What child is this...

I recently came across this article about prenatal genetic testing. It talks about how some people who are deaf or have dwarfism are interested in IVF of embryos that will grow into children with their same genetic difference. I am opposed to IVF and other fertility treatments, not because I think the procedures are "playing god" as some say, but because I consider it fairly selfish to go through extraordinary means to obtain a child with shared genes when there are so many children at home and abroad who need homes.

When I was in college I attended a screening of videos other students had made for a class. As a part of one video, there was an interview with a middle-aged lesbian couple. When they were asked the question "if you had a child would you prefer them to be gay or straight?" one woman replied that she hoped her hypothetical child would be gay. Her partner answered that she would prefer her child to be straight, because she wouldn't want her own child to face the same kind of discrimination she had faced.

When someone decides to have a child, they usually want what is best for the child. They want their child to have all of the good things in their life and none of the bad. Nurture doesn't always work. You can raise up a child in the way you think he should go but in the end, he may well depart from it. Folks are thinking about manipulating nature in order to help influence the kind of person they get to raise. That makes a lot of sense. The only problem (other than the slippery slope towards eugenics) is that the foolishness of God is wiser than men.

I believe that we are all children of God, in possession of a great potential only known by God. My professional/academic accomplishments, financial status, medical history, race, gender, orientation, abilities/disabilities do not have any relationship with my worth as a human being. We are all one in Christ.

The human race seems to have the "go forth and multiply" thing down. We seem to be struggling more with the keeping "orphans and widows out of distress" part.

Elizabeth Bathurst


A story about prayer

I would really like to go to bed right now, but I don't think I can without sharing this story here. I'm in such a good mood that I don't seem to mind this prompting in the slightest.
This morning, I was lying in bed with a terrible migraine. I was feeling worthless for missing work and being weak. I was in a very bleak place, perhaps the worst I've been since I was in the hospital earlier this fall. Lying in the dark, waiting for the migraine drugs to kick in, I was being mindful of how being in physical pain affects my mental health and trying not to take my dark thoughts too seriously.
I tried to think of things that I could do once my headache cleared that would help improve my mood and had the snotty thought that if so-and-so would just call, things would be a lot easier to handle because I've have something tangible to look forward to. I heard the tone of my internal voice and decided to ask for help. I didn't call my therapist, since I was still too sensitive to sound to talk on the phone. I decided to pray.
When I pray, I don't pray for the pain to go away, or for a boy to like me, or for the job I want or to win the lottery or for a specific outcome in an election. I feel that there is too much presumption and pride in asking for these things, as if to ask for my aunt to be healed of breast cancer were questioning God's Plan for her life.
What I do pray for are comfort, strength and/or direction. This morning, I prayed for the strength to get through those dark moments. I prayed for a while and I may have dozed off a little while praying. The next thing I knew, my phone was ringing and the pain in my head was gone. It was that phone call that would supposedly make everything better. The one that might make it easier to be hopeful even when things get really ugly.
It feels good to have gotten what I wanted, but it feels better to know that I did the right thing. I feel centered and holy, even, knowing that in the heat of the moment, in the darkness where I needed Him the most I was able to cast aside the petulant child and be the faithful servant He so desires me to be. It sounds a little like pride, but it is something entirely different. It's the precious feeling that only comes from believing that everything is right between me and God. There is nothing better in the world and I have only found it in perfect obedience.
This evening, I am going to bed with words of praise on my lips. I hope that each of you, dear Friends, can do the same.

With Love,
Elizabeth Bathurst


In This Spirit

Unfortunately, Friends, I will be unable to write with any frequency till late in December. I have several commitments that need my full attention. And I must say there has been a tone of late that I am not sure I want to feed anymore. I wish I were godlier or more humble and did not fall so hard and so fast to the bait, alas, hypocrisy mine, yours, or ours is a hard thing to ignore. So Friends, I am leaving you with a few items to reflect on--happy trails, till we meet again.

Advices and queries are not a call to increased activity by each individual Friend but a reminder of the insights of the Society. Within the community there is a diversity of gifts. We are all therefore asked to consider how far the advices and queries affect us personally and where our own service lies. There will also be diversity of experience, of belief and of language. Friends maintain that expressions of faith must be related to personal experience. --Quaker Faith and Practice, The Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends in Britain, 1995

Here are the following Queries from the British Faith and Practice:

Do you respect that of God in everyone though it may be expressed in unfamiliar ways or be difficult to discern? Each of us has a particular experience of God and each much find the way to be true to it. When words are strange or disturbing to you, try to sense where they come from and what has nourished the lives of others. Listen patiently and seek the truth which other people's opinions may contain for you. Avoid hurtful criticism and provocative language. Do not allow the strength of your convictions to betray you into making statements or allegations that are unfair or untrue. Think it possible that you may be mistaken.


Every stage of our lives offers fresh opportunities. Responding to divine guidance, try to discern the right time to undertake or relinquish responsibilities without undue pride or guilt. Attend to what love requires of you, which may not be great busyness.


It is the little things; let your life speak

When I was in high school I had to read a autobiography or biography for a class assignment. I talked with my grandmother a former librarian and general fount of wisdom. I wanted a woman with some spark and fire. She recommended that I read "The Long Loneliness" by Dorothy Day.

Dorothy Day has been one of my personal heroe's ever since. I am not big on idolizing people who are not real people in my life, but Dorothy is one of the few. Something about her search for community and a life which lived out one's convictions spoke to me. I was also taken up with her struggle to be a person of faith while surrounded by many who were doubters.

In college my spirituality was deepening and maturing. At one point I felt that the only way to live my convictions was to live in an intentional community. I lived in a Catholic Worker for awhile. It was a wonderful time filled with service and spirit. I was very close to dropping out of school and giving my life over to the work of the Catholic Worker communities. Something changed though and I have felt that my vioce is needed to change and persuade those with means and priviledge that we must change the social structures that oppress our humanity. For as we keep economic opportunity, health, education, and oppurtunity from any of our brothers and sisters we in turn our keeping our own humanity disadvantaged.

One of the most important things I have taken from Dorothy is that we don't know the effect our actions will have on another. Even the smallest action has the potential to dramatically affect another person. The true miracle of this is that we will never know how our interactions can alter another person. Few of us will ever know that 10 years down the road someone will be reminded of some small kindness and it will have made a positive impact somewhere. Conversely, negative behaviors carry at least as much impact--sometimes more. This idea is much like that of "letting your life speak." While letting your personal decisions reflect your moral character, at the heart of this Quakerly sentiment is that we are all children of god and deserve to be treated as such. It means let your words ring with kindness and truth. Let your life be a mindful and intentional one, but not at the expense of another. And do not judge those who do not live like you.

After college I spent some time in the same Catholic Worker community that I had lived previously. I remember being in the kitchen one day and reading the notes on the canisters of sugar. I was rather shocked that one note said something about the sugar being unbleached, raw, etc. The wording of the note was such that I was shocked because of the expression of middle class values. That everyone should eat certain foods and buy organic...but this was in a home of hospitality for the homeless. If a person cannot afford housing then they are just happy to eat. And organic foods and foods with a conscience are expensive. Until they are affordable one should not expect the poor to eat them. Nor should we assume that people want to eat crap, but if a pound of sugar costs less than two dollars and unbleached organic raw sugar costs 6 dollars...what do expect most of us to do? Just as my parents would go back off the grid in a heartbeat, if it wasn't so expensive to rewire the house and buy solar panels.

Now the difficulty with being faithful to making the most of all interactions and letting your life speak in big and small ways, is that it is easier said than done. I sometimes forget to let my words ring with kindness...truth is easier (but I tend to channel an angrier god than a god of love). Sometimes I take the elavator instead of the stairs. And I often judge others quickly and rarely change my mind...but again I point to Thomas Kelley, "begin where you are. We all stumble, but begin again."


Query #10

Are we concerned that man's increasing power over nature should not be used irresponsible but with reverence for life and with a sense of the splendor of God's continuing creation?
I'm concerned with the way that modern agriculture affects the earth and I don't feel I'm doing enough to counteract it, either with my power as a consumer or in any other way. I do feel the need to discuss environmentally sound agriculture with people when it comes up, hopefully in a way that allows for further though on all ends.

I feel pretty good about the transportational choices I make. Between car-sharing, public transportation and a whole lot of walking, I feel as though my regular transportation choices are very good for minimizing pollution.

I'm concerned about how to be more expressive of my support for green political causes. I do pay close attention to the issues and vote accordingly, but I'm not sure that I'm making any sort of an impact. But the query isn't asking what I'm doing or what kind of an impact I'm making on our collective human stewardship of the planet. It's just asking if I'm concerned about it. So the simple answer is yes.

Elizabeth Bathurst

P.S. You might want to check out this previous post about the queries.


My Glass Menagerie

I have come to realize that I collect people. Not in some freaky way, by putting them in a display case for my own amusement. Rather, this collection finds their way into my life: The friendless, misunderstood, lonely, drunk, up-standing, freaks, social outcasts, sinners, and saints. I have always had an odd asortment of friends.

