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In the bygone days, arrays of items were embroidered by a bride to be, which would form a part of her trousseau. Among all these treasured articles, the most easily recognisable is the pentagonal Ganesh-sthapana. The project of embroidering articles for the trousseau starts at a very young age with the other women of the […]

via The Divine Niche: Embroidered Ganesh-sthapanas of Gujarat — living with art

Enter The Next Trump Campaign Manager: It Might Be MEI was trying to avoid any political posts until after Labor Day; but this is just too good to keep to myself.You see, I’ve been doing a lot of important work for the Trump campaign. No, really. I mean, I must have. And I did go…

via Enter The Next Trump Campaign Manager: It Might Be ME — A Friendly Letter

Grace In Your Face: Remembering Bill KreidlerFirst written Summer 2000Revised 08-21-2016IOne of the finest, most eloquent ministers of this generation of liberal Quakers, William J. “Bill” Kreidler, of Beacon Hill Meeting in Boston, died on June 10, 2000. That was a time to mourn, and also a time to remember, and to pay tribute. And…

via Grace In Your Face: Remembering Bill Kreidler — A Friendly Letter

Quaccheri cristiani ecumenici per fare il bene

L'immagine può contenere: 1 persona , primo piano

Happy birthday, Thomas Garrett (Aug. 21, 1789 – Jan. 25, 1871)! ‪#‎Quaker‬. ‪#‎Pacifist‬.‪#‎Abolitionist‬. Leader in the Underground Railroad in Wilmington, Delaware. Thomas carried out his abolitionist activities in open defiance of slave hunters and the slave system. Everybody in town knew that his home, at 227 Shipley Street, was a haven for runaway slaves. It is estimated that more than 2,700 slaves from the South made their way through the Garrett house. Thomas was not an absolutist with regard to his Quaker pacifism. He believed, in a case where he might be attacked physically, that it would be acceptable to defend himself by subduing his attackers. He also believed that slavery could probably only be finally abolished through a civil war. Buried in the Friends Meeting House Burial Ground, 4th & West Streets, Wilmington, Delaware.
~The Marginal Mennonite Society Heroes Series.

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“Ain’t had a prayer since I don’t know when . . . .”Imagine this scene (part of it really happened):It’s August 6, and George W. Bush is at home in Houston, or maybe at the ranch. He’s finishing a watercolor, or (stay with me) reading a book, though certainly not that heavy new biography, “Bush,”…

via “Ain’t had a prayer since I don’t know when . . . .” — A Friendly Letter

Quaker House: Still The Best Quaker Job There IsAs Quaker House of Fayetteville NC begins the search for a new Director (or Co-Directors), the situation there is in many ways different from my time as Director, from 2001 to 2012: then we faced a couple of big wars. Today’s many small wars are almost entirely invisible to the U. S.…

via Quaker House: Still The Best Quaker Job There Is — A Friendly Letter

A 21st-century adaptation of George Fox’s Epistle CXXX, “To all Friends, to dwell in the truth, the life of God, the light, &c.” (1656).

via “To all Friends” — an Adaptation — The Postmodern Quaker

Nine Conclusions on Ed Snyder’s 90th Birthday

Nov 15, 2015

Former Executive Secretary Ed Snyder delivered these remarks at the 2015 Annual Meeting on the occasion of his 90th birthday, summarizing nine “trite but true” things he’s learned in the past nine decades.

When I was growing up in Orono, there was a grocery store in nearby Bangor, Maine that called itself Q not Q. — “Quality not Quantity.” I sometimes referred to it when an FCNL meeting had a modest attendance. But as I look out I see Q and Q: Quality and Quantity.

Tonight my remarks are “T but T” — Trite but True. I’m not bringing you anything new. You’ve heard it all before. But I’m going to tell you one more time. As they say, those old folks like to repeat themselves. And longevity may have earned us the right to be more dogmatic than diplomatic. So I’m going to tell you my nine trite but true conclusions based on 90 years of living, 35 of them at FCNL. And please forgive my staccato presentation. I want to say a lot in a short time.

