once in awhile RantWoman considers revising this stance. Then she signs up for Spanish Worship Group and understands why she has not done so. RantWoman did find herself trading off with other volunteers interpreting for some smaller gatherings. RantWoman was not doing any notetaking and some elements probably got lost, but she did hold her own. This fact gave her confidence if only to do what is called upholding the process during some excruciating moments of wordsmithing minutes during Meeting for Business. (RantWoman may at some point elaborate on the phrase "human rights violation" and related themse mentioned in connection with this practice, but not tonight.)

Why, despite some big breaths of fresh air and healing of historical gulfs at this gathering, does RantWoman fixate on bilingual wordsmithing of minutes? RantWoman first is not terribly well-informed about numerous of these historical conflicts. RantWoman even finds the time at this gathering devoted to these old conflicts kind of disconcerting and at odds with her image of Quakers' skills and dedication to spirit-centered interactions.

RantWoman also notes that this year's Meeting for Business was fraught with the kinds of economic stresses common everywhere and for instance resulted in laying off the western field staff as an effort to staunch the hemhorraging budget. In other words, Business Meeting which can be tedious in any case, was particularly a minefield, and a certain point, RantWoman just needed to detach. Interpreter braind kicked in, and RantWoman decided just to observe and uphold the process.

RantWoman will post two more items related to this gathering, well possibly one on eye issues at Quaker gatherings, and certainly one on blogging live and in person, but not tonight.

Finally, RantWoman must lift up with profound gratitude the grace and glory of shared rides. As long as Quakers are going to travel far and wide and incur the carbon footprint and economic burdens of in-person meetings, we must heartily appreciate the spiritual communion of the shared ride. RantWoman more than once has had tremendously deepening and enriching conversations over the course of 3 or 6 or 8 hours in a car with someone.

On this trip RantWoman first made a small but graciously received gaffe. RantWoman knows from previous rounds of commitment to multiple car trips that one of the people going to the event is also tall and therefore has a car which is more comfortable than the average sensible vehicle favored by other Quakers. RantWoman did not think twice--or read her program--an simply wrote this Friend an email asking whether she was driving and had room in her car. This Friend, it turned out, was the keynote speaker and gently asked RantWoman to please talk to someone else. This Friend is generally someone of consumate grace and good humor--though she is responsible for one rahter plainspoken comment mentioned in the "evaluation" referenced above.

RantWoman's ride to the event was the clerk of her own Meeting, someone RantWoman does not know very well but admires for things like trekking in Nepal, being able to talk about numbers as well as spiritual concepts, and quiet groundedness. RantWoman had forgotten that this Friend's sister has multiple sclerosis and is a former professor in a small Western city. Most of the conversation on the ride turned out to be about the difficulties of her sister's life and about the ways the sister nevertheless is quite fortunate, themes RantWoman finds highly topical in her own life.

RantWoman's ride back to Seattle was a similar miracle. RantWoman knew going down that she would need to find a different way back because her ride to was not staying the whole time. RantWoman went prepared to take the train back, but also put the word out to the several Seattle Friends in attendance that she was looking for a ride back. Over the course of the conference, a ride of course worked out. After spending all weekend reflecting on the historical splits among Quakers, a topic RantWoman is still hopelessly ignorant about, she got to spend 3 hours in a car listening to a couple Quakers who grew up on the east coast have old home week talking about that very theme. Edifying? Uhhhhh...!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Hospitality Committee

See, dear readers, some of you have already been reading about RantWoman's life as a Quaker; you just did not know this. Consider this item.

Coffee Hour Meditations

Religion in its own blog

This is the same RantWoman the world has already grown to love in RantWoman

RantWoman promises to cross-link extensively. RantWoman promises to rant and rave as irreverently as ever. And RantWoman is, in the lingo of the Religious Society of Friends, the Quakers, quite clear that her ravings about religion belong in a separate place from her rantings about shopping, pedestrian issues, the swine flu, the many ways to sin with Powerpoint, the Friendly Neighborhood Center for Extreme Computing, impaired vision or visual misbehavior and other topics.

The reasons RantWoman is clear on this point:

Keeping journals of one's faith journey is a long-established tradition among Friends. RantWoman has not exactly read an excessive number of these journals for reasons she will rant about at some point. RantWoman believes however that she is as fully qualified as any other seeker in the tradition to spill her guts all over the medium of her age both to aid her own faith exploration and for the edification, entertainment, and amusement of other present and future seekers.

Not everyone has the stomach to read about religion in any form, and some of those with no stomach can be quite disagreeable about it. Whether or not RantWoman thinks it is good for people to read about religion, even a religion that might seem odd or very different from others, RantWoman herself will find it easier to "stay centered" if she sets modest blog boundaries. Come in; you're welcome, but don't say RantWoman did not warn you this blog might contain arcana of somewhat limited interest to the wider world.

If reading about Meeting for Worship, Meeting for Worship for Business, God, Peace and Social Concerns, Ministry and Worship, the alphabet soup of Quaker organizations, and RantWoman's struggles to figure out what she believes and to live within the boundaries of what the beliefs require are going to bore you to tears, God bless you, but please click to something else immediately.

If mere mention of God is going to make you apoplectic RantWoman expects there are two possibilities: either you are a hopeless atheist doomed to the pretension that you do not need all that God stuff and you should leave this site immediately or you are a perfect candidate to seek and worship among the unprogrammed Friends of the Pacific Northwest who speak individually in a whole multitude of terms about God, Spirit, the Divine... and a whole bunch of other associated concepts.

The Religious Society of Friends is one of those small but mighty communities with an almost endless supply of topics about which the first thing the small but mighty community will do is to sink immediately into vehemently articulated schisms. Blind people in the US do this too. RantWoman thinks other religious denominations do this as well. RantWoman thinks this phenomenon may be proof that God whoever he or she may be has a really twisted sense of humor. And the POINT of RantWoman's making a separate blog about religion is to poke and pry and examine these phenomena an questions in all their peculiar glory in extravagant baroque even self-indulgent depth.

With that as an intro, let us settle into Worship.