Sunday, May 30, 2010
For example, RantWoman realized in (mumblety-mublety) years around her Meeting she has never done / never been asked to do things like lead a spiritual sharing group in her Meeting or at a gathering. Rantwoman has had many other roles and much else to do and has frequently felt well-used. However, numbers of recent events have forced RantWoman to reflect on how important good conversations and deep connections to others are to her spiritual life. Reflection about this point is no guarantee that RantWoman is automatically going to be any good at conversations, but there is always that concept "growing edge" or else finding one's own what to what needs to be done.
In other news on this theme, RantWoman notes that she just finished a blog post about how wonderfully good guidelines and queries and careful tending of mundane scheduling details have served her very self-manage Spiritual Sharing group in her Meeting. RantWoman has finished that post just in time for reflection about numerous rather different dynamics in a gathering where there are actual worship sharing group leaders--even though the groups are called Home Groups.
First, despite total lack of experience, RantWoman was part of an initial request for Home Group leaders. RantWoman initially demurred: "that name would not have occurred to me." Sometimes this is Quakerese for "are you out of your mind?" RantWoman actually found her way clear to try it, but demurred because of another role and the winds of home group leading shifted anyway.
Next, a confession: RantWoman penned one of the sob story requests that is probably behind the following email. RantWoman supposes from the tone that there must have been others. RantWoman is seasoning whether she needs to try again about one point she really, really, really means or whether it is possible to finesse her point another way.
Subject: Important Choice - Time Limited Offer - PNWQWTC
This is coming from (your Home Group Coordinators.) We are putting together the homegroups for the women's Theology conference.
Homegroups are a special part of the Conference. They meet four times over the weekend. They are a place to get to know some women on a deep level, to worship together, and to process the work of the Spirit as you participate in the conference. They will be lead by experienced teams of two women, one each from the programmed and unprogrammed traditions. All homegroups will be sharing the same queries which builds a commonality into the experience. Many women find their homegroup to be the best part of the weekend.
This year we are offering you a choice.
Home groups will have two flavors:Worship Sharing and Worship Discussion. Worship Sharing is a quieter response to the queries without cross-talk, questions or discussion.Worship Discussion is more interactive with feedback and discussion built in.
We have found that women have preferences in this matter.
SOOO. We are offering you the chance to have input into which kind of group we assign you. Reply to this e-mail with your name and your preference, either Worship Sharing or Worship Discussion and NOTHING ELSE.
Please read the following fine print:
This is a time limited Offer. On (our deadline) we will assign groups and we will not make changes after that.If you do not reply to this e-mail we will randomly assign you to a group.We have to make the groups of even numbers and we will try to balance them according to traditions and trying to not put too many people from the same church or meeting together.WE DO NOT GUARANTEE THAT YOU WILL GET YOUR PREFERENCE.We DO guarantee that you will get at least your second choice :)
Do not ask for other flavors, this is not Baskin-Robbins.
Do not write to us about people you like or dislike and why you think you should or should not be in a group with them. Do not do this and try and wrap it in spiritual or psychological terms. We are not sorting by personality or any other characteristic or preference. Interacting with people who challenge you is part of the process of spiritual perfection and we presume that it is a major reason you are attending this conference. We guarantee that you will get the chance at being moved along the path of perfection at this conference! Isn't that great?
(... and ...) Home Group Coordinators
To which RantWoman responded:
Subject: Reasonable Accommodations Re: Important Choice - Time Limited Offer - PNWQWTC
(RantWoman's) life is already far too rich in opportunities to be moved along the path to spiritual perfection to make a choice.I do not have any preference as to type of group. Probably I will decide I want the opposite of what I am assigned but I am a grownup and will just have to have my very own grownup snit fit if that happens.
I do have a big fat chicken-cliucking REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS REQUEST: please either email me the queries before the conference or print them out in AT LEAST 16-point type so I can enjoy something closer to the same access as the people who can read tiny print do. I am especially prone to meltdowns and unseemly tirades when queries are printed in 3-point type on 3 lines at the top of a sheet with HALF THE PAGE BLANK. If we are going to kill the blankety blank trees anyway, let's at least use the space!!!!!!! PS I wonder whether I am not the only one who might appreciate receiving the queries in advance by email.
And in case the person who wrote on her "special needs" line that she does not feel safe around whiners and complainers needs any additional opportunities to lurch along her spiritual perfection quest, I personally cannot function without my minimum daily requirement of whining and complaining!
Apparently this all means RantWoman really needs a good dose of conference!
Everyone is serious and at different times everyone has done things to tend the forward momentum.
Lists of names were compiled by Worship and Ministry from among those who signed up. RantWoman is speaking only for her group and has no idea how other groups have done things. Someone volunteered / was volunteered (RantWoman is a little unclear which) to be the convenor, to receive the list of names and contact info and to send out initial queries about scheduling.
In the case of RantWoman's group, the initial query seems to have languished in everyone's email. A month or so later, RantWoman was cleaning out email, found the forgotten inquiry, and responded to prod everyone. This resulted in the first meeting getting scheduled and as RantWoman has written elsewhere, EVERYONE BROUGHT THEIR CALENDARS. They brought their calendars and we immediately scheduled all six recommended meetings.
We used the queries and guidelines and a time and stuck to even division of time.
Our Meeting has REALLY GOOD queries and guidelines, compiled from work by the Ensalem Institute. It has taken RantWoman a long time to get the point of queries as part of Quaker spiritual practice. RantWoman has a time or two just bypassed worship-sharing at different gatherings because the queries used were not proving helpful, but the queries used for our spiritual sharing so nicely create openings for discussions of common themes and framed in terms of what does Quakerism mean to each of us? RantWoman is also grateful the queries are not tied to any other text or scripture but are plainly Quaker.
Our group used the guidelines well. Okay the group initially had six members. We all decided we like each other a lot but two have dropped out. Both were prodded about returning and neither has. Alas, at 1/2 hour per person, this makes the time commitment more manageable.