Number 1: He who pays the piper calls the tune.

I’ve been singing this song for a long time. Every year in their request for a contribution, Common Cause reminds me that I’ve been a member since 1972, soon after it was launched. At my retirement party I think I dismayed the planners by launching into the evils of too much money in campaign financing instead of humorous anecdotes — this to the assembled members of Congress and guests. We are not going to be successful in our many FCNL priorities until we reform campaign financing and lobbying laws, and have public financing of elections. In Maine last week we successfully voted in a citizen initiative that helped restore the effectiveness of our groundbreaking 1996 clean elections law and also requires disclosure of the biggest campaign contributors. On the positive side, with the acceptance of the Iran deal, we saw that people power can overcome money power.

Number 2: Humility and listening are the best way to learn.

You remember the old saw “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” I remember once being approached by an eager young photographer as I crossed the Capitol grounds. He asked me “Are you anybody?” Now that’s a pretty profound philosophical question, but I wasn’t about to deal with it just then. Fortunately, my friend Rep. Bella Abzug was just passing by, so I sicced him on her.

One of my favorite civil liberties quotes is by Judge Learned Hand: “The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right.” We desperately need that spirit in Congress and the media right now.

One of the best lessons I ever learned from my predecessor, Raymond Wilson, was to listen carefully to an opposing view and before rebutting, repeat accurately his or her views so they knew that had been accurately heard.

Number 3: Racism is deeply embedded in our national culture.

It was enshrined in our Constitution with the three-fifths compromise. It was the basis of the bloodiest war our nation ever fought. It is currently expressed in our housing, educational, employment, health, and other laws and policies. We are all culturally racist. But, like the alcoholic, I hope we are all recovering racists who attempt to resist temptation when we hear code words and phrases. I have a searing memory of our second black FCNL lobbyist telling me in 1973 that he was resigning after two years at FCNL. We had asked him to speak to Friends Meetings around the country about civil rights legislation in Congress. But he said he couldn’t get to that subject because he had to educate Quakers first on the reality of race in America. We majority whites owe huge compensation to disadvantaged minorities. But I believe it should be paid not to currently living individuals, but by massive changes in our housing, educational, and employment and other race-influenced policies.

Number 4: There is a huge gap between the rich and the poor in our country, and has been since the founding years.

There have been two reform or populist periods in our history. One in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the other in the 1930s brought on by the Great Depression. But, let’s face it: the gap is now growing tremendously. We actually live in a plutocracy (government by the wealthy) not democracy (government by the people). Can we have a democratic alternative to cutthroat capitalism? I see hope in cooperatives, in so-called B corporations, and in worker-owned corporations.

Number 5: America has a tradition of violence.

It began a long time ago. We live on the land taken from Native Americans. Manifest Destiny took us west to the Philippines and south to the Caribbean. The size of our military establishment dwarfs all others. We have bases throughout the world. Many argue our burden is to be the policeman for the world. Cutting the unaudited Pentagon budget seems impossible. Massacres in our schools, cinemas, and other gathering places has become a ho-hum, “so what else is new” affair, as the gun lobby and the NRA intimidate members of Congress and distort the Second Amendment.

But war is not the answer. We are in a struggle for the soul of America. Peaceful alternatives are available and FCNL has identified them and seeks to fund and implement them. And recently scholars like Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan have demonstrated that nonviolent resistance is strategically superior, and, in the end, often leads to much more democratic and stable societies than violent insurgency. Our local Acadia Friends Meeting gives a Peace Award of $500 to a high school senior every year who models nonviolence — along with a year subscription to Yes! magazine. It tells about all the positive happenings every day in our country. I hope many of you subscribe to Yes! magazine.

Number 6: Fear is a great motivator, but hope is essential to bring right action.