This was most recently illustrated during the beginning of a new semester. In one particular class, there was one individual who seemed to be generally disliked by the majority of the class. I tried talking with my classmates one day explaining that this is my third class with the individual in question. I tried to explain that while most of what comes out of his mouth is phrased in such a way as to make the hairs on the back of your next stand on end, when you really listen to the essence of his statements--underneath the word choice, he isn't so far off. The looks I recieved told me they were not convinced.

The next class was worse. People seemingly ganged up on the poor guy. As I said he and I have had two prior classes together and have reached an understanding. So while I may challenge what he is saying, he knows it is not personal but more philosophical in nature. The third class rolled around, again having attempted to have my classmates look more at the content rather than the vocabulary...however, this class the individual moved to sit closer to me. I have found the more I talk to him one on one outside of class the better he is able to clearly direct his discussion points in class. While this has not eased tensions, it has made a difference in the class dynamics.

I was explaining this situation to a friend who is also in the course and is familiar with my struggles with this individual. I admitted that this is not the first person I have taken "under my wing" unethusiastically, but have made a lasting friendship with. She said, "Its because you are always looking for the light in a person. You always find their good qualities and bring them out."

I was a bit taken aback. She isn't a quaker, yet her observation was put in quaker terms. It made me think...that perhaps this is part of me. The caretaker, I see the darkened soul and want to make it shine again. And I guess its true because some of my "menagerie" is broken and that takes its toll on me. It is not that I have any illusions about this making me some kind of saint...I have no illusions of grandeaur when it come to myself.


Don't play with dead birds; they leave scars

I recently came across some free writing I had done in preparation for a poem I have yet to finish. It was about a dead bird I had seen, laying on a busy sidewalk. Some of the phrases and images are good, but there isn't a cohesive thought behind the poem yet. Mostly because I'm not clear how I feel about the idea of God and the sparrow. You know the sparrow I'm talking about:

Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home,
When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

I've always had trouble with the idea that God is taking care of all of us, down to the smallest of us. Sparrows freeze to death, get hunted for sport by well-fed housecats, get hit by cars. Surely if each individual sparrow mattered, they wouldn't be prone to senseless deaths. Never mind the meaningless suffering of people around the world from poverty, hunger, war, etc. Why doesn't God care enough to stop suffering?

But the verses that it is based on, Matthew 10:29-31, don't say that the sparrow will come to no harm. It says that if the sparrow comes to harm, it is through the Father. Not only did God know about that dead bird on the sidewalk in front of Moody's Falafel Palace, he let it die. That seems even more callus than not knowing/caring about the fate of the sparrow.

The important lesson for me isn't around the symbolism of the dead bird. It's all about I value judgment I made a couple paragraphs back. I decided that the sparrow's death was senseless or meaningless. And I don't get to decide things like that. Just a few verses earlier in Matthew 10 we are told that "there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed" or "hid that shall not be known". We are reminded not to fear anyone other than the Lord. If something bad happens, God knows why.

If we are suffering and we can find no reason why He should let us suffer, we should not curse Him, nor doubt Him. He's got a plan. He's keeping an eye on us and it'll all make sense later. I can get so caught up in myself and my sense of what is fair that I forget that "the foolishness of God is wiser than men and the weakness of God is stronger than men." (1 Corinthians 1:25).

I'm feeling pretty weak and foolish right now, so it's comforting to know that He's got His eye on me and that I don't need to understand anything else right now.

Elizabeth Bathurst


An update from Crazy Camp.

I wanted to drop a quick note to let folks know that I am doing a lot better. I had said this before, but my doctor, upon seeing me in the middle of a bad day, disagreed. Together we decided that spending a few days in the hospital would be a good idea. I ended up spending two weeks in the hospital, five days or so in a locked ward, and then a little over a week in a partial program.

I've started a new medication that is working wonders. I've learned how to make some of my coping skills more effective and I've gained some valuable insights into my illness. My improvement has been so incredible and life-changing that I still need some time to adjust.

I intend to be back to blogging soon, if only to keep Friend James properly supervised at first. Your continued prayers are appreciated as I readjust to life on the outside.

Elizabeth Bathurst


May thy heart sing

My favorite season is Autumn. There is something about a day when the air is clean and crisp with the bluest of skys that makes my heart sing.

Ironically, fall is the time of year that things are the hardest for my mental health. Its been about a year since I got the courage to begin treating my depression. I had always had a fear of going into public...but when I began crying and hyperventilating at a bank, I decided I coundn't continue like this anymore. What I found the hardest was learning that being happy is ok. That I really do deserve to go through life with all the negetivity in my head muted to a dull roar...I actually have the ability now to see that all that noise is just noise. I don't come from a background where therapy is an option...just pull yourself together and get through it, no one has it easy, quit your whining. Or better yet, never under any circumstances admit that your bad moods, which include sitting in a dark room drinking after work are a problem, much less depression--aren't midwesterners great!

My best friend from college has a history of clinical depression. Its been a really hard year for her. Things have gotten worse of late. I asked her if she wanted me there, she said no. I had urged her a few months ago to talk with her social support network in the city she lives in. I have met them, they are good people. It took time but she has let them in and they are standing with her in her time of need. I have been talking to her two or three times a day for the last week, but its not the same as being physically with her. I am so grateful that she is surrounded in a loving community. Really that is all a person can hope for in a lot of ways.

I know she hears the strain in my voice when she talks to me. Its one part worry and one part trying to decern what is appropriate to say. She has always been the one I go to when I am unwell...but I can't burden her right now. It is important that she get to a good place and learn ways to maintain it. She has just discovered the fact (that through proper medications) life can be wonderful, that it is possible for people like us to live in ways other people do. It is a joyful revelation and one of the most terrifying I have ever experienced. And everyday is not perfect, but the weight of it all is so much lighter. I can now navigate through life easier. I pray that what she is experiencing right now will continue, that finally she can actualize her potential without being weighted down with depression.


Social reject and general pariah

I have recently gotten lured into the weird "quaker cyber-culture" of blogging...what I mean is I have been spending more time looking at the cyber community Quakers are creating. I like some of what is out there like A Place to Stand (granted he's family with Ms. Bathurst, who is like a sister to me). Some make me think, some remind me why I have a hard time with corprate worship these days, and some speak to my condition...but really I would prefer to be under the radar. I know that my ramblings are reaching someone if they so choose and perhaps it provides entertainment or ministers to their condition...but really it is a way of keeping connected to my own spiritual needs in my time in the desert.

Really why did I decide to start this blog with "Ms. Bathurst." Well...for reasons stated in some of the earliest entries. I really feel that many young adult friends are wandering and not connecting back to Quakers. I am one of those. I want to be apart of meeting and the spiritual community offered, but I never feel like I am what meetings want in a young friend. They want someone to be the poster child for the next generation of Quakers, someone who will join committees and have lengthy discussions about their spiritual resume and who will make a meeting proud to send to events like the World Gathering of Young Friends that took place not to long ago; young adult friends whose enthusiasm, piousness, devotion, and blandness (I am sorry simplicity is what I meant) will make our fraidy-cat brand of contemporary Quakerism proud...keep up the status-quo, don't rock the boat.

Ooops, I am slipping into anger. I have been struggling with the idea that this blog is a form of ministry since we began. I like the idea of getting my ideas out, instead of rolling around in my head. But I can't promise to always be speaking in the proper Quaker manner, something like being PC only its more like QC. Its why I liked the article that was picked up nationally from the Philadelphia Inquirer...those Friends speak my mind. I have a lot of respect for the AFSC and Philadelphia Yearly meeting has its place, but that is not the center of the Quaker world.

I don't want anyone telling me how to blog. Or have a Quaker Blogging Faith and Practice. The more we create a "quaker cyber-culture" the more it will resemble the current status-quo of Quakerism and the less visionary it will be. I don't want to express myself differently. I have been thinking on and off for months on the fact that this is a form of ministry. I am better at writing with the spirit than speaking from it in meeting. But I won't necessarily express my understanding of the spirit the way others see as appropriate for a quaker. In fact I like functioning in ignorance from the other quaker blogs. Mostly because I don't have time to find them and then read them. I am actually trying to conduct translational research that will aid people rather than resting on my laurels, which happened at least 30 years ago or more. And if anyone thinks I am being too acidy for a young upstart...I have the Quaker pedigree to back myself and the knowledge of OUR history to keep saying these things though you won't see me attending every committee known to quaker and functioning soley in the insular world of quaker-dom.


The reality of race part II (miscegation is awesome!)

I have recently encountered several people with the mind-set that you shouldn't date people from other cultures (too many cultural differences). It's odd how anthropology has become pop-cultured and now people talk using its terminology...but its used to hide behind things instead of for seeking a greater understanding of the world...though considering that it came out of a white-colonialist-academic setting I guess that isn't surprising. However, through my interaction with people in the fields of Anthropology and Sociology the vast majority tend to view dating someone from a different culture with more openness ie that while there may be cultural differences it is not all that different from all the other more "typical issues" involved in dating anyone (even those with a background similar to your own). My only concern with dating someone from another culture is when there is a language difference. Communication or lack of it is a bigger issue than culture or race. I mean I often can't communicate effectively with my own family.

