Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Notes from Salt and Light, March 11-12, Seattle

On Being Salt and Light in a Broken World
FWCC Salt and Light gathering with Mauriel and Aminda Arevalo,
March 11-12, North Seattle Friends Church and University Friends Meeting
Seattle WA
Notes by (RantWoman)

Aminda and Mauriel Arevalo are pastors in a Quaker church in a suburb of San Salvador called Soyapongo. They have been working there for over 25 years since being inspired by a visit from a Quaker pastor.

Friday evening opened with Biblical reflections. Mauriel spoke of their work as an intimate relationship with the Light, a direct manifestation of the love of God. Citing not only the passage from Matthew 5:13-16 but also I Corinthians 13, Mauriel speaks of God’s love as something which does not discriminate, which applies to people of every station. He speaks of comprehensive salvation of human beings, in this life as well as the next.

Aminda brought a different gift. She taught everyone to sing “Jesus Loves Me,” in Spanish and then a message with a very different tone. Soyapongo is one of the most crime-ridden areas around San Salvador. Mauriel mentioned Saturday at lunch that in their district alone, there are 100,000 young people involved to some degree with gang life, the “maras.” The street gangs have a practice of trying to collect “tax: or protection money. The Arevalos’ church has a school connected with it and Aminda is the headmistress. One day a man arrived and Aminda thought he just planned to enroll his children in school. She took him to her office. He pulled the door shut hard and demanded the “tax.” Aminda says she looked him in the eye, told him that he is not a bad person but that he was doing bad things and that she refused to collaborate with his violence. He listed all her children’s movements and what buses they ride and threatened to kill them. Aminda stood her ground and told him she refused to pay a penny of his “tax.” He left, telling her he would return, but he never did. Now the Arevalos discourage all the Quaker churches from paying this “tax” Because it just increases the violence. To say the least, North American Friends do not necessarily face such vivid opportunities to live the Peace Testimony.

Saturday’s session at University Friends’ Meeting opened after coffee and registration with a short introduction to the history of FWCC. Outgoing Section of the Americas secretary Margaret Fraser spoke of the origins of FWCC and of the importance of the word Consultation for the organization’s founders and their efforts to rebuild ties across different strands of Quakerism. Margaret also spoke of the once-a-generation World Gatherings, the next of which is in Kenya in April 2012. Finally Margaret said that the Salt and Light process grew out of inspiration as Finance Committee sought Light about cost-effective ways for representatives of different Friends traditions to share their experiences with each other.

Saturday’s theme song, which Friends sang several times throughout the day was sung to the tune of “London Bridge is falling down,” all about what a joy it would be if everyone worked together doing God’s work.

Mauriel’s morning message again began with the passage from Matthew with reflections on salt in terms of purity, preservation, and flavor.
Mauriel spoke of the whiteness of salt, of a call to live a clean honest life even in the face of corruption all around and to reflect the love of God in all one’s dealings. Aminda spoke of the role of salt in food preservation, as described below and of the power of being a example, of walking into meetings where people changed how they spoke to each other because of her presence.
Aminda tells stories of the time of the civil war / death squads. In the 80’s extrajudicial killings were a common way of dealing with many daily circumstances. Once Aminda’s brother accidentally ran over a 3-year-old nephew. Aminda’s father was in great despair and fear of his life about what to tell the authorities when they arrived to investigate. Aminda advised him to tell the truth and the truth set him free.

One of Aminda’s salt-themed stories related to the farm where she grew up. From time to time her father would slaughter a sheep. The cut surface of the meat would be covered with a layer of salt and this way it would keep for several days as the family ate some each day. Aminda reminded Friends also of God’s exhortations in Exodus not to bring offerings to the temple without salt.

The final aspect of salt mentioned was flavor, the aspect of having Christ present in one’s life. A salt-themed image related to the practice in Palestine of baking bread in open-air stone ovens. A layer of salt would be spread across the stones as a way of reflecting and evenly distributing the heat as well as enhancing the flavor of the bread baked this way. The passage in Matthew refers to salt losing its flavor and being thrown out to be trod upon after long use in such an oven. Aminda and Mauriel said a person who loses focus on Christ might experience a lack of purpose in life, a loss of “flavor.” The image of salt helping reflect the Light more evenly also spoke to this writer.