We are all heirs to our primitive fight or flight past. So when we perceive danger, our instinct is to act — even if the danger may not be real. Right now we humans face a number of very real dangers, including nuclear weapons and nuclear war and climate change. But real dangers must be met by realistic actions, otherwise people end up being paralyzed or feeling helpless. I see identification of positive alternatives as a major role for FCNL in Washington.

Hope helps us persevere in hard times. We believe there is that of God in everyone. So we must treat all with civility and respect. Paul’s advice to the Philippians is difficult, but profound “Whatsoever things are true…beautiful…and of good report, think on these things….” Or, more colloquially, “Courtesy is Contagious” and “You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative and don’t mess with Mr In Between.”

Number 7: We are not alone.

There are many like minded, well motivated people all over the country — in your hometown, on Capitol Hill, in the executive branch, and in all sorts of organizations. One of the most important roles FCNL has in Washington is our leadership in forming and sustaining coalitions. FCNL is looked to by many to lead on many of our priority issues.

Number 8: Young people are the hope of the world.

They are not circumscribed by the world we oldsters grew up in. FCNL’s interns, legislative assistants, and young fellows bring new energy, insights, and support. They have been a blessing to the rest of the staff. It’s their world and we older generations need to get out of the way and let them take the lead in building it.

Number 9: FCNL has a roadmap to the future.

It’s called The World We Seek: The Statement of Legislative Policy. Every few years we refine and update it. If you haven’t read it cover to cover recently, I recommend it. That exercise will lift your spirits, give you hope, and energize you to action.

So let me summarize:

  • We desperately need campaign reform and public financing of elections.
  • Humility and listening are the best way to learn.
  • Like the alcoholic, we can all try to be recovering racists, and support massive changes in our housing, education, and employment practices.
  • I see hope for a democratic economic system in cooperatives, in B corporations, and in worker-owned corporations.
  • War is not the answer; nonviolent alternatives are strategically superior.
  • Fear can paralyze. The best remedy is relevant action buoyed by hope.
  • We are not alone. We have many allies.
  • Young people are the hope of the world.
  • The FCNL Policy Statement provides an inspired roadmap to a sustainable future.

This is a sermon that I preached this Sunday (8/14/16), at the Washington City Church of the Brethren. The scripture readings for this sermon were: Hebrews 11:29-12:2 and Luke 12:49-56
Listen to the sermon on SoundCloud

Sermon Text:

This passage from Hebrews that we just heard: It’s got to be one of the most frequently referenced parts of the Bible. I’ve heard it preached from the pulpit many times. It’s been the theme Scripture for church conferences and events. And it’s been the subtext for so much of church life.

This idea that we are surrounded by this “cloud of witnesses,” that we are a part of a long line of spiritual family. That the struggles we engage in today are part of a bigger picture. It’s a powerful, comforting image.

Back in 2010, Faith and I helped to organize a gathering of young adult Quakers in Wichita, Kansas. It was a gathering that would bring together Quakers from across North America, and across many of the theological and cultural barriers that divide modern-day Friends (and, as I understand it, modern-day Brethren, too).

Most of the gathering took place in a large church sanctuary. The space was ornate and cathedral-like, at least by plain Quaker standards, and it was far bigger than either we in the gathering or the local congregation had need of. In addition to the ample seating in ground level pews, there was also a large, wrap-around balcony – a gallery filled with empty seats.

I remember standing in the sanctuary with one of the members of the pastoral care team for the gathering, and older woman from New England. It was a quiet moment in the church building, before most of the participants had arrived. We were taking a deep breath before the heavy spiritual lifting that would come in the next few days. She looked up into the balcony level and said very seriously. “I can feel them. I can feel the cloud of witnesses.”

It was a comforting idea, but also a challenging one. That cloud of witnesses wasn’t just there to affirm whatever we decided to do. They had an agenda. If those Quaker saints who had gone before us were indeed present, they would be watching to see whether we could bridge the divisions that had developed over the last two centuries. They would be present to encourage us – but also to spur us towards hard conversations and spiritual risk-taking.