This is not to downplay the role nationality or race will impact a relationship, I have recently started dating someone from another country. We are having some issues in the early stages of our dating. Rather than bore you with those details, I will say that the funny thing is that despite people saying its cultural differences...his behavior is pretty much like any other guy I ever thought I could end up in a relationship with. Which in fact may say more about me...back to the point. I have grown up in an untraditional household, granted from the outside it would seem typical: white middle class, two parents and whatever else is supposed to indicate "normal american." However, I grew up in the rural mid-west, part of my life was spent without indoor plumbing and living "off the grid" ie solar power (though there was a brief time with kerosene lamps), we had the use of a wood stove for our primary heat source for a number of years, and I even lived in a cabin with only a loft, no bedrooms. This list is an incomplete g;impse of why I am not really "typical" especially by american standards.

I don't really get men (or boys cause there is a lot of grey area about when a boy becomes a man, he may be 30 and still a child of sorts) and I am definately not an east coaster by nature. I embody too many of the deeply instilled mid-western qualities to really ever become fully adjusted to the east coast whether I am living in the south or the north. By this logic I have been dealing with "cultural differences" for 9 years. So taking the step and dating an African isn't so far-fetched. I mean New Yorkers, New Englanders, and North Carolinans are all pretty foriegn to me. The issues in my new relationship aren't so much "cultural differences" unless the cultural differences we are talking about are men vs women.

I guess what bothers me so much is that the people who have told me not date someone from another culture are hiding behind cultural differeces, when it is racism. Cultural differences was not mentioned when I was briefly infatuated with a European last year. It's attitudes like this that really pisses me off. I guess what is interesting about this situation is that it is a dear F/friend I like a lot and care about saying what is essentially racist BS. But she has no idea that its racist or that it is a good example of Northern racism having never been challenged to think about race before. I have been spoiled with all of my friends being pretty much aligned with my personal views on such topics.

Of course what we are talking about here is also addressed in "Jungle Fever" and I think that the movie tells us that it can never work (inter-racial dating) not because of so-called "cultural differences" but society's prejudices and the history of racial tensions especially in America. I watched it again recently and was a little pissy with Spike Lee for making it seem like we need to not date across racial lines...whatever those are. I think more people need to date interracially. The more it happens the less people freak out about it. Miscegenation is awesome! That is why the movie made me so sad. I felt like it made things seem hopeless.

And if things are hopeless what does that say about America? Where does that put those who are bi-racial or multi-racial? Are we always going to be afraid of the "other?" Once in this country we labeled the Irish as black on the census...there is a tale in my family that when my grandparents got married the Irish sat on one side of the church and the Germans sat on the other. There are no photos from the wedding. Of course in contemporary America no one thinks twice about Irish heritage or finds it shameful. Thus, the sociologist in me says, "See race is just a social construct!" So first a generation marries different ethinic groups, but within the same religion. Then their kids marry folks from different religions and the next generation is even more likely to marry (I am using that term to illustrate the historical precendent and evolution of social mores--so substitute partnership or whatever if you prefer) who they choose for love whether that is someone of the same sex or of a different race.

So here is to the cultural differences of men and women. And I understand that this is not going to be the first instance of racist attitudes that will try to influnce my current relationship but if we avoid examining such things we can never get to the root cause and work to change things. Whether such negative attitudes are being expressed by whites, African-Americans, Africans, Latinos, or Koreans they are still at their foundation prejudicial and ultimately racist. We all carry the means for racism within us, what matters is if we take time to examine and deconstruct it for positive change or if we let it continue to inform our thoughts and actions no matter how subtley.


Query #9

The Faith and Practice of NCYM-C (which is available online here) includes lists of queries for monthly meetings, ministry and oversight, and individuals. The reading of the monthly meetings' query answers is a very important part of our sessions and so too is the answering of individual queries a significant gauge of my own spiritual life. The queries allow for regular introspection into every facet of our spiritual lives as individuals and as groups. The formality of the monthly structure does not allow allow me to disregard the questions that are uncomfortable.

The following is the 9th Query for Individuals and my answer:

#9 How have I contributed to the spiritual growth of the Society of Friends? What have I done as a member of my meeting for worship and meeting for business to carry out my responsibilities as a member of the Society of Friends?

I have to admit, I haven't been to a business meeting in ages. I keep in contact with my home meeting, something that would be far more difficult if the clerk of my meeting wasn't also one of my parents. I'm able to give input into meeting decisions via long-distance calls and feel that my involvement in the meeting is appropriate for the distance involved.
I do feel that I use my NCYM-C membership as an excuse to be under-involved with the giant liberal meeting that I attend. When the spirit moves me I attend worship and give ministry, but I have avoided getting involved in the life of the meeting I attend. I tried attending the biweekly Bible study, but found that my more traditional interpretations of Scripture weren't always welcome. It is a major flaw of mine to back down from conflict. I feel so uncomfortable in the big NEYM meeting I attend that I didn't turn in the letter of sojourn that was written for me. In order to remedy my lack of contribution to the big yucky meeting, I am seriously considering teaching first day school at the meeting this trimester. The set curriculum for this trimester is Quaker History, an area which ought to be relatively similar throughout the branches of Quakerism and not cause me any conflicts. I'm not committing to teaching the class until I've seen the curriculum and I'm certain that I am clear to teach it.
I do feel that I am contributing to the spiritual health of the Society of Friends by blogging here. It has given me a new medium to discuss spirituality and faith with people that I might never have spoken with in person about such issues.

While I have been using the personal queries as part of my own spiritual practice for some time now, I'm going to try to publish my answers here on occasion. I imagine that I will occasionally feel the need to keep my answers private. I may, for those months, post the query without an answer.

Elizabeth Bathurst


An explanation of sorts

As my father (who has started blogging recently over at A Place to Stand) pointed out to me recently, I haven't posted anything since the end of July. The reason for this is simple. My mental health has declined and blogging isn't as high a priority as feeding myself, changing the litterbox or getting to my doctor's appointments. Blogging requires thought and thinking too much can be dangerous for me when I'm in this dark a place.

I will share this story with you all, however. This past weekend, I found myself crouched over the hospital bed of a dear friend while we waited for the psych consult to arrive. At one point, she was frantic and deeply concerned that God didn't love her because she had done bad things. In order to comfort her, I told her that I also often feel that I am a horrible person who has done unforgivable things. But I also know that God has forgiven me and that God loves me, because He has told me so. I believe that if He can forgive and love me, then that love and forgiveness must be accessible to everyone, because I am so not special.

I don't know how much she retained of that conversation, as her memories of our night in the ER are incomplete and scattered. I do know that in the moment, I was able to comfort her because she physically relaxed a little. It's moments like that, when I can draw on my long and ugly history of living with mental illness, that I can make some sense of why He would let me suffer the way that I do.

I ask for your prayers for myself and for my friend, but especially for all of the people who are helping to care for us.

Elizabeth Bathurst

P.S. I am starting to feel better and hope to be back to blogging soon.


Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.

I attended Rob's experiment in semi-programmed worship yesterday evening. As we waited for everyone to gather, some of us discussed how we had spent our morning. Few of us had attended meeting for worship. When I mentioned I had gone to brunch with my heathen friends, everyone laughed.

During the service, Rob read the 4th query from Britain Yearly Meeting:
The Religious Society of Friends is rooted in Christianity and has always found inspiration in the life and teachings of Jesus. How do you interpret your faith in the light of this heritage? How does Jesus speak to you today? Are you following Jesus' example of love in action? Are you learning from his life the reality and cost of obedience to God? How does this relationship with God challenge and inspire you?

I cannot calculate the cost of my obedience to God. I cannot fathom what I might have gained or lost by following my own desires above His. I know that the greatest treasure I possess is the intimate knowledge of His Redemptive Grace, which I discovered through utter submission to His will.

One of the ways in which He guides me occasionally is through the selection of my friends. Amongst my dearest friends are the prostitutes and the tax-collectors (Matthew 21:32). Those of us who live in the dirt are most in need of Love. When I console and council my dearest and their friends as one who has struggled and does struggle with the depravity of the human spirit, I am doing His work.

While I value the friendships I have with Quakers and relative ease with which I can discuss spirituality, the majority of my friends and acquaintances are religious and many appear on the surface to have very minimal spiritual lives. It's not my intention to bring anyone to Christ. It is my intention to be obedient to Christ and to feed His lambs and care for His sheep (John 21:15-16), for we are all children of God, whether we are aware of it or not. If we insulate ourselves with like-minded folks who look like we do, we are not living in the world. There is much work to be done inside the Society of Friends, but far more to be done outside of it. We are called to be a part of the Kingdom of Heaven and all are welcome.

I will continue to minister from the ugliness of my own life to the sick, the troubled and the weary regardless of their genetic make-up, belief structure, and station in life because despair is a universal condition. Knowing that one is not alone in the dark can be more comforting than being told of a light.

This is how I am called to express Love in action. This is the cross Christ has asked me to bear.

Elizabeth Bathurst


Give and take

Giving ministry is hard work. Sometimes as I center into worship, I hear that still small voice I know so well. I tend to get anywhere from a word to a couple of sentences that repeat over and over. Sometimes it starts well before meeting as I prepare for worship. When I get the rumblings of ministry, I contemplate what the phrase means. I explore it in as many directions as I have time before something happens.

