i want to ‘lectrify my soul.

yesterday at meeting for worship there were a lot of tears. and when somebody spoke/sang about the belief that there will be laughter even after people go, my natural tendency toward making people laugh when times are sad, went into high gear.

i wanted to tell the “hilarious” story of my first quaker meeting. i was an american tourist in whitby, england, and i had a cold. i tried to get tissues before the meeting started but nowhere was open, and that hunt took so long that i got to the meetinghouse just as meeting was started so i couldn’t find the bathroom. so i dashed in and sat there, for my very first hour of silence. except thanks to me, it wasn’t silence. the silence was regularly punctuated by my sniffles, as i tried to sink into the worship in some way. as i remember, there were multiple doors into and out of the worship room, and so even if i had felt brave enough to get up to go to a restroom at such a mysterious and holy time, i didn’t know where any of the doors led. so i just sat there. and sniffled. and felt american.

at the end of the worship time, the elderly woman next to me, kindly turned and told me that she wanted to offer me a tissue, but they were all up her sleeve and she wasn’t sure if that would bother me or not, so she hadn’t offered me a tissue.

what i got from reliving that story in my mind yesterday, was actually less about the funniness of the story but of the tissues we all have up our sleeves that we are too self-conscious to share.

but i didn’t tell the story or the lesson i had learned from it. there’s this flowchart that’s somewhere in our meeting’s seeker’s packets that gets referred to sometimes, and it’s about how to test whether to share a message. the part that i remember the most is that you can ask yourself if the message is just for you or for the group.

here is my embarrassing and guilty quaker confession:

what keeps me from speaking at meeting for worship, more than anything, when i have these “enlightening” moments is that as i start asking myself if the message is for me or the group, another piece comes in, which is, “am i willing to live by this?” and sometimes i’m not sure. sometimes the idea of living by my own grand advice that seems like it’s from god to the group, with me sort of tangentially involved, is so terrifying or exhausting-seeming, that i keep it to myself.

also, yesterday, i finished reading a pendle hill pamphlet by ben pink dandelion, “confident quakerism.” when i went to return it to the library, the library committee member behind the desk asked what i’d thought. and it was hard to answer, because i’d started the pamphlet months ago, read half of it, and then read the other half today. as i recalled, the beginning had been somewhat irritating, but yesterday’s reading had been useful. as i recall, the beginning dealt with some theological mistakes the author had made, and something in how they were presented had irked me. but there was a sentence near the end about how conversations about our spiritual mistakes breaks open things between people. in my conversation, i hypothesised that maybe our mistakes our better talked about than written about (and now i am writing about that idea). maybe they crystallize a little out of context, when you see them in print.

but it was interesting to read that yesterday, because besides theological mistakes, another place where stuff breaks up in important ways, is when people talk about race and oppression. i’m looking at ph. d. programs right now and i just discovered this week that there are education programs that have whiteness studies as part of it, and that has gotten me really excited. so i got all excited about that as a theological exercise, too.

but of course i don’t want to mix up an academic field with worship.

but probably the core of my belief system is that god is there when you are open to the truth. and frequently that is messy and awkward.

(and at the same time something i am continually learning is the boundaries of one’s own messy-and-awkward and others’ messy-and-awkward. as a writer who has very little filter, i must be mindful that others have filters and boundaries, and they are there for a reason.)

after meeting for worship, my girlfriend and i trekked over to ocean beach to see gillian welch, old crow medicine show, and emmylou harris pay tribute to warren hellman, the man who had started the hardly strictly bluegrass festival, a free music festival in golden gate park. i can never be convinced to go to the festival anymore because it is too crowded and full of alcohol and pot, even if i think it’s a good idea. but i liked the slightly smaller (though still robust) crowd of this event, the considerably rarer instances of people lighting up anything near me (though i did have this funny interaction on the phone with my mom between sets. she said, “we’re lighting a fire in the pit out here,” JUST as pulled out a pipe and lit it right next to me, and so i said, “yeah, someone’s got a little one going over here, too.), the explicitly respectful vibe of the event, and the beautiful escape valve of the roaring ocean just behind me. i was actually able to enjoy the music.

life is sadder than sometimes i’d like to admit. and it’s hard. and growth is hard. but there is god in the music and the laughter and the time shared together and the solitude of the ocean and the mistakes we make and our ability to open up about those mistakes. and if there’s not, there’s something really close, pointing to what god really is.

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also…

when did it become quakerism, and not just… quaking?

i have a million things to say…

i don’t know what i think of god, what i believe, that kind of thing, but i do know that if i try to spend my time being grateful, i find more things to be grateful for, and i find more of something to… be grateful to.

there’s also the way that i’ve always thought that if i went deep enough, i’d find something shining and golden and god, completely separate from and discernible from myself. i haven’t. and so i thought i’ve messed up somehow, but i asked someone i trust, and he said… that’s all there’s going to be. and that’s okay. i don’t even remember if he said that last part, that it’s okay, but i suddenly knew it was.

i can’t separate myself from god, i can’t find god, and that’s okay, and now that i know that i can’t do those things– i feel this bigger, different kind of faith.