The dropouts occurred after the first full session. We changed location and no one sent out a reminder so there were some oopses. But people took note of the fraying and the next time someone else sent out reminders. Most recently, yet another member was the one prodding to check about the scheduled time and location. In other words, the group matters to everyone in it!
Everyone in the group is well past 40. RantWoman, she thinks is the youngest member. RantWoman meditates about groups with different age mixes: in this case relationships and grown children / other interactions with youth are one meaningful theme and people share generously.
Everyone shares genuinely, listens well and asks questions at subsequent meetings to draw people out about the progress of matters previously mentioned. For those of you who think the latter is basic interpersonal connection 101, RantWoman finds this not to be assumed often enough specifically to call it out when it occurs. The followup over weeks is making a noticeable impact weaving together the fabric of our different stories.
The format calls for each person to share for 15 minutes followed by 15 minutes of clarifying discussion. People are generous about people going a little past limits and at the same time, no one is abusing others' time.
The everyone listens well has an interesting gender component. The group was originally two men and 4 women. One person of each gender dropped out and the gender dynamics shifted because of it. RantWoman may meditate about this theme elsewhere and here is just noting without further characterizing.
When RantWoman says everyone listens well, she means besides the respect for time and attention even when the delivery is a little disjointed, we are all just picking up how things reported have evolved. People ask perceptive, open-ended, non-judgmental questions. People also just take note and articulate trends or changes.
RantWoman is SO glad others besides herself are talking about continuing to meet!
Thursday, May 27, 2010
"To love someone is to know the song in their heart and to sing it to them when they have forgotten."
RantWoman has a problem: RantWoman may not be the best person to sing anything to anyone anywhere for any purpose whatsoever, especially alone. Now what?
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
RantWoman's Compost conversation is getting to be like a weird movie series, with special multiconfessional flavor as befits the dialogues in her Meeting: Compost and Care of the Earth, Compost, Part N; Naked Compost 3 1/2, Compost and the Inner Christ, Compost / No Compost, Fanning the Flames of Inner Compost; Compost and the Mighty Wind; Composting the Resurrection; Compost Forever and Ever and Ever Without End Amen.
RantWoman awoke this morning with clarity: RantWoman is to work on her problems and let Dear Friend's problems wait in line / be tended to by others. RantWoman's clarity is not holding very steady, but RantWoman MUST keep to other tasks. RantWoman is seasoning whether to ask a couple other trusted Friends to help Dear Friend season whatever his current version of his leading is or just to get out of the way and let God work.
Dear Friend is once again inquiring as to the why of RantWoman's leading to serve on a certain committee. RantWoman is aware that in one sense this is a perfectly reasonable question. RantWoman once again is sitting with a feeling that the question coming specifically from Dear Friend in the way he delivers it suggests that she is supposed to have asked Dear Friend's permission to have such leadings.
RantWoman is experiencing a reflex to resist answering almost as ferocious as early Friends' objections to hat honor. RantWoman's leading comes from God; having to ask anyone's permission is so foreign to RantWoman's admittedly hit-or-miss understanding of the Inner Light, that of God within that she absolutely cannot interact with this question. RantWoman is relieved to hear in passing in conversations with others that they completely get this point. RantWoman is humbled by the thought of the community trying to come to unity about something or other in Business Meeting even though this point is most assuredly not going anywhere.
Dear Friend recently sent yet more email indicating that he has completely missed the point about numbers of issues but that he still feels entitled to demand that RantWoman supply tender details as to the "why" of RantWoman's sense of movements of the spirit. RantWoman is finding herself wondering how to say "pearls before swine" in Quakerese. RantWoman is definitely continuing to feel that Dear Friend not being able to hear, to really listen is, um, a recurring theme. It does not help that Dear Friend declares whole swaths of conversation irrelevant for his consideration, blocks email, is dismissive by phone, and participates only sporadically in other efforts at community discernment. RantWoman should perfectly well just consider the source and get on with life; unfortunately, the behaviors are so consistent that RantWoman is filing them on her mental health issues monitoring list, an activity she will then put in queue.
More to the point,"why" is a metaphysical question and may or may not be helpful to the current conversation. RantWoman is perfectly well prepared to accept that Dear Friend is experiencing a leading; RantWoman is becoming more certain by the day that she also is experiencing a leading. In both cases, "why?" is beside the point. Rantwoman is experiencing absolutely no leading to season her leading with Dear Friend alone and still less leading to attempt to season Dear Friend's leading on her own. RantWoman instead briefly flirted with a leading to draft her umpteenth email saying that this is an interesting question, one it is beyond RantWoman's Light to season on her own, one that is unquestionably a matter for community discernment.
RantWoman is actually not all that crazy about some conversations she is having with others. These conversations reflect everyone's problems with Dear Friend. They do not reflect either non-judgmental efforts to help Dear Friend season his leading. perspicacity in assessment of problems in the life of Meeting or very much that is helpful to RantWoman. RantWoman really wants to expect better of those around her and suspects she should zero in on one or two Friends who might be especially able in this area; RantWoman has no choice except to start with herself in this regard.
RantWoman in a conversation with Nominating Committee unexpectedly recalled that she has expressed a leading as to this committee for several Nominations cycles running. RantWoman knows from past experience being clerk of committees that Nominating Committee's practice is to inquire of the clerk as to the committee's needs and also as to acceptability either of people who have expressed interest specifically in the committee or of people who have said "put me where needed" and who Nominating Committee has discerned might be a match for a specific committee.
While RantWoman has expressed leadings toward a specific committee, Nominating Committee discerned that she might do well on two other different committees. RantWoman wound up quite liking and feeling well used though not necessarily spiritually well-fed in connection with one committee. The main spiritual gifts of that committee were 1. that it could use RantWoman's experience as is, in a period when RantWoman just being able to organize herself to get on the bus amid medical challenges and show up and be heard was a big deal. 2. That committee works with our QUEST program, a way of supporting and mentoring youth.