If I'm meant to share my message, I feel a quiver of fear and the power of the Lord. If the message is for me, I never get that quivering certainty that I have to stand. I'm often overly grateful for the handshake that means I don't have to speak. I hate giving ministry.

When I speak the Holy Spirit moves through me. I retreat to a quieter, smaller space and give my body over to the Lord. I'm only aware of speaking the phrase I was given, and anything I say to preface it. I rarely remember much what I say after the fact.

I hate speaking in front of people in general, but speaking deep spiritual and emotional truths is far worse. I don't want these strangers to have access to the deepest parts of me. I'd rather keep it secret, keep it safe. It is a distinctly dissociative event, which can be traumatic.

If I stand up and give the message the moment I feel shaky, the experience is just draining. If I postpone it until He lifts me off the bench, it's awful. It can take me several hours to fully reinhabit my body. When I resist giving a message, I get physically ill.

Several times over the past few weeks, I've had people bring up the idea that being a part of a meeting of any size is a give-and-take relationship. You can't just go to meeting to get what you need, you have to give back. Even when the meeting isn't meeting your needs and it feels like you have nothing left to give.


Elizabeth Bathurst


The reality of race

I read in the paper this morning that crime is rising in DC with the heat-wave with 14 homicides in 2 weeks. I wondered how Baltimore's crime wave was doing, as 8 homicides in a week is not too unusual. Things have seemed quiet despite the heat.

I was coming back from working on a report at an all-night dinner. Sometimes I just need a new venue to get work done. I was sober, but tired. I always worry about hitting someone. Despite being one of those annoying pedestrians myself, who always walks out into streets with oncoming traffic, I still as a motorist get nervous. I was driving along a road that is a major thorough-fare in town and there were several groups of young men along the road. I was more worried that I might hit them...untill I saw one making to through something at my car. I though maybe it will be an egg, I can wash that off. But it was a rock or a brick. It hit my car. Thankfully, it didn't hit the window. But there is a nice dent and some serious scratches...I thought do I call the cops? Well, I don't think little punk-asses should be doing shit like that, though its better than other deviant activities...so I called the cops. Its only the second time I have had to do that (for a non-work related incidence). I guess I should feel good that I have had so little crime in my life...but you call, you give the location, the cop automatically thinks it s a place about five blocks from where it was cause that would be normal. Then he asks me to describe the persons..."where they black or white kids" Part of me hates to contribute to the amount of black men getting harrassed by the law, but damn it don't be throwing shit. But my white guilt rears up and says what might happen now? What if the cops do go and harrass them and they stop for tonight and eventually move on to more dangerous things. But the rest of me says, "Well, if that had gone through one of my windows, it could have caused an accident or injured a passenger if I had had one."

I am not the typical white mid-west kid. I have seen rascism from all sides. In college I sat with my "other minority" friends while African-American kids said we don't want them piggy-backing on us, there needs to be special attention given to the African-American students on this racist campus. I was deemed a "good enough" white person to get the blessing of my friends to educate others on race. A blessing I don't take lightly. My cousin has spent six years in jail, there are conflicting family stories about whether he was really involved in drugs or whether it was planted on him, because it isn't easy to be a young black man in our society. Either way he is another young black man who now has to go through society with a felony, which is always concentrated on more than how hard he is working to support his children and enrich all of their lives.

Or there are the forms of racism I have seen from the "white guilt liberals" to the "righteiously bigotted." My first year in college I was finally able to put my finger on what distinguises Northern racism from Southern rascism. In the north we hid behind smiles and fake nicetities and in the south they are real proud of it and don't hide it. So you know where you stand in the south, not in the north.

I wrote this to a friend several months ago, but somehow it seems important to include tonight:

What is funny though, is I was able to come home early today and take a walk. It is beautiful and spring flowers are everywhere. I was listening to an italian tape...and there was this group of middle school boys walking home from school, they assumed I couldn' hear them, so they were saying things like (and they were all black) "hey whitey" "whitey" "hey, white girl you ain't got no ass" I thought for a second about flipping them off, or asking them if their mama's would approve or that it didn't matter that I have no ass cause there is a beautiful Kenyan man who has the hots for me. But I just kept walking with my head held high. Now some white people would have been scared of a group of black boys, I wasn't. I was just sad. That they felt the need to see if they could get away with saying things like that to me. That they had to uphold racism...that they have internalized because of white people like me (college educated, middle class whites).

The same racism, the more insidious forms that are so lodged in our collective memories and deepest self-concious are the worst. The young men tonight were acting out for the same reasons. It may have just been fun and to see if they could get away with it. Or it could be like the kids I used to work with, what else did they have to do. The are smart and ignored and kids like that should not be left at loose ends, because they get themselves into trouble.


Psalm 34

I carry a handwritten copy of the 34th psalm in my purse. It is so comforting to me.
The Lord is close to the broken-hearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
A righteous man may have many troubles,
but the Lord delivers him from them all;
He protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken.
-Psalm 34:18-20
I have spent much of my life battling clinical depression. I am often broken-hearted and crushed in spirit. I have wondered why He gave me this cross to bear. It is so lonely. It is so devastating to know that even if I get to the top of the mountain, the stone will just roll down again. I'm borrowing too many metaphors, but bear with me. I'm not especially sane at the moment.

I preparing to write this entry, I was looking at different translations of the Psalm, and I finally read the little snippet at the beginning that I often skip over. You know, the part where it tells you what that David wrote this one to the tune of Gilligan's Island? Anyway, the litte snippet for this Psalm is:
"A Psalm of David when he pretended madness before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he departed."

No wonder I like it so much. It's supposed to sound like a crazy person is speaking.

It's also an acrostic poem of the Hebrew alphabet. This amuses me in and of itself, but especially so since I found this psalm through a poem by Denise Levertov. "O Taste and See" is perhaps the only "carpe diem" poem I've ever liked. The poem is her response to the Wordsworth line "the world is too much with us," a sentiment I often agree with. If only the world would retreat a little, give me a little room to breathe, I could spend more time on God. I could spend more time creating peace and perhaps even figure out how to indulge in joy. Levertov's "O Taste and See" makes the point that when we engage with the world we are engaging with God. He's in the food that sustains us, in ads on the subway and everywhere in between. Every day we are
"living in the orchard and being

hungry, and plucking
the fruit."
Right now, I am struggling to remember that I am living in the orchard, that He will keep my bones unbroken, and that so long as I look to Him, my face will never be covered with shame. It helps to carry these words with me on a tattered sheet of notebook paper, especially when I can't seem to carry them in my heart.

ELizabeth Bathurst



Tonight the heat has subsided. The humidity has given way to cool air and rain. Soothing rain. On hot nights I leave the door to my balcony open. Tonight lying in bed with the soothing sounds of the rain, I look up from my bed to see the rain falling in such a way as to create a curtain between me and the tree outside. It is lovely, I think about my bed, large and so lonely. This is one of those nights I wish I was lying in it with someone to share the excitement a night like this holds for me. Or how the book I am currently reading broke my heart by page 13. I was surrounded by soccer fans in Heathrow airport and they were all excited from the match and I was crying. And the peace of canoeing at where the water gives way to the heavens. There are so many things I want to share with another. My joy, that can light up a room, and the heart-wrentching agony of life that I hide with my uncouth sense of humor. But tonight I have the rain, to lull me to sleep instead of a lovers arms.

At that hour, the boy happened to be lying on his backin the woods thinking about the girl. You could say it was his love for her that saved him. In the years that followed, the boy became invisible. In this way, he escaped death. Nicole Krauss, The History of Love, p. 12

And if the man who once upon a time had been a boy who promised he'd never fall in love with another girl as long as he lived kept his promise, it wasn't because he was stubborn or even loyal. He couldn't help it. And having hidden for three years and a half years, hiding his love for a son who didn't know he existed didn't seem unthinkable. Not if it was what the only woman he would ever love needed him to do. After all, what does it mean for a man to hide one more thing when he has vanished completely? Nicole Krauss, The History of Love, p. 13


Zoar Revisited;Salt of the Earth

I have always wondered about Lot's wife. Being a woman, we don't know her name or why she looked back. Was it fear? Was it curiousity?

I think that we are all broken people. Sometimes I think that the relationships in our lives are only there to create a vicious circle of hurt. We are hurt and broken and find it hard to love, so we injure those around us to make them more like us. It takes time and strength to heal from life's wounds. There is a balacing act of learning from the experience, agknowledging it for what it was and working your way forward to embrace a whole, loving life. At a certain point these things need to be allowed to rest, to no longer be burdens we carry. They must be firmly in the past to allow for us to move to the present and walk with love in our hearts towards the future. It doesn't mean that the wounds have healed or that they are any less raw, but you must let them go to a certain degree or they will fester and spread to every part of your life and soul. You will become toxic.

