Monthly Archives: May 2016


A week ago today I wrote from a boat cruising Southeast Alaska’s Inside Passage with 34 other Sacred Harp singers. When we reached Petersburg, a small town on Mitkof Island, I made my way to a computer in the public library and started typing my blog. Unfortunately, I timed out of my 30 minute allotment and everything I’d typed disappeared. So today I will try to recapture my musing from last week.

But first, perhaps a bit of background would be helpful. Our friend Kari Lundgren from Sitka had been planning this Sacred Harp cruise for almost a year. While it sounded wonderful, we had concluded that it was out of our reach. Three days before the ship was due to sail, Kari called with the news that another couple had experienced a medical emergency and had to cancel. They had been reimbursed by trip insurance, so Kari was offering us their space. What a gift. We managed to untangle ourselves from commitments made for the week, buy plane tickets to Juneau, and we were on our way.

On the second full day of the trip we headed into Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness, entering a narrow fjord leading to South Sawyer Glacier. On each side loomed giant granite walls scoured by the retreating glacier. As the captain maneuvered among the bergy bits (small chunks of floating ice from the glacier) we were all out on the deck watching birds and sea mammals along the way.

As we moved further into the fjord and approached the first of several big bends, we fell into an excited silence waiting to see what would be around that bend.  Would we get to see the glacier?  We didn’t sing, we didn’t talk. It was the closest thing to worship I experienced on the trip.  We kept going, bend after bend, until the way was clogged by larger chunks of ice, but we did get a view of the glacier and came away feeling satisfied.

Later, in musing about the experience, I wondered what it would be like if we approached our meetings for worship with that same sense of excited anticipation.  What if we truly waited expectantly for what might be revealed?




God as Mother

In preparation for pre-meeting Bible study yesterday, and in honor of Mother’s Day, I was pondering the maternal metaphors for God, pulling out files I had compiled almost a decade ago. These include tender images such as:

I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them.” (Hosea 11:4)

Other images suggest protection:

Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.” (Psa.17:8)

I gathered you as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.” (2 Esdras 1:30, quoted in Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34)

Not all the images of mother are tender and comforting as the mother hen.   God can also be a mother bear, fiercely defending her young:

I will fall upon them like a bear robbed of her cubs, and will tear open the covering of their heart.” (Hosea 13:8)  I guess we all know that mothers can be angry and judgemental, but this is not an image I relate to.

The image that struck me in a new way yesterday is that of God as a mother eagle:

As an eagle stirs up its nest, and hovers over its young; as it spreads its wings, takes them up, and bears them aloft on its pinions, the Lord alone guided him.” [Jacob in the desert] (Deuteronomy 32:10-11)

This image suggests a God who, like the mother eagle, pushes its children to grow and try new things.  Mother eagles teach their young to fly by pushing them out of the nest but catching them as they fall. God has been stirring up my nest lately, pushing me to go beyond my comfort zone in speaking out in public about climate change. There are days when I feel that undergirding of support, being borne aloft  on eagle’s wings, and there are other days when I experience the terror of falling.

Help! I don’t know how to fly!

Yes, you do. Trust me.




May Day

Yesterday was May Day. I have been musing about the different ways that date is celebrated in America, from marching labor unions to dancing earth goddesses. As a child in New England I wove baskets out of construction paper, filled them with wild flowers and hung them on the neighbors’ doorknobs.   Here in Fairbanks we don’t have wildflowers yet (except for a few intrepid dandelions), but yesterday I participated in a beautiful Beltane ceremony wearing a wreath woven from store-bought flowers. We danced around a Maypole, weaving our brightly colored ribbons into a lovely pattern.


Each of these ways of celebrating involves weaving, whether it is making interpersonal connections, affirming community solidarity, or creating a piece of impermanent art.   One of the songs we sang in the Peace Choir on Saturday night was “Famine Song,” based on a song sung by Sudanese women as they wove baskets during a time of drought. The weaving and singing together helped them through this hard time. For me, weaving means connection.


In doing the Maypole dance I observed how my color showed up in the pattern. It didn’t get blended into a whole but retained its distinctness as it intertwined with other colors. That makes me think about how in a Quaker meeting we each contribute our distinct spiritual gifts, weaving a pattern that is different from what any one of us could create on our own.

Then there are the words from one of my favorite hymns:

Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian (or Jewish or Muslim or whatever) love.

May you Blessed Be