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.