Mauriel spoke of how their church provides mutual aid for some members facing difficulties. He also spoke of all the children in their midst and asked, almost rhetorically, why he has not seen nearly as many children at any of the Meetings and churches he has visited in the US.

Friends also broke into small groups to share about what they are doing to be salt and light in their communities. Themes which stood out to this writer included the simple work of arranging chairs and space for worship, the practice at one church of giving everyone a key to the building so that it felt more like everyone’s church, a refuge and resource for all. Friends also spoke of not necessarily being called to DO in response to some initiatives but still being called to lend support in discernment. Other Friends spoke of one Meeting’s ongoing walk as a community both with an admitted sex offender and with survivors of abuse.

Miscellaneous thoughts:
I happened to read Ashley Wilcox’ blog post about eldering and attending to movements of the Spirit during events on the fly shortly after the end of the gathering.

I found myself upholding Friends travelling among us, seeing different groups of people, hearing the local variants of how we are Salt and Light in our communities and different interpreters at every stop even if they reuse the same basic outline. Aminda and Mauriel also share some deeply personal moments: even if there are no officially designated elders. I hope they feel upheld spiritually amid all the transitions that kind of travel schedule brings.

An additional multi-Meeting Bible Study brought additional rich reflections:
The Bible study reread the theme passage from Matthew as well as a short passage bravely sight translated from Douglas Gwyn’s Apocalypse of the Word.
One Friend spoke of attending a World Gathering in Kenya in the 1980’s. He remarked about how people from rich countries seemed very glum about the state of the world while Friends from poor countries seemed alive and full of hope.
Another Friend observed that the Light cannot get under the furniture; she challenged us to move our furniture and see where Light needs to shine. Other Friends also reflected on needing the Light upon the darkness of our souls.

A question arose about when there is too much salt, when people in the US battle hypertension. One Friend had thought of buying low-salt popcorn for the finger food potluck and of extra radiation, light from the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power plant emergencies in Japan.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Monday, May 23, 2011

Shame Vulnerability Courage Fertilizer

WARNING: this post involves flagrant, shameless, outspoken, unabashed mention of NATURAL LIQUID FERTILIZER. If you think there is a pretty good chance that more detail than that is going to make you run away screaming, please save yourself the screaming and run away NOW!

If you can hang in there, there will be very tender tidings of a recent memorial in RantWoman's life though not in her Meeting, only one of several moments from recent life that RantWoman fears will be a little too much for the average superficial committee members' checkin, but that is another problem.

Quality of Worship evaluation: RantWoman's phone queue and personal conversations are currently full of chatter about a recent Meeting for Worship. RantWoman seems to have high tolerance for different flavors of "I wouldn't want a steady diet of that, but..." worship experiences. In one conversation, RantWoman went so far as to say the Holy Spirit showed up and slapped things around a little. RantWoman said that, and RantWoman did not even get anywhere near the message she herself had been seasoning.

Breme Brown's piece on shame again appeared as vocal ministry and RantWoman recalled another one of hers about Courage that YOutube serves up too.

RantWoman does not really recall how the thread got from Shame and Connections to the state of the World but Inveterate Gardener Friend made the trip seem effortless. Well, it seemed effortless to RantWoman, but, Bang Crash clatter rumble grumble. Eye roller Friend seemed not even to register the shame and connections thread, but interrupted the state of the world several times. RantWoman thought of standing and telling Eye Roller Friend that others want to hear Inveterate Gardener Friend's message. RantWoman thought of this but was stayed. Inveterate Gardener friend herself held steady and shortly there was silence to proceed. Inveterate Gardener Friend is a generous seasoned presence who nearly always manages to stay centered. Afterward, when asked, she said she thought intervention had not been necessary.

As an aside, one of the callers in RantWoman's phone queue disagrees: "Are you guys (meaining a certain committee) gonna do something? When someone is moved to speak they are speaking from the Light and you should listen." RantWoman thinks it's Meeting for Worship under the care of the Holy Spirit, at times an act of faith for all involved.