Like everyone I have my share of burdens and wounds. I have spent six years wrestling with some of them. It was a hard struggle to find my life again, to find my joy, and to open myself to love. However, it is a tight-rope walk. I am not strong enough to stop from talking or reflecting on the past when it is brought up. Recently, the rawness of these experiences flooded back into my life--most unexpectedly. I had no idea I would crack so easily. I think I am beginning to understand the lesson in the story of Lot's wife:

When they [the angels] had brought them outside, they said, "Flee for your life; do not look back or stop anywhere in the Plain; flee to the hills, or else you will be consumed." Genesis 19:17 New Revised Standard Version

Lot fears he cannot make it to the hills, so he asks of the angels that he be allowed to seek shelter in a small town--Zoar. His family reaches the town, but women being as we are rarely follow advice and the wife looks back:

But Lot's wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. Genesis 24:26 New Revised Standard Version

Salt is interesting. It was once highly covetted as a spice, Romans paid their army in salt. Is salt really bad? But tears are described as salty, so are other parts of the body. Salt comes with sweat, whether from work or sex. But as we are warned in Luke, being too worldly has a cost. That life is not meant for us to strive for the material:

On that day no one who is on the roof of his house, with his goods inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot's wife!Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. Luke 17:31-33 New International Version

My question is, is it really that bad to be turned into salt? We all look back from time to time, and all recieve our due punishment for it. But salt is a natural mineral of the earth, made to be reborn.

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. Matthew 5:13 New International Version

And so despite reaching the safety of Zoar, I looked back. I have become a pillar of salt. However, I must have lost my saltiness long ago, because I was looking back on the ways in which I have been trampled. Can I become salty again?


The family you make

Being an only child I am a strong believer in making friendships that extend your family. I have a couple of friends that I consider siblings. I have other friends that are so close to me I don't know what I would do without them. For the most part, these friendships weather the storm of distance. I have very few close friends close by where I am currently living, however, when you make good friendships and truly connect with people time and distance do not seem impede the value or comfort of the friendships.

By nature I am a caretaker. I like to care for the one's I love and see them well. When I thought I would give myself to an intentional community and dedicate myself to social justice issues. I idolized Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement. I lived and worked in a Catholic Worker for awhile, I considered leaving school and giving myself to that life and serving god. I can't really say what happened that changed that. But events unfolded such that I realized that was not the path for me. While I craved community and understanding, it was not in that form. I work to live my life in the spirit and make all my interactions with other's meaningful and honest. I fail of course, but like Thomas Kelly says, "begin again where you are."

My current life is the most stable and fulfilling that it has been in years. I have a happy, loving relationship with my family. I am grateful for that, because it did not always seem like that was a possibility. I know in my heart that my life would not be the way it is now if it wasn't the love and support of my "chosen" family. The friendships that sustain me through sorrows and joys have allowed me to come to the place I am now.

I am planning on going the route of working professional these days. I want a salaried job that will fulfill my need to serve others but allow me to live in the "style to which I have become accoustomed." But not out of some middle-class need for stability, but to pay back those that have helped me when I most needed it. I want to be able to step in and make sure my friends have a safe harbor, whether that is a bed for a night or a month, or food in their bellies, or a monatary loan.

I have been thinking about all this recently. Two very dear people to me are suffering and I feel as though there is nothing more I can do to help that to be "present" with them. And know that means a lot, but at the same time it is hard to see someone you love suffer. I thought to turn to Dorothy Day and Thomas Kelly's writings today, hoping for something that could comfort me. But neither offered the comfort I desired, the words of wisdom I hoped for and found so many other times from them, did not speak to my condition. So I am left with prayer and while that is still a powerful tool and comfort, it leaves me still feeling that I am watching them being swept away in a torrent and can offer nothing, nothing to bouy them or support them.

We are all broken people to one degree or another. We are all struggling under our demons and inner conflicts. But how can one spread light and love? Its it patience and prayer? Or a solid prescence in the lives of others saying I am not going anywhere and you had better not leave me, damn you.


Nomad in Pants; alone, lost, and feeling awkward

Recently, I was talking with a friend who was asking how I pronounced something. She has been hanging out with some folks from Michigan. I told that while she may think my mid-western accent is still strong, it has had time to adapt. I have been back and forth between home and the east coast for nine years. It was one of those revelations that makes you reflect on your life, where it is and where it has been.

I am in a graduate program where I am at least four years older than the majority of my cohort. It makes me feel old sometimes. It makes me feel like I have seen many more snapshots of the world than they have. It makes me think about how nomadic I have been in the 9 years since I first left the shores of Lake Superior.

My friend and I also discussed fast-food employees that day. She was surprised to learn that my first job had been at Hardee's. She has been working retail all through college and graduate school, in addition to a research assistantship. But I am amused when people who meet me through professional settings are shocked to learn some of the jobs I had over the years. A person has to earn a living, you have to humble yourself to the mighty dollar. So inevitably you take jobs that sacrifice some dignity, that is, people will treat as though you are less than they are. There is a contempt and rudeness people show for fast-food employees and other minimum wage jobs that you don't get if you are percieved as being educated or on your way to middle class status. Even in my last retail job I was able to retain the feeling of being a person with dignity that I often did not get while I worked fast-food. Of course, my boss at the last job treated most of the customers with a bit of contempt to it was easier to realize I didn't need to take shit from people.

That was a bit of a side-bar to what I really started out to say. I recently was in a store where a song was playing it sounded sorta country, but I really don't pay much attention to popular music, so god knows what it was. But the jist of it was that you could always go home; there is always a place for you at home. How I wish that were true. After college I tried. I wanted to go home. I have family obligations that would be so much easier to keep an eye on if I were close by. Life didn't work out that way. I can't live in my hometown. It's leathal for me. I tried to move to a larger city in my home state, but that didn't work either. And now I am on the east coast too far away from my family. I am happy here; I think I could have a good life here.

I was listening to music while at work today (I have a professional type job these days, but sometimes you have to work on the weekend anyway) and I heard "Girl, from the North Country" by my main man Bob Dylan. And it was hard to realize that that won't be me. I always identified with it in a way, but I am not her. In this version of an odessy, I am a nomad in pants taking a road that I don't know where it will lead me. I am alone, lost, and feeling awkward.


Why Elizabeth Bathurst?

1) She wrote so well that there was speculation she was actually a man writing under a pseudonym. I aspire to write well enough to inspire gender confusion.

2) She was weak and sickly and didn't let that interfere with her ministry. I am sickly myself.

3) Despite all our self-congradulating talk about women's equality, there weren't/aren't that many female Quaker theologians. I'm a girl who thinks theology is important. Also, female role models.

4) Because I'm so not posting my real name on the internets.

Elizabeth Bathurst


I left my heart in Pistoia; the nunnery Part I

I have joked for years about how one of my callings on this earth is to found the first order of Quaker nuns. When I was younger and more bitter about my celibacy, I used to refer to it as the "nonery" and call us "nones." Because I am clever.

There are many reason's why I would consider starting a Quaker order of nuns, rather than just biting the bullet (for some militaristic imagery) and becoming a Catholic. First, converting is a pain. Second, I like being Quaker and while there are aspects of the Catholic church that I respect a great deal...there are other aspects that don't jive with my world-view. Thirdly, there is the whole debate (internal mostly) about marrying god and giving up worldly things, like sex.

See I have always prefered to qualify my celibacy by saying it is forced and not self-imposed. There is a little part of me that wonders if there are people placed on this earth who are not ment for carnal love affairs but are here to give themselves (w)hol(el)y to the divine to serve as vesels and instruments of god's love. But then there is a part of me who truly does not believe that god would ask us to give up sex. It is something that can be a religious exerience that is shared with another; it isn't meant to be frivolious or cheep or impersonal, it is meant to be mystical.

So what would my Quaker order of nuns be like? Is is realistic or just my bitterness at a life of celibacy? I know I am cappable of living an intentional and devoted life. But am I capable of living that life and knowing passion with another?


True God from true God

Due to family obligations, I recently found myself in a Catholic church for mass on a Saturday afternoon. Amid the mental gymnastics of trying to remember what to do and say when and deciding how to balance being respectful without being hypocritical, I found myself touched by the celebration of the Pentecost.
The Pentecost story is from chapter 2 of Acts, where the Holy Spirit descends on the Apostles and a bunch of other people in a gust of wind. Then there are flames that look like tongues on people's foreheads and whenever someone talks, everyone else hears it in their own language. Kind of like a backwards Tower of Babel.
I grew up aware of Pentecostal churches. I knew that the speaking in tongues, which is mocked in some circles as being among the more ridiculous of christian practices, was based on a bible story and that it was supposed to be a manifestation of the Holy Spirit. It's a denomination that always struck me as theoretically experiential.
In theory, the catholic church is the same way. The bread and wine aren't symbolic of blood and flesh, they are actually transubstantiated into the body and blood of Christ. I know very few Catholics who actually believe this, but that's beside the point.
I'm not convinced that everyone who speaks in tongues is actually being moved by the Spirit to do so every time any more than I believe that transubstantiation happens during every mass. I'm not about to say it never happens. I'm definitely not going to say it can't. I believe that the Holy Spirit is capable of creating events which appear irrational or impossible.  
The priest had some lovely things to say during his homily about experiencing the Holy Spirit. He then clarified that we all knew what he was talking about because we'd all been baptised, confirmed and taken communion in the Church. Well, not quite.
Maybe the only reason I have experienced the Holy Spirit is that I was baptised with water as a baby and fed some leftover Host as a toddler. But I happen to believe that the movings of the Holy Spirit in me and my life have more to do with His plans than anything that my mother and/or a couple of priests did before I was old enough to remember or understand. Whatever the reason, whatever the means, I am grateful for the presence of the Spirit in my life and for reflections of my experience in the experiences of others.