I think that this passage from Hebrews is easy to take out of context. We often stretch and bend the idea of the “cloud of witnesses” until it becomes something that is primarily about our own comfort. I don’t know if any of you remember that movie from the mid-90s – Angels in the Outfield? Honestly, don’t really either. I think I saw it once back in 1994, and I don’t remember a lot of detail. But here’s the basic idea of the film:

In the movie, the Los Angeles Angels are the worst team in Major League Baseball. But there’s a little boy who loves the team, and he wants them to win so badly that he prays and asks God to help them win the championship. To his surprise and amazement, God sends angels to miraculously catapult the team into first place. Only the little boy can see the angels, but the effects of their work is clear to the whole world as the Los Angeles Angels go from being the worst in the league, to the best.

It’d be nice to have a cloud of witnesses like that, wouldn’t it? A group of angelic figures that could carry us to glory, even if we’re not at all ready for it. If the “cloud of witnesses” were like the angels in the outfield, we’d always have these invisible cheerleaders – spiritual support for us when times are tough and victory seems impossible. The cloud of witnesses would become an angel army. They’d exist to reinforce our own dreams, our own wishes, our lives as they are. They’d give us strength to make our dreams come true.

And sometimes this might be the right idea. If we’re experiencing hard times, if we’re suffering for our faith and paying the consequences for following Jesus, we need the presence of this encouraging cloud of witnesses more than anything. We need to know that we stand in a line of courage, endurance, and victory in the cross of Jesus. Knowing that, by the grace of God, many others have run this race and been faithful, we’re encouraged to persevere, even when it feels impossible.

But most of the time, at least for me, I experience the cloud of witnesses as a challenging presence in my life. These are people who, as the scripture says:

“…were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented — of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.”

This cloud of witnesses are no “angels in the outfield.” They’re not here to give me victory without suffering or pain. They are witnesses to the full cost of discipleship. They demonstrate the kind of hope that is only possible through bearing the cross of Jesus in this world. These are people who inspire us, people who challenge us, whose lives confront our own compromises and give us courage to do what is right.

I think we all have our favorite members of the cloud of witnesses, our own personal gallery of saints that have come before, who spur us to greater faithfulness. One of these witnesses for me is a man named James Nayler. James was one of the most visible leaders of the early Quaker movement in the 1650s. He was a gifted evangelist, spreading the gospel across England. His campaign of preaching in London had a powerful impact, growing and solidifying the Quaker community there.

The 1650s were a time of tumult and upheaval in England, and Quakers were often arrested, beaten, and imprisoned for their faith. James Nayler had a rougher time than many. He was charged with blasphemy by Parliament, and he narrowly escaped the death penalty. But honestly, he might have been better off if they had hung him. His punishment was grotesque: He was given a public flogging of hundreds of lashes. After that, they branded his forehead with “B” for “blasphemer” and bored his tongue through with a hot iron, so that he could never preach again with his renowned eloquence. After that, he was imprisoned until he was physically ruined.

When he finally did get out of prison, he tried to make his way back to Yorkshire, to see his family for the first time in years. On his way, he was robbed and beaten severely. He was found by passersby and died the next day in the home of a Quaker physician.

I mention James Nayler this morning, because I believe he is a prime example of what the author of Hebrews referred to when he spoke of the cloud of witnesses – this heritage of saints who have run the race and endured the cross as an example and encouragement to us.

And I think that Hebrews 11 and 12 were on James Nayler’s mind, as he lay dying in the north of England. Those who attended him recorded his final words, which included this description of what it meant for James to be a living member of that cloud of witnesses – to find himself in communion with them through his own suffering and martyrdom:

“There is a spirit which I feel that delights to do no evil, nor to revenge any wrong, but delights to endure all things, in hope to enjoy its own in the end. Its hope is to outlive all wrath and contention, and to weary out all exaltation and cruelty, or whatever is of a nature contrary to itself. It sees to the end of all temptations. As it bears no evil in itself, so it conceives none in thought to any other. If it be betrayed, it bears it, for its ground and spring is the mercies and forgiveness of God.