RantWoman in moments such as Eye Roller' Friend's eruptions, rather more frequently than she prefers finds her soul gifted with a quote from Goethe that forms the epigraph for Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita, which may arrive straight from German to English in slightly different words, "I am a part of the force that eternally desires evil and eternally does good." In other words, no shame and vulnerability as a path to connection, but other archetypes and dynamics, along with RantWoman thinking of some nonviolent activist surround Eye Roller Friend with love (and discipline) effort.

Back to Worship. RantWoman briefly considered a Bulgakov excursion but her heart was full with memorial thoughts of a Beloved Colleague in the world of accessibility matters. Beloved Colleague passed away unexpectedly and has lately been memorialized at the Friendly Neighborhood Center for Extreme Computing with much affection but not as much God as her caregiver would have preferred.


For those of RantWoman's readers who consider RantWoman impossible, overbearing, visionary, and frequently insufferable, Beloved Colleague was RantWoman on steroids with a motorized wheelchair, less vision, and a hearing loss. Beloved Colleague had multiple ways to break almost any effort RantWoman could make to achieve a completely accessible event. Luckily or unluckily, Beloved Colleague was frequently fearless about participating anyway. The memorial featured warm testimonials from students and collaborators attesting to her vast capacity to connect, humor and affection about the upside, for Beloved Colleague at least, of frequently having to get carried around by hunky firemen.

Unfortunately, what kept coming to RantWoman during Meeting for Worship, punctuated by a modest number of others' thoughtful manageable messages, was all about Beloved Colleague's catheter bag, a topic RantWoman definitely would not mind not knowing so much about. Beloved Colleague actually found having a catheter bag a great relief and made NO effort to disguise or hide this big yellow bag of urine hanging off her wheelchair between her legs. On the contrary, the catheter bag kept showing up in meditations about shame and courage and connection for one funny, flamboyant protest reason and one much more delicate one.

The delicate reason: having a catheter bag means one's life is subject to the cost-cutting efforts of state bean counters; for awhile the ravages of state bean counters meant that Beloved Colleague had to contend with a supply of completely inadequate catheter bags: the bags leaked. It absolutely was not Beloved Colleague's fault, and RantWoman had to coax her a little insistently just to let someone at the Friendly Neighborhood Center... know if she realized it was happening and the problem could be cleaned up. In other words, Beloved Colleague was terribly ashamed over something that was not her fault at all.

On the other hand, RantWoman just about boiled Beloved Colleague one day. The Friendly Neighborhood Center had just signed a contract with the city about a new program and there was particular need to set good examples for impressionable youth. Beloved Colleague's command of school realities was nearly always impeccable. Luckily that day there were not school bureaucrats around: RantWoman took a break from poking around electronically among some paperwork to go out for a breath of fresh air. RantWoman got outside just in time to see Beloved Colleague out in the parking lot emptying her catheter bag into the storm drain in full view of God and the neighborhood and everyone!

RantWoman of course HAD to yell. Beloved Colleague in reply complained about "pretentious hoity-toity bitches" and RantWoman took some time to listen to another round of Beloved Colleague's endless struggles, this time from her college days. By the time the conversation ended, RantWoman had made Beloved Colleague PROMISE to empty her catheter bag more discretely , preferably in a bathroom. Both sides were laughing, though RantWoman was still in Sensible Auntie, MUST object to bad behavior even really funny flamboyant protest bad behavior mode.

Back again to Meeting for Worship. RantWoman spent most of Meeting for Worship meditating about Courage and integrity and vulnerability and catheter bags; probably other worshippers consider it a blessing that the catheter bags never showed up in a message in Meeting for Worship. Sure, let Eye Roller Friend take all the heat for disturbances in the spiritual equilibrium....

Monday, May 16, 2011

Baptism Barclay Style

RantWoman needs to get a Barclay bit out of her system enroute to something else. RantWoman is still glad to be slogging through Barclay's Apology. RantWoman is glad she is doing so in the company of others and also glad not to be doing so in pursuit of any kind of grade. RantWoman is not sure how the last episode of the reading group got from Barclay to comparing elements of different Yearly Meetings' Faith and Practice. RantWoman would not have minded being more awake for wherever the reading led.