The second case was Hospitality committee, in charge of coffee and kitchen, dishwashing and clean crockery. As RantWoman has previously written, this committee still winds up being chock full of pastoral care concerns without any such auspicious title. Meditating about these two points caused RantWoman to ask Nominating Committee to season, in the abstract, not connected to any specific nomination, hypothetical possibility that allowing committee clerks to veto nominations might SOMETIMES be unduly indulgent of people's conflict avoidance.
RantWoman spoke of times when she has learned from working with people she found difficult, of times when she has discovered unexpected gifts even if some or another matter continued to prove annoying. RantWoman further pointed out that merely working together creates different dimensions of dialogue than having to raise concerns from outside a committee's process.
RantWoman also pointed out that pastoral care committees have 3-year rather than two-year terms in our Meeting with limits of two terms. RantWoman pointed out that, aside from conflict avoidance, six years could be a long time to sit on someone else's leadings or on concerns that need to be heard in Meeting life. To say the least, indulging conflict avoidance among the very committees we expect to helpw ith conflict resolution is, um, counter intuitive.
RantWoman's Meeting has term limits for two committees, including the one RantWoman clearly feels called toward. RantWoman weighed some observations she feels need of conversation about prior to detail in her blog and realized that term limits probably figure a couple ways in the ongoing Compost conversation. Whatever else is to be said, Dear Friend gets credit for putting his name on his views. RantWoman assessed the situation and has identified need to have conversation with another Friend but RantWoman feels no urgency about that conversation.
RantWoman is amused in an email from Dear Friend that her comments to Nominating Committee seem to have been filitered by Dear Friend as a sense of "entitlement." Holy Schmoly! RantWoman is feeling RESPONSIBILITY not to be shoved aside about important Meeting community matters. RantWoman sees herself taking care of that of God within herself, but this sounds like a lot of work, not just entitlement!
RantWoman acknowledges that this is yet another iteration of reflection generated by the themes of the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's Theology Conference In this context, RantWoman must admit a profound tension: RantWoman is a political activist out of faith, out of love and concern. As RantWoman has grown decidedly middle-aged, RantWoman finds herself less and less able to take many kinds of actions without really steady high maintenance attention to her spiritual life, to staying grounded and centered and focused on hope and faith.
But to say "God made me do it" makes RantWoman really, really nervous on both exclusion and religious fanaticism grounds. Still, RantWoman is a product of her past and the question of how to share this with younger people and fresher seekers, both in Meeting and who like RantWoman might be Quakers and not know it yet but who have way more energy and enthusiasm than RantWoman looms large.
RantWoman supposes one option is to meditate about the needs of this target audience in terms of the joys and discipline of silent worship and Business Meeting as mystical experience, but RantWoman is still trying to get out of college for this post. Equally important, and timely to certain graduation anniversaries, is the question of attention, spiritually walking with countries and issues over time and great political changes.
From: Martha Paxson Grundy, Tall Poppies: Supporting Gifts of Ministry and Eldering in the Monthly Meeting, p. 27, Pendle Hill Publications. “Many Friends today are crying out for spiritual mentors, for ministers and elders who are lovingly steeped in our tradition. Some Friends hunger for a deeper relationship with God, for a connection with a divine power that heals and empowers. We long for wise and loving role models and examples.”
RantWoman promises by the end of this post at least to have made links with the "walk with me" part of a longtime friendship with a Friend who worked in the library at RantWoman's alma mater and who now shares with RantWoman occasional exchanges of real hold-in-hands letters full of piquant observations about our respective Yearly Meetings. But first, RantWoman will speak to collegiate activism about South Africa, the privileges and presumptions of young collegiate activists, and graduation season.
A Friend who gave RantWoman a ride home after Meeting recently was complaining about her son's seeming lack of direction during time off from college. RantWoman blurted out that, well, RantWoman had spent her own time off selling the nuclear freeze door-to-door, going to a lot of protests and working as a phone interviewer to keep body and soul together. To RantWoman's surprise, the Friend said, "well at least you were doing something principled." RantWoman thinks this Friend should hear the tale of RantWoman's college graduation and then say that to RantMom.
RantMom's first and only visit to RantWoman's alma mater occurred in connection with graduation. Some people's parents get to go to things like Phi Beta Kappa receptions and presentations of prestigious awards. On RantMom's first daughter-chaperoned tour of campus, RantMom got to meet one of the campus security officers who had helped arrest RantWoman at a famous sit-in; she even got to make chit-chat about whether RantWoman was going to take all the summonses to disciplinary hearings home to her housemates or let the police officer deliver them. RantMom also got dispatched to freelance tourism the morning of RantWoman's disciplinary hearing. RantMom got to find RantWoman and all her housemates in our graduation regalia wearing red armbands and carrying black balloons in support of university divestment from firms doing business in South Africa. RantMom even survived, but RantWoman is getting ahead of herself.
RantWoman was in college in the 1980's. RantWoman should probably meditate elsewhere about how among the rich assortment of candidate causes the apartheid regime in South Africa made the college student protest hit parade, but it definitely did. At RantWoman's alma mater, there was history of large-scale student mobilizations calling for the university to divest from firms that do business in South Africa and sit-ins every few years. There had been a big sit-in a couple years before RantWoman arrived on campus.
There was an all-night "study-in" at the library RantWoman's freshman year. RantWoman knew several people who participated and thought briefly of participating but opted not to. Readers may be amused that there was no great principle involved: RantWoman just is no good at either slumber parties or all-nighters.
Typically student work in support of divestment involved lots of education and frequently presenting something for the Board of Trustees. The Board motion would invariably get voted down and the movement would try again. Senior year, the student mobilization was especially broad-based: the campaign gathered signatures of large majorities of both undergraduate and graduate students and sponsored campus visits by many speakers including alumni experienced in earlier sit-ins preaching the "Take over a building" message.
The mobilization for months had no interest in a sit-in. RantWoman herself was very impressed by the scale of the signature campaign but was mainly an observer of the series of presentations at Board of Trustees meetings--until after the May board meeting. At the May Board meeting, the divestment resolution as usual got voted down and the president of the university made some statement the campus newspaper reported in terms like "dialogue is closed."
