Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Quaker mission statement

This is the mission statement for Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker lobby group in Washington DC (in a very nice, historic, greened up building!)

We seek a world free of war and the threat of war
We seek a society with equity and justice for all
We seek a community where every person's potential may be fulfilled
We seek an earth restored.

Visit them at

I think as mission statements go, it's really good. In fact, I might rearrange it a bit and incorporate it into a personal mission statement. I would put society first, community second, world third, and earth 4th. Not that the earth matters least, but rather that the other 3, if in a good place, also benefit the earth and help restore it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

why vote?

Nearly every morning my inbox has something from the folks at Grist, an environmental newsletter and blog. Today I found a very cogent essay on the importance of voting, even in a flawed system, even if the candidates for president making us feel "none of the above."

Check this out!!!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


I don’t have a lot of pride but the little I do have gets me in trouble.

I am proud to be a Quaker, while at the same time flinching because pride is a sin.

I am proud of my writing skills. But this makes me extremely sensitive to comments on my writing, which does not go over too well at work.

I am proud of my extended family’s unity—but acutely aware of all the warts and flaws, and know that I would not choose to socialize with many of my cousins.

I am proud (I think) of my extended family’s academic prowess—and realize, however belatedly (I was in my 20s), that intelligence does not equate to virtue.

I am proud of my daughter, so is so eerily like me, and who has turned out so very well in so many ways. But I know that I had little to do with it, just my DNA and womb and doing my best.
Back to the gratitude thing: I am not proud to be American; I feel grateful to be American. I am quite lucky to live in a country free of the threat of war, in safe neighborhoods, with opportunities to improve my life and live well, with ample food, with clean water and air (relatively speaking of course).

Maybe I should practice more gratitude, and thank God for the ability to write fairly well, to thank God for putting me in a Quaker family, thank God that my father, as poor a father as he was, gave me the DNA to be healthy, intelligent, and a member of my extended family. And I do feel gratitude to historical Quakers for all the good they did. I didn’t do all those things. And I am deeply, deeply grateful that my daughter is so easy for me to love and raise.

Next time I feel some pride, I will not flinch or flog myself, I will quickly restate my thought to put gratitude into it.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Say Grace

I am grateful my family has a tradition of saying grace for dinner. We don't manage it for lunch or breakfast, which we don't often eat together. But we do nearly always eat dinner together. We join hands and have a few seconds of silence. Into this silence I have learned to pour out intense and efficient thanks, because neither my husband or daughter are as reverent as I, and often the silence is much too quick for my liking. So I very quickly thank God for the food, my health, the wealth that brings us food whenver we want it, the wealth to eat off china in a beautiful room with hardwood furniture and a gorgeous rug, and to buy the lovely light fixture that the empty china plate reflects. In fact I look for that reflection as a visual cue of what I can be thankful for.

Then I think about the incredible love and life the meal represents--all the workers who added value to the food, the families they love and support, the energy of the sun, the force of life....well I can't usually get all that into the few moments of grace, but I try.

Gratitude is a great practice. It's hard to be unhappy when you are feeling active gratitude. The habit of giving thanks is very wonderful. The idea of pausing before plunging into the joy of dinner makes the dinner a little better.

And I love that our grace tradition is solid enough that our guests know it and expect it, and even practice grace our way when we are guests with them!

Grace is good.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Deny Them Their Victory: A Religious Response to Terrorism

Here is a sad fact. Though all day long I was quite aware of the 9/11 anniversary and the need to pause to contemplate it, I was go, go, go, all day long. So I didn't have much still space in which to let truth arise.

But while I was scurrying, I found a gem to share. This was a statement issued after 9/11/2001, from more than 4,000 of America's religious leaders of all faiths. It was printed in the New York Times then, and is printed here today with my endorsement as well.


Deny Them Their Victory: A Religious Response to Terrorism

We, American religious leaders, share the broken hearts of our fellow citizens. The worst terrorist attack in history that assaulted New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania has been felt in every American community. Each life lost was of unique and sacred value in the eyes of God, and the connections Americans feel to those lives run very deep. In the face of such a cruel catastrophe, it is a time to look to God and to each other for the strength we need and the response we will make. We must dig deep to the roots of our faith for sustenance, solace and wisdom.

First, we must find a word of consolation for the untold pain and suffering of our people. Our congregations will offer their practical and pastoral resources to bind up the wounds of the nation. We can become safe places to weep and secure places to begin rebuilding our shattered lives and communities. Our houses of worship should become public arenas for common prayer, community discussion, eventual healing, and forgiveness.

Second, we offer a word of sober restraint as our nation discerns what its response will be. We share the deep anger toward those who so callously and massively destroy innocent lives, no matter what the grievances or injustices invoked. In the name of God, we too demand that those responsible for these utterly evil acts be found and brought to justice. Those culpable must not escape accountability. But we must not, out of anger and vengeance, indiscriminately retaliate in ways that bring on even more loss of innocent life. We pray that President Bush and members of Congress will seek the wisdom of God as they decide upon the appropriate response.

Third, we face deep and profound questions of what this attack on America will do to us as a nation. The terrorists have offered us a stark view of the world they would create, where the remedy to every human grievance and injustice is a resort to the random and cowardly violence of revenge -- even against the most innocent. Having taken thousands of our lives, attacked our national symbols, forced our political leaders to flee their chambers of governance, disrupted our work and families, and struck fear into the hearts of our children, the terrorists must feel victorious.