Bullet points:
--One reader used the word "tired." The chapter on Baptism is flabbily deficient in the kind of invective that makes some of the other chapters both such a slog and occasionally such a delight to read.

--"Whatever other sects are doing, they are doing it wrong."

--Perhaps this is because they did not have the benefit of wisdom from Walking Encyclopedia Friend. Walking Encyclopedia Friend observed that the word used in Greek for baptism is the translation chosen for the Hebrew word for ritual bath, mikva.RantWoman finds this point fascinating but is going to have to let things seep around in her brain for a bit on the off chance that seepage will eventually lead to greater clarity about water baptism and baptism by fire

Call Me Eyore for Easter

RantWoman's Easter meditations have been well into Continuing Redemption zones even before she read this great item about The Harrowing of Hell.


Maybe that is why RantWoman is still led to post, well after Easter.

RantWoman usually does not place great emphasis on her dreams, but lately she has been having two kinds of dreams. One is full of love and difficulty and subtle like a ton of bricks on the theme "be true to your Light. Take care of that of God within and don't neglect circumstances without!"

The other, which has gotten muddled in with Barclay on baptism, baptism by water and fire, and Easter meditations is more in the zone of "general bizarreness: black trash bags full of brown crumbly material shipped in by UPS. RantWoman thinks it is not a shipment she did anything to ask for and wonders why the heck she is to receive it comes complete with images of royalty in elaborate African costume and a voice of God overlay of "burial ritual needed." This dream does not seem to come yet with any resurrection but it's stuck in RantWoman's mind with the language of baptisms among the Baptists a much younger RantWoman worshipped with: "buried with him in Baptism and risen to walk in newness..."

Someone laid before an Interest Group RantWoman participated in a query RantWoman in take care of that of God within mode heard simply as "What gives you joy?" RantWoman was perplexed when what rose most unambiguously felt closer to "taking up one's cross" than unbounded joy.

RantWoman in this vein has been meditating about

--Times when she has been forced to discover when to get out of the way and let God work, when God has been working without RantWoman necessarily feeling or intentionally doing anything specific

--The joy of watching some parents explore new frontiers of life and emotion with their children and the big sigh RantWoman heard from Little Sister when RantWoman articulated the point that she hears how hard Little Sister is trying to communicate better than....

--The tsunami of communion RantWoman feels when adults are able to talk with love of difficult topics, especially when the talking leads to opening RantWoman could not possibly have predicted.

--When one needs for some reason to be angry or really, really, really pissed off, space to be present with that reality--without the world blowing up. Okay, RantWoman MAYBE should refrain from using the phrase "pissed off" when giving vocal ministry about this topic in Meeting for Worship. Maybe.

But RantWoman heard this great quote by Rob Lowe about the minister in FL who burned a Q'uran: Jesus would be pissed about that.

This Easter blog entry also speaks to RantWoman though RantWoman's particular cross plows more directly into other issues.

As we have talked about the cross, what has come to me is that we don't just tell the story of the crucifixion one time and then we're done with it. We tell the story over and over, and at different times, it means different things.

Sometimes when I tell my story, I am so angry. I am angry that this happened to me and I want to know, where were my angels? Why did God let this happen? I am angry and I do not want to think that this story can be redeemed.

But sometimes I do, and I can see little bits of Light.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Skype a second time

RantWoman at last got to experience the plenary at Pacific Northwest Quarterly Meeting.


RantWoman observations:

RantWoman thinks it was a lot for Friends to get together and talk about electronic media and their spiritual lives. However, RantWoman heard not one word of environmental challenges posed by old electronic equipment or of the near-slavery conditions behind the production of all the electronic gadgets we are so in love with. If RantWoman were the soul of economic justice and slavery-free spiritual purity that she aspires to be, she would abstain from all electronic gadgetry or at least be able to come up with the digital age equivalent of shade grown fair trade responsible lifecycle electronics. RantWoman is nowhere near this!

Instead RantWoman directs her readers to a play now at the Seattle Repertory Theater, http://www.seattlerep.org/ "The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs." RantWoman directs her readers there unencumbered by pesky things like fact checking but does note ardent attention from people who have recently viewed it.
But back to the plenary:
RantWoman notes that she and probably half of those in the room are older than ALL the presenters on the panel. RantWoman thinks this has to be fine. RantWoman finds herself wondering though whether that fact in any way colors others' reactions.