This quote enraged many student activists. Inquiries were made as to whether there was a misquote. The reporter stood by the quote. The President was asked to issue a correction or clarification and would not. The thinking was that if they responded to this item everyone would think all the things they never responded to were true. Well, RantWoman by that time was accustomed enough to the press that RantWoman would not have thought that, but the President assuredly missed the point of how outraged people were: the campaign had done EVERYTHING right and felt completely cut off.
RantWoman actually was surprised how clearly the desire to sit-in coalesced. RantWoman is quite unclear whose bright idea it was to have a sit-in during finals week. The sit-in was set for around the more historic administration building on the main campus rather than the more pedestrian and organizationally sensitive one elsewhere on campus. The sit-in was to blockade all the entries to the building starting early in the morning When business hours came, the people who needed to get in hemmed and hawed and fairly quickly had everyone summarily arrested and hauled off to the city jail or as it's called in NJ, borough hall.
This was no 26 years on Robben Island, a la Nelsom Mandela. Such is the cushiness of student activism in the US that RantWoman herself miraculously made it through a morning sit-in, arrest and processing in time to go home for lunch before a final exam starting at 1pm! Then it was time for another new kind of fun: lawyers to help the students address the criminal charges.
(Here RantWoman must interject that after the sit-in she got a serious scolding from the Friend who worked in the library. Friend just thought the sit-in was completely unnecessary. RantWoman respecfully disagrees, but somehow found herself very grateful for the frank conversation and the long friendship the conversation became a part of.)
The point of civil disobedience is being willing to face legal consequences honestly and with integrity. Well, that's the point, but lawyers just have their ways... Meaning no disrespect to many fine Quaker lawyers RantWoman knows, RantWoman usually tries to avoid generalized characterizations about whole professions, but lawyers tempt her far more readily in such directions than other professions. The sit-in attracted a whole Law and Order cast--long before that show hit the air:
--Famous African-American firm from Harlem. The firm's principals were later disbarred over a certain very sensational case but the student activists basically said "thanks for the offer, we'll get back to you."
--Local talent that offered conflicting opinions in sort of scatological terms about which of the two charges used was more likely to stick.
--A nice woman affiliated with NOW who RantWoman remembers mainly for offering a bargain-basement price per head basically to help students plead guilty, hopefully in a way that would not tarnish the brilliant careers ahead of them.
--Someone whose daughter participated who RantWoman surmised may have called the university and said his last name and the word "lawsuit.")
--The local talent who met with the "Not Guilty Caucus." Guess where RantWoman was, surprisingly clear that it's just dishonest to plead guilty if one does not feel guilty." This local talent wanted to know whether we wanted a procedural sloppiness defense: NO. He also was curious about future lawsuits and the NG caucus said well, it's about South Africa. RantWoman specifically, knowing history of some other lawsuits said she had no desire to spend the next 10 years suing the alma mater and could think of better reasons if she did.
The NG caucus objected to focussing on procedural sloppiness, both on principle and because this would have put some students of color who had previously held jobs with the campus security in awkward spots. The Not-Guilty caucus also articulated concerns about some foreign students we did not want to face visa issues and pointed out that while there were some straight A students among us, it would be unfair to the demands of political activism to make the A students poster children for our project. In other words, we were probably a headache. The lawyer said he had no interest in the case, but RantWoman has wondered whether that meeting is one of the factors that eventually led the University to drop the criminal charges and just subject everyone to an on-campus disciplinary hearing.
RantWoman's sit-in experience is one of those faces in the sea experiences where an individual without a larger sense of grounding, deep love and abiding motivation could easily feel lost, bogged down in boredom-inducing banality. RantWoman has been reflecting about the times when just being a face in the crowd matters a great deal and the times when one absolutely must weave the faces in the crowd in with closer one-on-one experiences!
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Here is the latest effort which has coalesced sufficiently for public presentation; RantWoman feels a certain urgency because of external events about another one but it is not ready today.
Walk with Me Mentor, Elder, Friend
From: 2 Timothy 1:5-7I’m reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois, then in your mother Eunice, and now, I’m certain, in you as well. That’s why I want to remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God didn’t give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, of self-discipline.
From: Martha Paxson Grundy, Tall Poppies: Supporting Gifts of Ministry and Eldering in the Monthly Meeting, p. 27, Pendle Hill Publications.“Many Friends today are crying out for spiritual mentors, for ministers and elders who are lovingly steeped in our tradition. Some Friends hunger for a deeper relationship with God, for a connection with a divine power that heals and empowers. We long for wise and loving role models and examples.”
From: Patricia Loring, Listening Spirituality Vol. II, 1999. “As meetings became settled, elders performed a variety of functions, according to their gifts and leadings. . . . [A]ll gifts and ministries were for building up the spiritual life of the meeting and the Society: directing and re-directing people to the Spirit of God, to the Inward Christ, the Light, the Inward Teacher, the Guide, the one true Priest and Shepherd. It was clearly understood that any member of the meeting might be called to some part of this service, but that some were specifically led by the Spirit at any given time.”
Ahem! “Lovingly steeped in our tradition” does not happen automatically. I come from a family with long history of religious practice, but I am definitely still learning, still learning about queries and clearness committees, still learning about the liberties Friends or at least NPYM Friends sometimes allow our youth and about community stress once or twice when other adults were quite blasé about things I consider frightening and irresponsible still learning the joy when our children and youth respond out of genuine enthusiasm. But for me, the passage from Timothy touches me close to home.
I never knew my paternal grandmother. She exists as a stocky figure standing next to my grandfather and her children in a couple family pictures including some Bible school group shots. She also exists in the profound ache on the faces of her family in a photo taken shortly after her death from cancer. My father spoke of her rarely, sometimes when talking about a favorite food, once in awhile when complaining that my childhood household full of my mother’s in-home daycare just bore different standards of order than his mother’s standards for a parsonage. As my vision has followed the same arc as my father and grandfather, I have come to wonder whether some of this demand for household order also reflected my grandfather’s vision problems. My father spoke sometimes of her music, of her teaching Bible school and once late in life of something of her I never understood that he saw of her in me, probably not great Biblical scholarship.