Elizabeth Bathurst


Where I have been...ruminations on the tower of Babel

I could start this by being all self-pitying and self-centered and say that my recent travels have been a metaphor for my life--lost and alone. But then someone would say "yea, whatever, she is in Tuscany. I do not feel bad for her."

Italian is a language many people say they want to learn but it seems that few follow up on this. I wonder why? It is a beautiful language made to express strong emotions. I think that there are important lessons to be learned from the Italian way of life. They are not one of the economic powerhouses of Europe and part of that is because they still cling to the way life has been for centuries. This is evident in the beauty and sofistication of the crumbling villas; the way the sun refects off the young buds that will become olives; the roosters crowing all day long; the dogs that run free; the the italians arguing politics over a shot of expresso. In some ways I truly appreciate the way life has been preserved here, the way the olive trees and grape vines are the backbone of life. I am even more appreciative of this after my trips to Florence and Siena where I see Americans being ugly, rufusing to attempt to learn even the simplest Italian phrases or refusing to accept cultural differences. It pains me to make my colleagues and co-workers talk in English; I can understand a lot of Italian if it is slow but my ability to talk is almost non-existent. I feel the pain of coming from a country so proud it trandscends arrogance to something above and beyond expression.

The kindness that has been shown to me is amazing. I wish that somehow Italians could export that mind-set and way of living life to American we would be better for it. I feel a bit like Scarlett O"hara, "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers." Or however that quote is supposed to go.



The everyday is sacred

I was listening to "Holy Now" by Peter Mayer recently when I ought to have been in meeting. I was indulging in a little house-to-myself time instead.

"Wine into water is not so small,
but an even better magic trick
is that anything is here at all.
So, the challenging thing becomes
not to look for miracles,
but finding where there isn't one.

When holy water was rare at best
I barely wet my finger tips.
Now I have to hold my breath
like I'm swimming in a sea of it.

It used to be a world half-there
heaven's second rate hand-me-downs
but I'm walking with a reverent air
cause everything's holy now. "

I wasn't at meeting last week either. Last week I had worship at the home of a friend after a lovely breakfast. Part of the reason that early Friends adopted the phrase "meeting house" for the buildings they built for communal worship was that they regarded the people as the church.
The monthly meetings I have access to rarely meet my spiritual needs and I am grateful that He hasn't asked me to commit to any of them. I still go to meeting frequently, but certainly not every week. I do try to be aware of my place in the Church on a daily basis. Am I being attentive to the needs of the people around me? Am I encouraging their growth in grace as well as my own?
Sometimes, even when I'm feeling the need to take care of myself and I know that attending meeting isn't absolutely nessecary, I can still feel guilty about skipping meeting. It's good to be reminded of all of Creation is holy and that the First Communion was Jesus sharing a meal with His friends.

Elizabeth Bathurst


The next movie I watch about a plane will be S.O.A.P.

I saw United 93 over the weekend. Most of the discussion I've heard about the movie was whether or not it was too soon to revisit 9/11. Without question, it is still too soon to be entertained by the 9/11 story. But this movie isn't entertaining. It felt like a horrible and realistic reenactment and it helped me grieve. It helped me take back the memory of United 93 from the warmongering that embraced the phrase "Let's Roll." I was able to reclaim the memory of the awfulness of that day and the sympathy I felt for the people who were faced with making unthinkable moral decisions based on very limited information under a very tight deadline.

After the movie, I was discussing the it with friends, some of whom had just watched the movie with me, and some who had not. Someone asked a non-American in the group about his responses to 9/11. He likened his response with his response the Kashmir earthquake in 2005. It's true that the Kashmir earthquake killed a great many more people, but for me the difference is vast. A natural disaster has yet to make me contemplate pacifism, universalism or the nature of justice. I'm able to simply grieve for the victims of natural disasters. I cry, I pray, and I send money when I can. Suffering that is related to "Acts of God," however influenced by human incompetence or wit, is easier for me to comprehend than acts of extreme violence.

The magnitude of 9/11 for me wasn't the destruction of buildings, or an alteration in my feeling safe as an American. It wasn't even the horrific deaths although some images from the towers still haunt me. It was knowing that these acts of desperation and hatred would be met with large scale revenge. By some estimates, the wars waged in response to that Tuesday morning's hijacked planes have killed almost 250,000 people to date. 9/11 was a horrible tragedy in and of itself, but it was only the beginning of a very dark time.

Today, we are living in a world where too many decisions are being made in fear, in hate, in confusion and in revenge. I feel as though all I have to fight against the wars being carried out in my name is my voice and that my voice is drowned out by so many other voices. I don't think anyone is actually listening, anyway. I feel so helpless and so scared.

Towards the end of the film, there's a period of time where everyone is praying. The prayers of the hijackers, the passengers and the flight attendants are all overlapping in the chaos. Surely God is able to hear each of us, distinctly, as we cry out to Him in our time of need, no matter what language we speak or how many of His children are crying to Him at once.

Elizabeth Bathurst


You get so Alone it all just makes Sense

Sometimes that which provides you with the most solace is not the Spirit nor a friend, but something dear and comforting...like a new book of poems by Charles Bukowski.

In my current life, I am loosely affiliated with academics. Thus, I am a bit stressed out as "it is that time of year." To procrastinate last night, (my hott Saturday night consisted of writing a paper on Cerebrovascular events aka stroke) I went to a book store to see if I could find any books in italian...I am leaving in less that two weeks for Italia and am trying to learn Itanian in-between all of my other committments. There were no books in Italian and somehow I found myself in the Poetry section.

Hank and I have been acquainted for at least 8 years now. He and his crusty take on life have seen me through many difficulities. People are always surprised that such an aredent feminist could love Hank. But I do. Years ago for an English class a friend and I had to give a presentation on Hank. I think the whole class was expecting the typical feminist tirade about him being such a misogynist, but then we got up and praise him. Mouths hit the floor. There is a quote I really want to track down someday that has to do with being a "critical lover" and that is what I am. And I think that is what Hank is.

Yea, he's a bastard. He's crusty and angry and misanthropic, but then you get to lines, which usually occur at the end of a poem, and blow away by the beauty. There is no way he can be all bad. I tend to think that all the crusty misanthropic talk is just to cover up a bare and wounded soul, the type of soul that those of us who care to much have...it is battered and angry and since we feel powerless against the shit that fate has thrown us and those around us, we engage in self destructive behaviors, drinking, smoking, meaningless sex. And that is why sometimes the only comfort a soul can find is in a glass of whiskey and Charles Bukowski.

...I loved you
like a man loves a woman he never touches, only
writes to, keeps little photographs of. I would have
loved you more if I had sat in a small room rolling a
cigarette and listened to you piss in the bathroom.

....I would have probably been unfair to you or you
to me. it was best like this.

Charles Bukowski, an almost made up poem



My yearly meeting reads our Advices aloud at close of sessions following meeting for worship on First Day. When I reread the Advices to myself, I often hear my father's inflection on certain words, like "worship" and "banal" as he has read them aloud in recent years. It's a very comforting piece of prose, even this part:

"For although we recognize the children of our members as objects of our care, and partakers of the outward privileges of Christian fellowship, we would earnestly remind all that such recognition cannot constitute them members of the Lord's Spiritual Israel. Nothing can effect this but the power of the Holy Spirit working repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, let the words of our Holy Redeemer have due place with us all, "Ye must be born again." May all of our members become such on the ground of true conversion, and be prepared in their several places to bring forth fruit unto God."

For years, I glossed over the importance of all that "Holy Redeemer" and "born again" stuff. It just wasn't relevant to my life or my experience. That language was used by hypocritical, judgemental people who were far more concerned with getting into Heaven than making God happy. The important part of that passage to me, for many years was the idea that one had to have a real relationship with God in order to be a member of the meeting. You couldn't just go through the motions or grow up in the meeting.

I joined the meeting I grew up in a long time ago. It wasn't some sort of life-changing experience, I was just ready to join in the spiritual life of the meeting. I served on committees and attended business meeting. I began to speak in meeting, albeit reluctantly.

I related to the conversion stories in the journals of early Friends. I heard the voice of the Lord audibly from an early age, so early that it didn't occur to me that this wasn't a perfectly normal experience until I was in my late teens. I saw things. I felt things. But I didn't have a deer-in-the-headlights moment of conversion myself. I understood continuing revelation as a slow life-long process.

Fast forward to another First Day worship at close of sessions almost two years ago. I was freaking out. I knew that way was opening for me to move to Boston and I knew that a large part of my motivation for leaving North Carolina was to get away from the evidence of my mistakes. I was deeply fearful that I'd failed in His plan for me so utterly, He'd just given up on me. And for the first time, I let go of the anger. I'd always blamed God when I failed. If He'd given me just a little more guidance or asked something a little more realistic I would've been able to pull it off. There I was, wallowing in my newfound awareness of my sins and as soon as I had listed everything I could think of that I wished I had done differently, every aspect of myself that falls short of perfection and apologized for it all, I felt His hand on my forehead as I heard His voice say: "You are forgiven".