During the plenary RantWoman heard a wide variety of experience as far as whether people met in cyberspace before or after meeting in person. RantWoman heard comments offline that seem to insist to firmly for RantWoman's taste in only one direction of several sequences. RantWoman is noting this point along with humble steadfastness about her own need to take up space and insist in specific directions about some issues and her sense of serious irritation when she hears others' insistence in directions that do not reflect her own truth. Space, space, breathe, breathe....

RantWoman listened to lots of Friends list their technological pedigrees. RantWoman is more impressed by Friends who focus less on the gizmo angle and more on spiritual center. RantWoman especially respects Weighty Friend who is even more afraid of Facebook than RantWoman is.

RantWoman's mind also wandered to.... recording and ... wiretapping. RantWoman's experience is that Friends have different issues about recording sessions out of worship. RantWoman does not have an opinion about whether more of a sense of worship is to be desired for the Quarterly Meeting plenary than average in daily life. To be honest, neither the question of recording nor the sense of worship at the plenary entered the mind of THIS planning committee member un til now!

However, in WA laws about recording phone calls are pretty direct:
it's illegal to record unless everyone on the call knows they are
being recorded. RantWoman is not a lawyer. RantWoman has no opinion about whether a Skype session involving remote participants falls in the same zone, but it occurs to RantWoman simply to cite general experience.

In addition to warning messages in lots of bureaucrats' phone queues, RantWoman goes to LOTS of different geekish meetings where more than once during the meeting the facilitator announces something like "this event is being recorded and will be posted /replayed..." RantWoman does not think anyone is going to hunt down Quarterly
Meeting and make a big deal about no warnings in this case, but it's one of those behind-the-scenes digital age points--like appropriate rights for use of music that it behooves Friends to pay modest attention to.

In other news, highly though not solely specific to RantWoman, RantWoman suspects she is the subject of one of the questions at the end. RantWoman means to TRY to keep having conversations with the Questioning Friend whose words RantWoman noted although she also would not mind initiative from the other direction as well. RantWoman is having trouble distinguishing "Season yourself" from "shut up" in conversation with that Friend. RantWoman is also both having trouble detecting actionable hints AND detecting a certain obtuseness and uneven inclination to ASK RantWoman even to clarify.

(RantWoman does not particularly apologize at this point to any readers who wish that RantWoman and Questioning Friend would just pry ourselves out of our various electronic corners and actually TALK to one another. RantWoman would not mind if her electronic corner helped find more openings for that to occur.)

Here RantWoman must digress and make a confession. RantWoman was recently led boldly to acknowledge via the email that others find so vexatious that she can be astoundingly adept at screwing up communications, sometimes in more than one medium at the same time. As a result of this frank acknowledgment on RantWoman's part, RantWoman got back something she has pointedly requested multiple times previously: feedback and feedback responsive to other points of concern to RantWoman, including feedback alluding to a moment when RantWoman and Question Friend yelled at each other in a meeting.

RantWoman thinks a few different things about that yelling; she is collecting thoughts here because she is unclear which of them she will be led to offer which audience in real life.

--Questioning Friend literally has his job because of a lot of upppity dificult challenging people, people just like RantWoman and people on whose shoulders RantWoman humbly rests her own sundry efforts at presence. RantWoman recognizes the importance of this job and this fact; RantWoman is willing to TRY to cut Questioning Friend some slack about difficulty interacting with actual difficult people.

--RantWoman really does not want a steady diet of yelling in meetings, but the yelling in that case was not the worst thing about RantWoman's day.

--The worst thing about RantWoman's day in that conversation, besides the, cough, "opportunity" to collect data about yet another issue, was a highly esoteric point RantWoman did a lousy job of articulating in the midst of the yelling. IF RantWoman had been able to articulate it in the moment, MAYBE it is reasonable to think Questioning Friend would be more likely to get it than others in the room. It is a point so specific to RantWoman's life that she saw but did not interact with all of a stream of about 65 email messages on a professional nonQuaker mailing list complaining about one of the issues motivating RantWoman's point of view.