My maternal grandmother is only slightly more real; she also died of cancer, when I was six so a few memories stick out. I remember her birthday and Christmas gifts ran heavily toward the practical, her and my mother’s idea of what I needed rather than what I wanted. I remember she had a wonderful Christmas cactus. I remember that at my mom’s request Grandma always served home-canned tomato juice, definitely a tangy acquired taste, for breakfast when we visited. I also remember Grandma sometimes was not shy in her disapproving comments about her sons, my uncles. The biggest sin I remember: my uncles consumed BEER and Grandma did not approve.
The scene is an eye doctor’s office in Seattle. I have just come for a one-day followup after some procedure. My mother was new in town, still exhausted from her move, still recovering from cancer treatment, still definitely learning her “bus legs” after she quit driving. Mom really wanted to come to my eye appointment. My reward for letting her come, for not putting my foot down was this powerful tired trembling when a small child started to cry, a tired trembling that somehow was much worse with my mother present than when I am on my own and can just breathe and emit soothing thoughts.
Children cry sometimes at the eye doctor’s; sometimes I even kind of envy the license afforded three-year-olds to have really good tantrums. If I thought a tantrum would have helped, I would have seriously considered having one too. “We long for wise and loving role models and examples,” and sometimes we get ones who are scared and overwhelmed themselves! My mother doesn’t do well with tantrums and I still needed all my nerves to get us both home sanely on the bus.
“Mommy, you can do it. I’ve been doing it for decades—on the bus.” Think "divine power that heals and empowers.” My mother had to be dragged kicking and screaming to help while going through cancer treatment, but after her cataract surgery, she wanted EVERYTHING done for her. My mother and I were two doses into the eyedrops every two hours regimen after her first cataract surgery and already I was done.
I knew from many eye procedure experiences that her face probably felt sore and tired. I could barely see her eyes when she would pry the operated eye open. She would invariably blink two or three times just as I got the eyedrop bottle lined up and squeezed so that the drops would just run down her cheek or along her nose or basically anywhere but into her eye. I asked Mom whether she could see the bottle over her eye. I reassured her that I would still be there and help her retape the eye shield, and I turned cheerleader: “Mommy, it really, really is easier when you do it yourself.” Even really experienced nurses, who are few and far between these days anyway, flub eyedrops.”
My mother developed her cataracts at pretty much the normal age for such things. My brother and I, my father, and my paternal grandfather all got our cataracts and had surgery as wee tiny children, and the time of making my mother do her own eyedrops also brought the gift of talking about childhood: My mother said I was in the hospital a week and I cried every night when she left. She said she did not think I noticed anything different about vision right after the surgery but when my first pair of glasses came in the mail a few weeks later, I would hardly let my mother take them off. She also said surgery was even harder with my brother because my sister was an infant and Mom just could not be around as much.
Hitting the eyedrops wall was only part of the conversation walking with my mother. My mom is the oldest daughter and second child in a family of five. The family were farmers in Colorado and produced a large percentage of their own food as well as what was sold. Every time my mother talks about it it, sounds like a LOT of work, and not necessarily a terribly nuanced emotional environment buttressed by a steady Presbyterianism. The house was small, the family large. Everyone bathed in sequence in one tub on Saturday night. Cooking was with a woodstove, or if even, very controlled heat was needed, for example for cakes, with a mix of wood and coal. To this day, my mother finds the Presbyterian church a good anchor of certainty, though she at least respects my explanation that among Friends at my Meeting, we figure God can handle the questions.
The scene is NPYM Annual Session in Missoula. My father went to graduate school at the University of MT. He got his degree long enough ago that his name is no longer on the wall at the Music building, but my siblings and I used to chase each other up and down the now well-worn steps of the conference center. I have been to Missoula many times for instance for high school orchestra trips, two different times at Annual Session while recovering from eye surgeries as an adult, and another time over a summer while my father was in graduate school. That summer also involved an eye surgery but the story that matters most for this paper is the book my mother read to us in the hospital, the BoxCar Children about 4 orphan siblings living in a boxcar.
At the time, I was too busy being worried about the children in the story to think about being scared, lonely, uncomfortable in the hospital. Only much later as an adult, have I come to recognize the aptness of the quote from Timothy, the mixed blessing of that way of coping, the personal ambiguities of who mentors whom present sometimes from my family role models even when the life of my Meeting is quite rich and blessed. “Fan into flame the gift of God …for God didn’t give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, of self-discipline” Okay, I get the gift of God part, it’s the power and love and inward teacher part that comes a lot harder a lot of the time.
Friday, May 21, 2010
Our guy with the (ellipsis) above is the father of the child RantWoman wrote of previously. http://rantwomanrsof.blogspot.com/2010/05/walk-with-me.html
The event behind the ellipsis occurred in a public enough place to trigger that organization's incident response and get the cops called independently of other issues. Because of evidence that our guy with the (ellipsis) is reaching out to other Quaker organizations, because the (ellipsis) occurred so publicly, RantWoman is breaking with previous reticence and posting further to her blog. Friends who get contacted with weird stories about our Meeting, PLEASE take note. Check out stories. This person needs HELP! He needs more help than our Meeting alone can provide!
RantWoman is working with a twitch written of previously on behalf of a child. RantWoman is acutely aware that she does NOT have to do anything further. RantWoman is actuely aware that she on her own has NO capacity alone to work her twitch in the situation on her mind. And RantWoman reads http://thegoodraisedup.blogspot.com/2010/05/fear-in-face-of-gods-bidding.html
RantWoman is posting partly because she wants others who might be called to interact with Our Guy With the (ellipsis) to know Our Guy... has a son and cares a lot about his son. RantWoman has no idea whether her twitches will help in this area, but RantWoman has to be true to her twitches.
(offered for comparison)
"Hi, I am a sex offender. I am in a treatment program that requires its participants to attend and participate in an religious congregation and to disclose our status to the community."
RantWoman does not remember the exact words of her pivotal conversation with the guy who would later become The Safest Sex Offender on the Planet, but they were just about that blunt. It was coffee hour. The future Safest Sex Offender... had been attending Meeting for a few months without saying anything about that part of his life, and RantWoman could see he had something on his mind.