Its crown is meekness, its life is everlasting love unfeigned; it takes its kingdom with entreaty and not with contention, and keeps it by lowliness of mind. In God alone it can rejoice, though none else regard it, or can own its life. It is conceived in sorrow, and brought forth without any to pity it; nor doth it murmur at grief and oppression. It never rejoiceth but through sufferings; for with the world’s joy it is murdered. I found it alone, being forsaken. I have fellowship therein with them who lived in dens and desolate places of the earth, who through death obtained this resurrection and eternal holy life.”

The cloud of witnesses that James experienced were no “angels in the outfield.” They did not save him from suffering, nor give him victory in the eyes of the world. Rather, he encountered a spirit that walked with him through that dark valley of shame and defeat. This spirit gave him the power to love, even those who flayed the skin off his back, branded his face, and mutilated his tongue. Through his suffering and baptism into “love unfeigned,” James Nayler found fellowship with the lost and forgotten saints of God – who through death, obtained resurrection and eternal holy life.

Our gospel reading today reminds us that the kingdom of God comes through challenge. It causes division wherever it emerges, because it challenges our basic ideas about what is right and fair. The truth is, none of us want to experience the cross. Not even Jesus did! The most natural thing in the world that we could do is seek to avoid death, suffering, and shame.

But what Jesus reveals and the cloud of witnesses repeats, is that beyond the cross lies resurrection. On the other side of suffering, and torture, and shame lies the eternal holy life and love unfeigned that James Nayler and so many saints before him discovered. The cloud of witnesses bears testimony to each one us through the Holy Spirit, spurring us on to greater courage in the face of heartbreak, death, and loss of identity.

Unlike the angels in the outfield, this cloud of witnesses is not about helping us win the “game” of this world. Instead, they walk beside us, encouraging us as we learn how to lose in such a way that we experience the resurrection life in the midst of struggle, so that we ourselves become part of that cloud of witnesses, reflecting Christ’s self-giving love to others who need it.

Before I close, I want to take us back to that church sanctuary in Wichita, Kansas. I want you to stand with me on that lower level, amidst the pews. Look up with me into the gallery. Who are the witnesses that you see there? Who are the saints who have gone before you that encourage you even in the midst of confusion and pain? Can you see the faces of the people who have carried their cross with courage and joy? Can you see them smiling on you with love?

Where are they calling you? What parts of your life need to change so that you can embrace the kind of courageous living that they did? Even in the face of resistance and division, where are we being called to change so that we can bear the cross of Jesus, and become a cloud of witnesses to the world around us?

Related Posts:

What Does it Mean to Follow Jesus in the Age of Trump?

Will the Real Church of Jesus Please Stand Up?

North Carolina YM Split: Stick A Fork In ItThis past weekend, August 12-14, North Carolina YM-FUM met, for its 319th annual session. As yearly meetings do, it deliberated, adopted minutes, and issued an epistle. We’re interested in here in one particular minute, and an epistle.The minute in question was the proposal to split the YM…

via North Carolina YM Split: Stick A Fork In It — A Friendly Letter

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We must act and dare the appropiateness and not whatever comes to our mind not floating in the likelihood but grasp the reality as brave as we can be freedom lies in action not in the absence of mind obedience knows the essence of good and satisfies it, freedom dares to act and returns God the ultimate judgment of what is right and what is wrong, Obedience performs blindly but Freedom is wide awake Freedom wants to know why, Obedience has its hands tied, Freedom is inventive obedient man respects God’s commands and by virtu of his Freedom, he creats new commands. Both Obedience and Freedom come true in responsability (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

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