I've been a different person since then. Sometimes it's more obvious to me than other times. I've been handling the difficult things in my life a lot better. I spend less time berating God and I'm far less reluctant to speak the messages I'm given in worship. I'm just generally calmer. I can't go so far as to say I've found anything that resembles Joy, but I have I been born again of the incorruptible seed. And it has made me a better person.

I'm writing all this not to try to convince anyone to say some magic words like "I accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior." Those stories are a dime a dozen and never spoke to me. I believe that we each have our own path to travel and so long as we are faithful to our Guide, we'll get where we need to be. I can't give any sort of advice on how to be obedient. All I'm saying is that this is what happened to me and I'm not being allowed to hide it anymore, apparently.

"Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever." 1 Peter 1:22-23

I still believe that continuing revelation is a slow life-long process. I don't have all the answers and I never will, but each day is an opportunity to learn just a little more and grow just a little closer to Christ.

Elizabeth Bathurst


Where do all the young Quakers go?

So come and gather around me my contemporary peers
And I'll tell you all the story of
Jesus...The Missing Years

--John Prine, Jesus, the Missing Years

It seems that many young Friends drift away during their 20's. Some come back. Some do not. For a religion that is slowly dwindling away one might think that this would be more of a concern to Friends. It is true that Meetings will embrace the young people that stay faithful, and are more than happy to welcome back lost lambs who show up when they are ready to settle down into partnerships and raise children.

But for us, single, childless young Quakers, who occassionally turn up at meeting we get a hello and asked where we are from and if we are new to Friends, but often once it is found out that we are not new to Friends we are rather less interesting. However, if we come several times a month for a few months we become worth investigating. Especially, if we might be open to lending our youthful energy to committees and such.

Now it is true that I have not been to meeting regularly for over a year. However, in the last place I lived, I began going regularly for a time...When I moved home after college I also tried to attend meeting with some regularity...However, I just have not been able to stick with it. It is not a case of needing to seek out that which can speak to my soul, I know I have already found my spiritual home. However, my comfortability with my spiritual home does not extend beyound worship. Now community and the corporate experience of worship are important to me as they are to the larger body of Quakerism. Yet I have not felt comfortable and accepted amoung Friends after meeting has risen. This speaks perhaps of my own discomfort in groups and other issues I have with Friends...but what is interesting to me is that many of the birthright Young Adult Friends and Friends who have attended since before they can remember, do not attend regularly either.

Out of the 15 or so young adult Friends (that come easily to mind, who are between the ages of 25 and 33) who fit into this catagory, only two attend meeting regularly. These are not people who have dabbled in Quakerism. They are all members of meetings somewhere, were raised Quaker, and many of whom were in a Quaker scholarship program in college. I believe all of the individuals I am thinking of still consider themselves Quaker, and are not seeking other spiritual homes. Yet we do not attend meeting. One would think these are the type of young people we would want to encourage to remain connected to Quakerism. However, many I have talked with have had experiences with meetings similar to mine, when they have attempted to return--because they have longings to return--have felt isolated, underwelcome, and alone. Some come to meeting and cry because we are so lost. Some of us come and feel we have nothing in common but worhsip, some of us want to go but will never make the effort.

Now we could look at these as the "lost years" similar to the time in the Bible where Jesus disappears around 12 and re-appears at 30-ish. Or it could just be that all young people go through a period of being in the desert...being tempted by Satan, but that is only supposed to be 40 days, right?...or perhaps we are to wander like god's chosen people for 40 years...but I don't think have seen any manna, much less had the joy of eating it. But why are there "lost years?" Do we just need time to be of the world for a time, to be better grounded in our faith later? Is it some type of spiritual test? Or is there something lacking in Quakerism that we keep stepping over like a dead dog in the center of the Meeting room floor?


Things you save for rainy days...

First, I would like to start by saying...that despite all attempts to hide it...I am a sentimentalist. Secondly, because of this I spend most of my time being bitter and angry. Now I will do something I regret because all of you will somehow want to remind me of this when I become angry again. Just remember I repress, repress, repress--ACT OUT!

Today I was thinking about the lovely weather we are having right now. I know its dry, but it is so sunny and warm...it hasn't gotten terribly humid yet, its quite lovely. And I was thinking about how glad I am to be alive. And what a wonderful world we live in that there are not one but two young men who make me smile to myself these days. And I feel silly about it, but its nice. Now I can understand why people become serial monogamists, its nice to feel the excitement of it. The flirtation, the unanticipated and endearing personality quirks. But then I wonder where are these things going...one lives so far away, but he is nerd-licious and geek-tastic all rolled into one mild mannered exterior, with a raging sense of humor underneath. He is so damn sexy. The other I see almost everyday...he looks at me like I am gorgeous. He makes me feel desirable...and he makes me laugh...but how do I know which is the path? Or perhaps its just safer to end the possibilities before they begin...Or do I just enjoy the secret smiles to myself as I walk into a beautiful day thinking of the vast possibility of things.

Blessed Community

I haven't had the energy to write much of anything lately. I was blindsided by the suicide of a friend and mentor about a week ago. In my grief, I've been thinking about community. While I've been surrounded by love since I got the news, I'm reminded that she didn't have that kind of supportive local community.

From holding me while I sobbed, to making sure my cats and I have been fed regularly, to helping me do my laundry, to "thinking of you" text messages and letting me bail on scheduled activities, my friends have really come through for me in my time of need. I have been overwhelmed with community and I am so, so grateful.

I had been singing "Here I am, Lord" a lot lately. The chorus goes something like this:
Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.
When I realize how obedient I've been, how open I've been to my leadings, I'm able to absolve myself of most the guilt. I know that there was nothing else I could have done to help my friend. While I've been grieving the loss of such an important person in my life, both professional and personal, I've been comforted by the last line of the chorus. His people have been holding me in their hearts this week. His people: the athiest Jews, lapsed Catholics, Quakers both "good" and "bad," and beef-eating Hindus.

I used to long for a community of faith. For a local, thriving meeting to accept me and my faith without reservation. The kind of Blessed Community that Thomas Kelly talks about in his Testament of Devotion. I may not have found my community of faith yet, but I do have a community of love. And today, that feels like more than enough.

Elizabeth Bathurst


All change is stressful.

A dear friend of mine and neighbor is moving to San Fransisco rather unexpectedly. Her husband has been offered a job that couldn't sensibly be refused. I'm heartbroken to lose such a supportive, darling, sweet friend. Okay, I know I'm not really "losing" her. I'm just losing proximity. I know that I can maintain deep friendships over long distances. As I adjust to the idea of cross-country flights and handwritten letters instead of back porch conversations held over our adjacent yards, the phrase "the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away" keeps coming to mind. So, I finally looked it up.

"Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." Job 1:21

I'd been repeating it, almost mantra-like, in an attempt to accept the change. I've been doing pretty good lately with not being angry with God when the unfortunate/unpleasant happens. But to go so far as to give Him praise when I'm feeling uprooted and/or abandoned? I can only go so far as to be grateful for that which I have and I am so grateful for the gift of her friendship.

But then again, there are scholars who say the Book of Job is a contemporaneous satire, not a scriptural document. Which means I can be as pouty as I want about people taking stupid jobs in stupid California, right? Not so much. Just because I can convince myself that this particular book is less authentic than the rest doesn't mean a whole lot. Especially when I can't get a verse of it out of my head. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Elizabeth Bathurst


"Good" Quaker I am not

I have already discussed my lack of community as a child. This was particulary so as far as a spiritual community. My grandparents, whom I am still very close to, taught me through example, not by dictating to me. My grandmother has always been recognized in many circles, from Quakers, to social justice movements, to library affairs, to gardening as actively living out her beliefs. My grandfather is often overlooked as the "husband" of this amazing woman. He is dismissed because he often makes puns and off-color jokes, and likes to flirt with the younger women (and when you are in your 80's that is just about everyone) and makes jokes about how he's old, slow, and has no memory(he's been doing this for as long as I have known him...its an act). But it is my grandfather who quietly "lets his life speak" and who I would like to humbley emmulate. He makes off-color jokes about things he cares about, he is the dirty old man that was a feminist long before most men would admit to such at thing (and how many do now a days that aren't just trying to get laid?). He is kind, treats everyone with respect and dignity. He truly cares about the state of things. And well, he loves chocolate too.

When I first went to college, I wanted community. I was accepted to a scholarship program for Quakers...I wanted a spiritual community and a social community. I found it. I have deeply tied friendships from that time that seem to easily pick-up regardless of how long it has been since we last spoke, this is true of my capital F-friends and small f-friends. But I also saw hypocrisy in action too. But we can save that rant for another day.

I think that many of my elders see me as somewhat of a "bad" quaker if there is such a thing. Not because I don't follow my leadings or that I have somehow decided to dedicate my life to the pursuit of something that harms the greater whole, but because I have too many "swords" yet to lay down. I am an alcohol drinking, cigarette smoking, explicative stringing, caffine-addicted, tattooed child. Oh, and its been like a year since I went to meeting. So I don't do corporate worship, I have worship with god and my bed on sunday mornings, but I know god is always with me. You may not be able to count on me to go to meeting and be a "good" quaker, but you can count on me to speak the lord's truth (when I let in the spirit).