RantWoman offered some kind of open-ended question, listened carefully, decided very fast that she was out of her depth and punted: RantWoman introduced The Safest Sex Offender... to a very seasoned Friend who has long experience with restorative justice, Alternatives to Violence, and activities that existed in RantWoman's mind at the time as "very cool things Quakers do" but definitely not something RantWoman herself felt immediate capacity to deal with.
Today, especially because of RantWoman's own lack of capacity, RantWoman is VERY humble about all the time and work and conversations required of her Meeting for the ministries that have resulted from the Safest Sex Offender...'s disclosure. RantWoman also notes a few other points of comparison with the other situation she has in mind:
--The Safest Sex Offender... immediately acknowledged his situation. He signed releases allowing Friends to check matters out independently. Very thorough checking was done. The checking was so thorough that RantWoman more than once found herself wondering in Business Meeting whether she necessarily even needed to know the details being discussed. The very thorough checking showed that the Safest Sex Offender was completely truthful!
--The Safest Sex Offender... had credible history of previous experience with Quakers and CO issues.
--The Safest Sex Offender...'s offense occurred outside Meeting and part of his need for ministry related to him taking full legal responsibility and asking for specific manageable support while mandatory legal pieces played out.
--As far as RantWoman can tell, The Safest Sex Offender... has complied scrupulously with all conditions set by the court, his treatment program, and Meeting.
--Our Meeting had several people who clearly felt called to minister to all the different questions that arose because of this Friend.
RantWoman is thinking about all of the above, deep contrition, willingness to acknowledge and be vulnerable,scrupulous attention to conditions set from several directions, several individuals who felt both able and clearly called to respond, in connection with other events. For comparison:
--The individual in question the more recent situation cannot acknowledge the scope and scale of his problem. When confronted with evidence about the situation, he denies and erupts and is VERY inappropriate. After the fact, he minimizes the effects of his behavior and blames others.
--There are multiple people in Meeting with considerable grounds on different bases to take legal action.
--Events have transpired in a public enough way elsewhere that the cops got called actually before anyone at Meeting filed a police report.
In other words, the person in question is already several strikes past the things Meeting required in the case of the Safest Sex Offender... It is TOTALLY obvious that this person needs help. This person seems to be reaching out, albeit in inappropriate ways. It is totally obvious that this person needs way more serious, structured help than Meeting can provide on our own. RantWoman is thinking of the very stern conditions set in the case above and thinks the ONLY way Friends would want to walk further with this individual would be if he took immediate and verifiable direct initiative to access services and address points comparable to what RantWoman wrote of the Safest Sex Offender....
RantWoman thinks Our Guy... could get a lot of the help he needs without Quakers. RantWoman cannot possibly speculate about whether there are individual Quakers who could walk alongside regardless of what Meeting does, but RantWoman would NOT advise Our Guy to wait around for Quakers before getting help!
One more thing: this person himself speaks at times of help for his son. All RantWoman can say is, if you want to help your son, GET HELP FOR YOURSELF!
QuEST Program Coordinator
The QuEST Program Coordinator is responsible for the administration and coordination of the Quaker Experiential Service and Training Program (QuEST Program) of University Friends Meeting. QuEST seeks to build a peaceful, just, sustainable world by empowering interns to act as agents of social change and social service during their year with QuEST and throughout their lives. The program provides Quaker and non-Quaker interns with: quality, year-long positions at local social change and social service organizations that can benefit from an intern's service; an opportunity to earn AmeriCorps educational grants; supplemental training to empower interns in their work for social change and social service; and an intentional, residential community where interns can receive support, practice community-building skills, and live simply.
This is a half-time (16-20 hours per week), salaried position. Salary is negotiable depending on experience. Two weeks paid vacation and a health insurance benefit are provided. The QuEST Program Coordinator reports to the QuEST Program Committee of University Friends Meeting and is subject to policies and evaluation procedures set by the Meeting’s Personnel Committee.
The Program Coordinator serves as a fulcrum for QuEST’s constituencies (University Friends Meeting, members of the QuEST Program Committee, the placement agencies, and the QuEST interns) by nurturing, facilitating, coordinating, communicating and trouble shooting.
1. The Coordinator should be a Quaker and/or active among Friends
2. Experienced administrator and personnel supervisor.
3. Excellent verbal and written communication skills.
4. Experienced trainer and program developer.
5. Experience with community living.
6. Good interpersonal and group skills; ability to work with people in transition.
7. Experience with conflict resolution.
8. Familiarity with social change and social service organizations.
9. Computer literacy.
For additional information, or to apply send inquiries or resume and cover letter to firstname.lastname@example.org with QUEST Coordinator in the subject line.
Application deadline June 5, 2010.
Other topical links:
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
RantWoman recently looked up South African Friend and current FWCC clerk Dudu Mtshazo in the search engine of her choice. As a resident of a rich, internet intensive, super consuming country, RantWoman should not be surprised to learn that the worldwide web knows way less of Dudu Mtshazo than it does of RantWoman, either as RantWoman or in RantWoman's slightly more demure real name professional presence.
Yet RantWoman thinks of Dudu every time she thinks of mentors and is thinking of ways to equalize this visibility. RantWoman apologizes if using only Dudu's first name seems like bad protocol; it also seems profoundly Quakerly RantWoman asks her readers' indulgence and respect regardless.
RantWoman is not going to stop posting things to the language professionals networking site that emits a new internet blip--in several languages--every time RantWoman responds to questions in the language pairs she works with. RantWoman is not going to drown Dudu out in the same blog entry with some other reflections about the idioms of protest and political mobilization in the US. RantWoman is simply going to reflect on how Dudu's presence as Friend in Residence at the NPYM annual session several years ago grounded and inspired RantWoman.
First of all, RantWoman was profoundly inspired by Dudu's accounts of what a big deal it was for people of different races just to pray together.