Published in: on 19 September, 2007 at 5:21 pm  Comments (1)  

o’er they spirit gently stealing, visions of delight revealing, breathes a pure and holy feeling…

i am at the san francisco monthly meetings annual retreat at ben lomond quaker center. it is so good. it is rich and full in giant ways that i think i can only express in bullet points right now, hopefully to revisit later.

* i’ve noticed people’s faces change almost immediately upon arriving. the faces are more soft and relaxed and happy. i’ve never noticed that happen quite so strongly before. people who have slightly pinched faces most of the time are absolutely giddy here. it’s lovely.
* (puck and i are breaking up, and a lot of that is coming from some strength i’ve found from going to co-dependents anonymous.) robin m. shared vocal ministry about knowing how to let go of something and she mentioned the serenity prayer and i cried and cried.
* baby molly has been at the meetings for worship and her crows and gurgles have been wonderful for me. i’ve been thinking about how much like a baby i am– so excited about learning to stand, so confused and sad for reasons i don’t understand sometimes, making a mess of myself sometimes, being surrounded by love, misinterpreting love and feeling threatened…
* we had worship sharing about god’s call for us, and i just kept coming back to how right now i don’t feel called to much outward work and how i’m focusing inwardly and… i wound up saying something like, “it feels decadent to say this and i’m kind of embarrassed about it, but i feel called to learn how to be comfortable with and grateful for who i am… and not to perfect it all away.” i feel like the “learning to be grateful for who i am” part of it is very new.
* i got to misquote kate bornstein at bible study today. i got the gist of it, but i couldn’t remember the exact words, but i have it elsewhere, so i can share it accurately here: “It takes a great deal of courage to be delightful in this world.” we were reading john 15, about jesus’s command to love, and his warning that people will hate those who follow him.
* i am rereading anne of avonlea this weekend and it is just right.
* there has been so much music and laughter and delicious food and happy children and light light light in so many ways.
* today during meeting for worship (once the moldy peaches’ “who’s got the crack?” got out of my head), “all through the night” (the folk song… not the cyndi lauper song, which i also love) was in my head and it really resonated.

Sleep my child and peace attend thee,
All through the night
Guardian angels God will send thee,
All through the night
Soft the drowsy hours are creeping
Hill and vale in slumber sleeping,
I my loving vigil keeping
All through the night.
it wasn’t until i was walking back down the hill that i remembered the parts that lull, but i was just thinking about the parts that protect. things are night-ish for me right now, and so… it was good.

* deer! close up!!! and a fawn!!!!

from 11-11-06 in my paper journal (which i finished today. i’ve been writing in it since june 7, 2005):

“the last two day were exhausting becaue i’ve been working really hard on me & feeling like i’ve got some good tools to make my life so much better, but they take so much work &… that’s exhausting. i also think my theory of the flu shot was correct & added to the exhaustion.

i keep trying to find non-Christian Quaker texts. i want to know about that faith. i know about the redeeming power of Christ. i’m not ready to hunker down into it until i’ve seen my other options. jesus is not the only truth & i’m not certain he is my truth. he is a truth. he is a way & a truth & a light to The Truth, but i do not believe he is solely it. i believe that that belief– that there is only Christ– shrinks our souls, diminishes our connections with thos who have never heard of Christ, those who cannot accept him, thoe whose truths are just as beautiful, just as True. i think it splinters and breaks us to cling to that.

i, who clutch so much, ‘preaching’ against holding onto your god.

i just read an essay about letting go of ourselfs to get God, to be filled by God. i can’t do that yet. i am still learning to like myself. & i do. i love myself.

so frequently, religious leaders talk about how our culture teaches us to value ourselves too much. i don’t think that’s true. i think our culture teaches us to devalue our selves. we are never enough for it. i’d like to believe that we can meet God with our broken complete selves.

and i’m not sure how much we can give to God if we aren’t there.

i think this is because i’ve been contemplating vocal ministry so much. and how each person i’ve heard brings their gifts. and how each person brings their gifts to the world. and i think that’s the most beautiful thing in the world to me.

and if that’s not God, i think i might think it’s more beautiful than god.

by my definitions, i am pantheistic. God is so much everything. that is why ‘Now I walk in beauty, beauty is before me, beauty is behind me, above & below me’ & ‘all will be well & all will be well & all manner of thing will be well’ are so important to me. they remind me that no matter what is happening, no matter where i am, there is God & that is beautiful & that is well.

this is particularly helpful in the tenderloin.

every moment can’t help but be holy if you are surrounded by God. God is in this paper & this pen & this table & my bones & my cells & my soul. & everyone’s bones & cells & souls. & every awareness of that is worship. & it is easy & it is hard.”