Monthly Archives: March 2017

Shalom

My word for today is Shalom. This past weekend I encountered this word in various guises during the plenary talks and in the home group sessions at the Friends World Committee for Consultation Section of the Americas meeting. It means so much more than the English equivalent, peace. It can be used to mean wholeness, completeness, well-being, or, as Cornelius Plantinga puts it, “The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight.” In his talk during the weekend, Carl Magruder likened the state of Shalom to “God’s will on earth as it is in heaven.”

What does this concept mean for me today? I feel affirmed in my call to work for eco-justice, to work for Shalom. This concept lifts me up from the despair I sometimes feel these days when I listen to or read the news. Are we experiencing a “great unraveling,” as some writer claim (e.g.,Paul Krugman)? If so, does it precede the “Great Turning” that Joanna Macy writes about? On a personal level, I can relate to the idea that the egg must be cracked, the bread must be broken, the seed must burst, before transformation and growth can happen. I’m not so sure about the global level, but I think that positive change may be preceded by destruction. I don’t think it means that we should sit back and watch the destruction happen, nor should we spend our energy fighting each new onslaught. Rather, we should work toward that greater goal, hold out the vision of Shalom.

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Equinox

 

As I look out at the reflection of brilliant sunlight on the mountains of snow in our yard, the birch trees casting long shadows across the expanse, I rejoice that our solar panels are once again functioning (thanks to a young friend who climbed up on the roof and cleared the snow). Today is hailed as the first day of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere. That’s sort of a joke here in Alaska, if by Spring you mean daffodils and fruit trees bursting into bloom.

What this day means to me is that there are roughly equal amounts of daylight and dark all over the world. The word “Equinox” comes from Latin equi (equal) and nox (night).   While in our culture we don’t do much to celebrate this amazing fact, it seems significant to me. In Alaska it is particularly significant because it is only at the times of equinox that our days are sort of “normal.” From here on until the Summer Solstice, the amount of light will rapidly increase until there is no dark. But just for today, we hover with the rest of the world in equality.

If today the whole earth experiences equal amounts of light and dark, then can we also consider that each person on earth stands in equal relation to the Great Mystery/God/Creation?

“It is a stony road ahead but our faith will uphold us; the power to act is God’s power which is mediated through each of us as we give and receive support one from another. We can all listen if we will to the sounds of the earth, tuning into it with joy.”

(The book of Christian discipline of the Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain   25.02)

So one way to celebrate this day is to tune into the turning earth and recognize the equality of all beings under the sun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living toward heaven on earth

When asked what Quakers believe about the after-life, my stock answer is that we are more concerned with this life and don’t worry much about what happens when it’s over. Within the past couple of weeks I have had to confront this question in different ways. The first was a conversation with my elder sister, who was shocked when I said I didn’t expect to meet our parents in heaven. I know that ‘s a comforting idea for people, and I didn’t want to destroy it, because my sister just lost her husband and is confident that he is waiting for her there.   She said, ‘How can you live without hope?” I said that I lived with the hope of making this world a better place–the blessed community, the commonwealth of God.   I don’t know what happens when this body gives out. My sister was not happy with my response, wondering how I had fallen so far from the Truth we grew up with.

The second encounter, a week later, was singing in the Gospel Choir and hearing Bobby Lewis talk about how the slaves survived the horrors of their life on earth by singing “There’s a better world coming bye and bye, way up in the sky.” I love Bobby and am always uplifted by his positive messages and, of course, by the music. Somehow, unlike the encounter with my sister, I didn’t feel pushed into an either-or place. Rather, with Bobby it’s both-and. I’m not at all uncomfortable singing about heaven, because I can hold the idea of heaven on earth.   No argument.

The event that helped me bring it all together, really, was a memorial service for a friend’s mother, Anne. It occurred at the end of the Gospel Choir week, and the daughter asked if we could sing a number for her mother, who had also sung with us in the past.   Bobby sang “Just a Closer Walk with Thee.” Tears ran down my face as I remembered Bobby singing that song for my mother 14 years ago.   I had been with Mom through her time of dying and had just returned home, grieving and vulnerable. That song reached deep inside me and gave me hope, just as it did last week. Not hope that I will see Mom again but that her spirit continues in some form, enlightening the world–my world, at least.

Also at Anne’s memorial, her husband read a poem by Mary Oliver, “When Death Comes.” Wow. I have read it over several times since and it continues to amaze me. Here’s one line:

“When it’s over, I want to say all my life

I was a bride married to amazement.”

So I will step out into this day refreshed and hopeful. Living toward heaven on earth.