RantWoman's knowledge of racial justice campaigns in the US is, um, spotty. RantWoman is pretty sure there are similar praying together stories in the US but Dudu's accounts gave RantWoman deep appreciation for the everyday acts of courage necessary to live testimonies about that of God in everyone under sometimes harrowing circumstances.
Dudu also spoke movingly of what a challenge it was after the end of apartheid for three categories of people, those who stayed, those who went to prison, and those who went into exile, to struggle together in a new South Africa.
Finally, Dudu was very caring about and respectful of another matter exercising Friends at that annual session, a planned march by a small group of white supremacists in North Idaho, an hour or so from the site of the Annual Session in Spokane.
RantWoman is very humble about how much better this kind of personal connection, stories of lived faith stick in her febrile, sometimes analytically inclined brain that turgid items about economics, development, and some slices of current events and thanks Dudu very much for her travels with her concerns.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
RantWoman's focus here is the Walk with me Friend part, a part not well covered in the reflection passages. RantWoman is also unclear whether it is even by any stretch of imagination appropriate to use the phrase with regard to a child she barely knows beyond saying Hi, a child for whom "Walk with me" can only be metaphorical at best in the first place.
RantWoman's point: sooner or later everyone's parents, even the best ones, are the biggest dorks in the world, but for some kids life is worrisome, confusing, scary and unsafe because of parents' problems--but not scary, confusing, worrisome and unsafe enough for everyone observing the situation to have grounds to do a darn thing. The problems are not the kids' fault. There are many ways a situation might have to get more scary or confusing or worrisome and hopefully not more unsafe before help can be had--and the scary, confusing, worrisome, unsafe parts of the story are one thing in the way of the connections that add up to help in the first place.
RantWoman spent all of Meeting for Worship seasoning a message about such a child, a child who could not be in Meeting today because of serious issues of safety and care among grownups. RantWoman's message never took words. Perhaps considering many other circumstances, that is just as well.
RantWoman must celebrate the message that did come from a Friend who grew up in Meeting. As the children wriggled into the room at the end of Meeting and settled in, Friend who Grew Up offered a wonderful message of hope that the children of this era will find our Meeting as receptive to their questions and seeking as she did. Ditto to the nth degree for the child who could not be there:
Neither RantWoman herself nor Meeting can do anything right now but acknowledge what is going on and hold the situation in prayer. RantWoman can hope the child has adults in his life, teachers, counselors, activity group leaders who can help this child think about concerns and choices, trusted adults he could ask questions of and feel safe with. RantWoman hopes that the teachers and counselors an activity leaders of the world can be listening for such even from kids who might be hiding their concerns really well. RantWoman also especially hopes that the child has language and adults to help him feel some kind of Divine presence or spirit of something larger than himself to steady him amid all the scary, confusing, upsetting, and unsafe parts.
RantWoman can walk no further except in prayers and has to trust that will matter.
IN the meantime, RantWoman's readers should also assume there are several grownups who most definitely need to be held in the Light as well.
Monday, May 10, 2010
One sort of comical moment: there was a discussion of what Friends would most want people coming to worship for the first time to know. Our Meeting recently has had periodic bouts of serious popcorn Meetings for Worship involving lots of newcomers and newcomers with gnarly pastoral care concerns. Several people at once, upon hearing the question, all in unison piped up "SHUT UP!"
(RantWoman is meditating about the applicability of "Shut up" to some of Business Meeting's excesses; RantWoman is also meditating about problems detecting the "under the care of the holy spirit" part of Business Meeting lately, but that may have to be another story.)
RantWoman would point out that some faith communities use words like sanctuary and refuge. Some faith communities seek to draw people in closer to the Divine embrace. Apparently not our Meeting or that's definitely not Friends' first instinct, or not our first instinct right now. Lord have mercy on us all!
Saturday, May 8, 2010
RantWoman has been fussing around learning Braille SLOWLY for a good while. RantWoman even has a textbook and a dictionary. RantWoman being the edgy, volatile sort the world sees all over her blog, is quite peeved about this textbook. One big reason: English Braille has lots of contractions and short-form whole words. This is exactly the stuff RantWoman needs to practice.
However, RantWoman really needs to practice the CORRECT forms. The textbook has this annoying tendency to introduce signs, include sample text to practice and then turn around the next page and add new signs that use words and letter combinations just abbreviated incorrectly the previous page. RantWoman is still in the definitely need to practice phase and wants to practice CORRECT examples. If RantWoman is going to be reading about blessings for instance, (warning: braille esoterica here) she gets to deal with the difficulty of distinguishing letter k from the dots 4-6 that is the less letter combinaion whether it is a suffix or not.
Conveniently for RantWoman's immortal soul, the abbreviations in English Braille are heavily weighted toward Biblical language: Lord, Spirit, World, Word, Work, not to mention the topicality of blessings and righteousness in terms of things RantWoman needs to practice. The fact that the Bible abounds with these terms is topical both on theological grounds and in terms of the simple pedagogical value of repetition.
RantWoman's attention span in Braille is highly abbreviated. RantWoman's brain just is not wired to distinguish and map all the things she needs to map and even the most compelling text tends to vaporize in a cloud of dots after only a few paragraphs.
Comes now RantWoman's leading to read the Bible, to read QUIETLY without, say, a loud electronic voice. Add peculiarities of RantWoman's living situation: RantWoman lives in a building with a small library that includes at least PART of three different Bibles in Braille. Two sets of volumes are from the King James version. Neither set is complete. Some of the volumes have walked off; others exist in duplicate. There is also part of a Revised Standard Version, though again quite a bit of the Bible has walked off. There used to be a Book of Mormon too. RantWoman has no idea what happened to it. There is also quite a bit of the Harry Potter school of holy writ. Other than that, lots of material about sports heroes.
RantWoman thinks there is probably a checkout procedure. However, rantWoman tends to visit the library quite late at night when there are no humans around to monitor things. Hence, RantWoman has now walked off with the only available copy of Psalms for her random reading delectation. It's the perfect thing for RantWoman's miniscule attention span.