The issue is highly relevant to RantWoman but probably not one others around her have ever grappled with. The fact that there were that many messages on the thread means, even if the thread wanders from the subject line, that the topic is HIGHLY important to others as well. It is an issue that RantWoman does NOT need permission from others in her Meeting to become irate about. For the sake of rantWoman's soul, she will try again for concise explanation and seeking to communicate to that of God even when it shows up in what look to RantWoman like the "dullest fools" from this morning's Psalm (93 or 94)

--RantWoman gets to invoke the "chicks cry" clause. The "Chicks Cry" clause means RantWoman knows more than one woman who can feel much better after a cry, even a cry that is public and embarrassing and totally disconcerting to everyone else around her. RantWoman actually would like NOT to cry in some of the circumstances where she does, but figuring out how to do that seems likely at least occasionally still need the "Chicks cry" clause. Again, RantWoman would not prefer a steady diet..., but again it is not the worst part of RantWoman's day.

Perhaps that is enough said, especially since RantWoman now really does have to pry herself out of her electronic corner, at least for now.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


RantWoman is:

Working on writing that should result in income.

Stewing over her mission to convince key figures in her Meeting that the world will not only not stop but might actually proceed in dramatically better harmony if we can just talk to each other enough to solve some HOW questions about email.

Listening to the plenary from the Pacific Northwest Quarterly Meeting:

Thinking that all that is WAY beyond reasonable standards of simplicity and eldering herself about heeding those thudding, subtle like a ton of bricks feelings she is called to Be True to her Light and signing off for the night...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

May Day: Shoe Salesman needed, again

RantWoman in tendentious twenty-something ranter mode would be finding some nice link to articles about yesterday's May Day Immigrant Rights rally. RantWoman in phlegmatic pushing fifty mode spent a few moments on the sidewalk upholding the procession before proceeding to her daily internet fix. RantWoman is really glad to hear another flock of Friends just went off to look at tulips!

RantWoman had not realized until today that May Day has also been proclaimed Blogging Against Disablism Day. RantWoman has assorted festive ways to celebrate.

Read a REALLY INTENSE blog post

Consider being thankful to identify with fewer than a third the themes mentioned.

Have a good yuck with Ferrener Husband. Ferrener Husband and RantWoman went to wonderful recital recently. On the way back drop RantWoman off, we were giving each other a hard time: Ferrener husband wears hearing aids, has to keep practicing to say certain consonants right and is lost when people turn their back while talking, among other obvious tells. However because he lip reads really well in two languages, hears a lot with hearing aids, and speaks very clearly, lots of people think he is not deaf.

RantWoman for her part has lots and lots of fog and blur, grow your own lavl lamps, really entertaining double or more vision, detail vision in a small field and not necessarily the ability to see Mac trucks if she is not looking the right way. But RantWoman can make it to the bus stop near her abode without Thwack the Badly Behaved White Cane, so RantWoman is not really blind either.

Remember the shoe salesman from awhile ago, the one who was ecstatic at the prospects of a market when he showed up on an island where everyone is barefoot?

RantWoman admits good conflict resolution practices would be to speak to the stars of her weekend's festivities directly and RantWoman is shortly off to make phone calls. Let's just say, that starry-eyed shoe salesman REALLY needs to put in an appearance.

Among the topical themes, with titles of persons pointedly not attached:

--Suggesting a decision on RantWoman's behalf without asking RantWoman about any details before making the suggestion.

--Offering RantWoman not the help she asks for but various forms of inadequate, unhelpful, off-topic change the subject but oh so sincere efforts.

--Complaining that one does not understand the situation but then complaining of being overwhelmed when RantWoman offers any detail.

--Complaining of being overwhelmed when RantWoman offers even a tiny amount of detail and then not even being willing just to engage about gratitude not to get to experience the detail.

--Formulating one part of the conversation in a way that sounded to RantWoman like "Go away until we evolve" but did not either offer a path to such evolution or appear to envision where RantWoman and others might manage to evolve together.

Probably RantWoman should have her head examined for still being in the conversation. There would be that shoe salesman somewhere though.

Lord have mercy on us all!