So is being a good Quaker about laying down your "swords" and giving yourself to the divine or is it about "letting your life speak," even if that life is speaking/drinking/smoking like a sailor on shore leave...I truly believe life is about your daily interactions with others, the evironment, and all living creatures. Its not about going to meeting every week (though that is important, to keep your self centered to do good Works), its not about reading religous texts, its not about airing your Quaker resume, or your "this is why I am cool (also insert, indie rock, emo, anarchist, peacenik, or hardcore awesome in anyway) resume," its about treating all with dignity and respect.

So if you want I can give you my resume of coolness, or you can keep reading and make up your own minds...too see if I am a "good" or "bad" quaker. But don't hold your breath for me to go to meeting or finish reading the bible, or even lay down some "swords" anytime soon. Because I am bad ass. That isn't true... corporate worship and I have some beef. And last time I tried to go to meeting god did that thing where you get tested and have some Job-like experience, and well, I am no Job. Dude, I perfer to hide from my emotions, I am a mid-westerner afterall. And I just can't be that open right now. It scares me. Maybe this blog will help, I hope.

There are better Google Maps hacks - Update.

This morning as I was getting ready for work, I was listening to NPR (like a good Quaker). The first story I heard was about the death of the suspected murdered of two registered sex offenders from Maine. This Boston Globe story gives a little more information about the victims. Three men's lives have been cut short in what appears to be an attempt at vigilante justice and I am holding them, their victims, and all the families in the Light this morning.

In retrospect, I realize that I ought to have supplied some links to better Google Maps hacks/mash-ups. Knock yourself out:

This maps Craigslist's housing listings.
This maps the NYC subway system.
This is a geography game.
This maps stay-at-home-dad playgroups.
This one tries to locate cheap gas.
But really, this one is my favorite. It plots UFO sightings.

Elizabeth Bathurst


Why James Naylor?

You may wonder why of all the quakers in history I would choose James Naylor as my pen name. Is it becuase I suffer from gender confusion? Or am I a bit "touched" as the southerners say... Why would you pick him when quakers from early on were "egalitarian" letting women preach...there must be just as rousing early female quakers to pick..?

These are all logical questions, however, I picked Naylor because there is just something about him. Perhaps it has something to do with my first introduction to Naylor in a class on Quakerism at a certain small liberal arts college in North Carolina, I was convinced after reading about the infamous ride into Bristol that not only his adoring followers but that he himself was naked while riding the donkey. The professor never attempted to correct this notion and in fact, sorta lead us on in this delusion. It was not uncommon for early quakers to go naked as a symbol of their nakedness/innocence before god (the next time you consider plain dress remember nudity is an option). So it was not out of the question for him to have been naked, however, mislead I was. At any rate my interest in Naylor goes beyond the nakedness.

I believe that Naylor was a threat to Fox and his vision of Quakerism. Naylor's popularity and charisma where threatening. Really all Fox had was his bible and the visions from Pendle hill (were they induced out of fasting or from wild mushrooms we will never know). Fox did not have the pentchant for street theatre and gorilla art like Naylor did. Despite the "Woe unto the bloody city of Litchfield" incident, but the truth be told Naylor out did Fox when it came to spirit-led street theatre and generally make a public scene. Thus all Fox could do was chastise Naylor in the hopes of keeping a tight reign on early Friends. However, Naylor was just following the Spirit. We have all felt the call, which makes us wonder what kind of trickster god must be. However, there is a need and place for humor in our spirituality.

We must remember that sometimes we will be asked to do something that is threatening to the status quo. Something that could earn us the chastisement and criticism of our elders, but sometimes things just need to be challenged. And if a little humor can be added into this questioning of authority all the better.

The lower God doth bring me, and the nearer to himself, the more doth this Love and Tenderness spring and spread towards the poor, simple and despised ones, who are poor in spirit, meek and lowly Suffering Lambs, and with those I choose to suffer, and do suffer, wherever they are found. James Naylor (the original)

There are better Google Maps hacks.

Someone sent me a link to a sex offender registry in a mass email recently. The registry maps your address and shows you the location of your local sex offenders' homes and workplaces. If you click on one of those links, it shows you a name, photo and vague category of crime. Suddenly people I barely know are hitting "reply all" to discuss who lives near them. I was a little surprised by how upset this made me, even before someone started making jokes.

First and foremost, I have very little faith in our criminal justice system. Just because someone was convicted of something doesn't mean they actually did it. Just because someone hasn't been convicted of something doesn't mean they haven't done anything wrong. Don't forget that sexual assaults are notoriously under-reported.

Secondly, sex offender registries frighten people, but do they really help people identify others as potential threats? The majority of sexual assault victims already know their attackers, often intimately. Doing a background check on someone you know is far more likely to produce useful information than looking at a map of your neighborhood.

Also, if we take a prison term to have some sort of meaning, then once someone is released, shouldn't they be able to move on with their lives and be able to retain some rights? Like not having their photographs, names, home and/or work addresses posted on the Internet putting them at risk for vigilante justice?

Lastly, and probably most importantly, sex offender registries are anathema to the idea of rehabilitation. Our justice system is already overly dominated by ideas of retribution and punishment which, in my mind, correlates strongly with the absurdly high rates of recidivism.

I'd like to see a world without violence, sexual or otherwise, but sex offender registries aren't helping to build that world.

Elizabeth Bathurst

P.S. Don't make jokes about sex abuse, especially to strangers. Chances are pretty high you're talking to a survivor.


luminous life

I am one of those "odd" Quakers...those of you familar to friends say, "yea, well, who isn't." But I was raised by a lapsed Catholic father and a Quaker mother, neither emphasized prayer. It was something I found on my own. We lived somewhere so remote when I was a child that my mother, grandparents, and I were the only Quakers for close to 2oo miles. I am a birthright friend that never attended a Quaker meeting till I was 12 years old. I learned from my family the meaning of "letting your life speak."

As a child I was curious about religion and prayer. It was something that I knew other people did. My Catholic grandparents were always trying to take me to mass. But I didn't really understand what prayer was. I remember one winter my parents were reading the Little House on the Prairie books to me. I remember Laura Ingells Wilder recounting the importance of prayer in their family and how Pa would make them say their prayers before bed. I decided that that must be something everyone did -- pray before bed. I began to pray secretly after my parents put me to bed. I didn't kneel down to pray, I just lay in bed and spoke to god. I didn't know how other people prayed, but I figured if I talked to god he should be able to hear me -- otherwise he couldn't be very powerful. I would pray for all sorts of things, peace on earth, to end poverty, to end starvation, to save the whales...you think an 8 year old wouldn't do that but I did. I prayed for my family too. I prayed that my parents would stop fighting, drink less, and spend more time with me. I prayed that I wouldn't be fat anymore and that other kids would stop picking on me. I prayed for many other things too, I am sure.

This nightly prayer was something I kept up for many years. It got to a point where I couldn't fall asleep unless I prayed or had my daily conversation with god. However, sometime in the last 5 years, I quit praying every night. I think it was my constant drinking and depression. When you pass out everynight there is little time to remember god, in all that you are drinking to forget. But in the last year I have decided I needed to change things in my life. And while I still often fall asleep without talking to god, I try most mornings to thank god for my blessings. This is especially true on days I really don't want to get out of bed. Its a positive reinforcement for the day. "Thank you god for giving me this day. Thank you for my friends, new and old, near and far and all so dear. Thank you for my family. Please hold them in the light and bless them. Bless my extended family as well. Thank you for letting me back in school. Thank your for my medications, because I can find joy a little easier now. Thank you for all the blessings you have given me. Help me to be your vessel. Help me to do your work here on Earth. Help me be a better person. Thank you for giving me this day."

Like springtime on a plate.

Through a series of coincidences last night, I ended up at a Seder table, surrounded by amazing women (and one perfectly lovely infant). We progressed without a haggadah, each woman offering up the sections that were meaningful to her. We reconstructed the Exodus story from our collective memory. We offered up thanksgivings for marriages, for babies, for family and friends, and for growth. We discussed the role of privilege in our lives and the transitions we are experiencing. It was a beautiful experience, informal and loving.

Today being Good Friday, I am reminded of the Catholic tradition of Stations of the Cross. In years past I've wandered through a nearly empty church with the prayers written on a card and I've participated in a large outdoor procession, but this year I'll be doing the meditations on my own. It's really the only Easter tradition I like. Okay, I like jelly beans and Cadbury Creme Eggs and dying Easter eggs. But they haven't got any religious significance. Kind of like Halloween.

I'm reminded of the Quaker phrase "the day the world calls Christmas". While I agree that there is nothing particularly holy about the days the world calls Christmas or Easter, I think declaring days to celebrate certain aspects of faith with friends and family is important. Passover wouldn't be as meaningful to me if it happened every month. But I do agree that since the days we set aside to commemorate the birth, death and resurrection of Christ have become about chocolate bunnies, elves and presents, we've got a problem.

I'm not about to appropriate Passover, although I never did understand why Christians don't celebrate Jewish Holidays. I mean, Christianity is just modified Judaism, right? We just tacked Jesus onto an existing belief structure. I'm more comfortable assimilating Catholic rituals into my spiritual practice, since I was raised by lapsed Catholics, but I am still left to wonder what sort of rituals I can create to fill my need for regular meaningful religious celebrations in my life.

Elizabeth Bathurst