But we can deny them their victory by refusing to submit to a world created in their image. Terrorism inflicts not only death and destruction but also emotional oppression to further its aims. We must not allow this terror to drive us away from being the people God has called us to be. We assert the vision of community, tolerance, compassion, justice, and the sacredness of human life, which lies at the heart of all our religious traditions. America must be a safe place for all our citizens in all their diversity. It is especially important that our citizens who share national origins, ethnicity, or religion with whoever attacked us are, themselves, protected among us.

Our American illusion of invulnerability has been shattered. From now on, we will look at the world in a different way, and this attack on our life as a nation will become a test of our national character. Let us make the right choices in this crisis -- to pray, act, and unite against the bitter fruits of division, hatred and violence. Let us rededicate ourselves to global peace, human dignity, and the eradication of the injustice that breeds rage and vengeance.

As we gather in our houses of worship, let us begin a process of seeking the healing and grace of God.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

We cannot kill our way to victory

This is all over the web today, and I want to amplify it just a little more. Yesterday the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen said “We cannot kill our way to victory.”

Good words to hear from a military person. He is right, dead right (so to speak). Are we better off than 6 years ago, which was post 9-11 but before we invaded Iraq? I think not. Our nation's stature in the world has eroded. Our economy is fragile; so is our planet.

A Quaker lobby group, Friends Committee on National Legislation, offers a bumper sticker that states Quaker-plainly, "War is not the answer." It is great that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff seems to agree!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

12 steps to peace making

Here is a fine list of tangible steps we can take to build peace, right where we are. I list them here and invite you to suggest examples and experiences.

1. Pray for peace and for one another.
2. See faces.
3. Learn names and stories.
4. Take the first step.
5. Reach out and touch.
6. Find common ground.
7. Make relationships concrete.
8. Give peace offerings.
9. Learn languages.
10. Eat together.
11. Celebrate together.
12. Stand with those in danger.

I love to visit this list now and then. As I just typed it I remembered it is NOT a 12-step program per se.

But I am on step 4 right now. I have a coworker I don't really like. But I have to get along with her, and our boss has expressly said to make it work, and make the tension go away.

Step 4 is take the first step. What might it be? For a few weeks I made a point of greeting her in the a.m. (she always gets there before I do). A few times it was barely a thaw, and once or twice I encountered some friendliness. Maybe I could get help from step 6, and find common ground. Somewhere there must be some.

I will believe we have made peace when she invites me, or accepts my invite, to something. Or greets me when I get to work.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Let's not talk about candidates' persaonal lives

Can we talk about the elections and focus on the nation's issues, rather than the candidates' personal lives?

My mother liked to point out that despite his huge popularity, John Kennedy was not a great president. And his successor, LBJ, though well known as a master tactician, actually got a lot down. Civil Rights Act, EEOC, for example. I was always quick to dismiss Clinton's zipper problems. And if Bush had any zippper problems, I would dismiss those too (albeit more reluctantly).

I don't think the mother of an infant, especially one with Down Syndrome, should take on a job as grueling as campaigning for the second highest office in the land. But that is to cricitize Sarah Palin's record as a mother. When considering her for the #2 spot in our nation, I will look to her record as a mayor and a governor.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Peace Be With You

Peace, love, happiness. good stuff. They all connect. Here's an example.

Today the weather was nice and I was in a pretty good mood, so it was easy to spread a little joy. I walked cheerfully over the land (some of it, anyway) and answered that of God in others. I smiled. I made eye contact and smiled some more. I said please and thank you.

This was not romantic love. This was add-to-the-good-in-the-universe love. My father was really good at it, though not good in many other areas (keeping a grip on reality, for example). But I learned some good values from him, and one of them is the old Golden Rule.

Today I think I brightened the day for a lot of other people.

On a macro level, the Golden Rule means not waging war on others, not stealing or harming others, not lying or cheating. Countries should practice the Golden Rule too.

I live on a micro level, however, so on that level, Peace Be With You.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


Our culture is invisible to us, our accents are invisible to us. What else? What else can we not see, and not know about ourselves?

Do we realize the impacts of our actions? I think that sometimes we do and sometimes we don’t. I know that when I make an effort to smile and say kind things, I add to the Good in the universe. And when I am short with others, or waste or harm, I am adding to the Bad in the universe. And good begets good, and bad begets bad. So on a micro level, and a conscious level, the answer is Yes.

But on an unconscious level—my choice of job, home, and auto, for example, I am less confident.

Yesterday, while waiting for the bus, I counted the number of single-occupant cars passing me, and tried to find the ratio of single- to multiple-occupant cars. I think a fair estimate is 10:1 or 15:1. So every time I drive my car and I am alone, I’m part of that parade.

Pluck a flower, shake a star.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Are we rich?

Yesterday I tried to look at my neighborhood through the eyes of someone from a different country. "Are you rich?" the visitor asked me in my mind. Well, so-so. Some folks have trouble making ends meet, either through bad fortune or bad decisions. Others have their needs met and money left over for fun, though they doubtless want more than they have. None would admit to being rich--Is this a uniquely American trait? But really, all the people in my neighborhood are comfortable, have enough to eat, and have a safe and comfortable place to live. And we all live in an area free of violence, lately anyway. So I think we are very rich, though not ostentatiously.

I want to buy something in the $600 range that is completely optional. But my pets have been ill, and my spouse brought home a bill from the dentist in the $750 range. So I will wait to buy the optional service I want. I am not poor. I could find the $$, but I would rather keep the $$ in savings. I am not poor. I am actually quite blessed, be able to choose and to be able to pay the dental bill and the vet bill.