RantWoman is unsure why she feels more of a moral pang about this than carting off, say, the Green Eggs and Ham cookbook to her private abode, but perhaps we just get to take RantWoman's conscience where she finds it, with three inches of Psalms next to her bed for bedtime perusal.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
RantWoman here is not referring to the usual baptism in her Meeting of newcomers plunging into dishwashing to fit in.
Sunday brought news of the recent much anticipated birth of Baby Micah. "Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with the Lord your God." generated several thoughtful messages during worship.
True to the child's prophetic name, there has also already been at least one instance of that hysterical boy baby fountain that sometimes happens when new babies are getting their diapers changed. RantWoman remembers this from when the World's most Irrepressible Nephew was tiny, lo many eons ago. This time, the lucky diaper changer was Micah's father!
Monday, May 3, 2010
From: Martha Paxson Grundy, Tall Poppies: Supporting Gifts of Ministry and Eldering in the Monthly Meeting, p. 27, Pendle Hill Publications. Many Friends today are crying out for spiritual mentors, for ministers and elders who are lovingly steeped in our tradition. Some Friends hunger for a deeper relationship with God, for a connection with a divine power that heals and empowers. We long for wise and loving role models and examples.”
“Ah, but I was so much older then; I’m so much younger than that now.” Bob Dylan
From: 2 Timothy 1:5-7 I’m reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois, then in your mother Eunice, and now, I’m certain, in you as well. That’s why I want to remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God didn’t give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, of self-discipline.
"The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled." Plutarch
In previous centuries, many Friends kept journals of their travels and experiences in faith. Blogs are this century’s equivalent. I blog about Quaker matters at rantwomanrsof.blogspot.com ,. RantWoman, my blogosphere alter ego, can be a little out of control. Exhortations to self-discipline are one thing; at the moment RantWoman is doing way better about fires to be kindled. RantWoman demands a voice for this conference.
Q. RantWoman is a pseudonym. Many Quaker bloggers hew to the Testimony on Integrity. They blog under their own names. They use only the first name and last initial of other Friends they write about. Would you please discuss your use of pseudonyms to speak of yourself and others?
A. Testimony on Integrity? RantWoman can easily imagine that some Friends think she tells way too much of the truth. The pseudonyms are intended to protect the reputations of those subject to RantWoman’s affectionate and occasionally scathing opinions.
RantWoman often writes about herself and others when they are not necessarily at their best. Lately RantWoman has been seasoning challenging matters and people of great gifts in a spirit of love and truth. RantWoman believes in continuing revelation and the transformative power of the divine. RantWoman always wants to leave room for such transformations and the liberating possibility of forgetting one’s former self, at least for awhile.
Q. Please discuss relations between the worldwide information deluge and Quaker traditions.
A. Quaker traditions are of course considerably older than the worldwide web. RantWoman can no longer easily read print so RantWoman’s computer and the worldwide web are a Godsend when it comes to help reading and forming ideas about Friends traditions.Unfortunately, the worldwide information revolution is careening along so fast, RantWoman does not even see easy mentors to help become clear about what the internet and Friends traditions ultimately mean for each other.
RantWoman is not sure how long one is supposed to have worshipped among Friends to have been “steeped in our traditions.” RantWoman comes from a Meeting with a high percentage of people who are not necessarily steeped in Friends’ historical traditions. This on top of technological upheaval lends both perpetual freshness and a certain fluid edginess to thoughts of making Friends’ traditions real. On top of all that, RantWoman at times is even having trouble telling the difference between divine leading among Friends and playing God. So perhaps we should just sit with these questions in extravagant verbosity all over the internet for awhile.
Q. How long has RantWoman been blogging?
A. Just over a year. Blogdom had been beckoning for awhile. RantWoman got a late start partly because of a digital inclusion issue. RantWoman cannot even enter the blogosphere without extra accessibility tools and it took awhile for RantWoman to organize all the pieces she needed to make that happen. This meant RantWoman was out of the loop when other Quakers were setting up their blogs. When RantWoman assembled the necessary tools, her leading to blog was so strong, she just plunged in; it was only later that she went to a workshop, met other Quakers who blog and connected better with the miraculous world of Quaker blogs.
Q. Has RantWoman sought any kind of oversight, say a clearness / support committee?
A. At first, RantWoman went all George Fox on the situation, scribbling all over the medium of the age with total abandon. RantWoman has submitted a request for a support committee. This was a large enough number of months ago that RantWoman thinks someone should have responded. However, the topical committee has a lot else on its plate right now.
RantWoman notes that George Fox did not ask his Meeting’s permission to fill his journal with a lot of badly-written meditations. RantWoman is not sure she likes comparing her writing style with George Fox’s, but she is getting clear feedback suggesting the comparison is topical and has in mine some Friends of both spiritual perspicacity and editorial talent to ask for help corralling matters. RantWoman occasionally considers whether it is her Inner Teacher or just her Inner Child at work, but RantWoman is lurching forward anyway.
Q. RantWoman writes a lot about vision loss and blindness. What’s the story?
A. RantWoman’s eyeballs, in flagrant disregard of Quaker testimonies against games of chance have fallen prey to DNA Lotto and, without asking RantWoman’s permission had a spectacular midlife meltdown. This experience added whole new casts of mentors and mentees, and kind of shook up what it means to walk with RantWoman.
RantWoman considers herself lucky on many counts. RantWoman also thinks of a Pendle Hill pamphlet “On Hallowing our Diminishments.” Some of the time RantWoman thinks of this pamphlet. If RantWoman ever wrote a pamphlet on similar topics, it would be called “On Howling about our Diminishments.” RantWoman also grumbles about having to add an extra query about the availability of Quaker materials in accessible e-book formats. If RantWoman still has not run out of grumbles, she can meditate about the lacunae in the ADA, the hassles of needing help and accommodations from those around her,, numerous other themes.
Q. Your blog has lots of tags one might expect among Friends, but how come the single most frequently occurring tag is called Compost?
A. See comments above: RantWoman writes about herself and sometimes about others when they are not necessarily at their best. RantWoman most assuredly believes in the transformative power of the divine. Enough said?