I'll be home for Christmas...

So I am set to go “home” for Christmas. It is something I cannot imagine not doing. I was the closest I have ever been to not going home this year. I had a really horrible visit over the summer. But it seemed wrong to not take the opportunity to visit my grandparents or to punish my mother for my father’s ill behavior.

My last trip home seemed to bring all the anger and hurt—which I have tried to leave behind—and shove my nose in it. This year was my father’s turn to host the big Labor Day gathering known as “Bouja.” It is all the people my dad grew up with in Central Minnesota gathering together for a weekend of festivities. Bouja is a big stew made in a huge kettle over an open fire, all the vegetables from everyone’s gardens goes into it…and a whole lot of meat (we think it might be Polish in origin…or eastern European). A series of events occurred that made me recall some of the not so good family times…and I thought, “why did I come back for this. I have my own life, what was I thinking.”

Then the dog got shot. She was out by the road and it was probably some jack-ass hopped up on meth. No, it wasn’t someone at the party…But well, that pretty much made it the worst trip back to Minnesota ever. And the worst Bouja ever for my parents and I. There is nothing like spending hours with the emergency vet trying to decide if it is more humane to put the family pet down or see if they can reconstruct her muzzle and save her. We opted for pain meds and an observation/work-up by the vets and when the bleeding couldn’t be stopped it was obvious the choice. So that is something added to the list of things we will never speak of again in the family.

So why am I going home?

I guess because I need to. I need to be with my ridiculouslyand gloriously dysfunctional family (who can’t even communicate with each other about a family meal on Christmas day—it has been like pulling teeth). A chance to recall how much I really do like my family (warts and all as they say) and a chance to remember what is important in life. I get so cut off in my daily routine of work and worry about money, I rarely sit back and reflect on what is important.

I recently applied for a job back on MN…and it is a tough choice. Should I stay or should I go—exactly what I was thinking Joe Strummer. It is equally weighted on the push/pull factors. But being in MN will help with the decision. How will I know if I am leaving MD prematurely? And does the distance help keep my family closer than we would be if I lived within a few hours…hard to know. Being with my family provides clearness for me…even if it is just a reminder as to why I ended up in Baltimore in the first place. So here is to rejuvenation.


Quaker children are angels. Sometimes.

I've been working with the junior high class at the big local meeting for a few months now, and it was recently time to decide whether or not to come back and do it again for another trimester.

This week, we had combined the high-schoolers, the junior high and the 3-5th graders to work on the Christmas pageant. It was chaos, but it was a loving chaos. The high-schoolers were patient with the little ones, even when they painted over things they should have painted around. There was affectionate horsing around between kids who were related and kids who weren't. A teenager pulled up to the piano and played. Another pulled up some folding chairs and took a nap. But when it was time to wrap things up, the backdrop, complete with a peace-sign wearing cobra, unicorn, and spitting llama, was carefully taken downstairs to dry and the kids set the room up for the potluck without complaint. Okay, so some of my junior high kids complained a little that I woke the sleeping teenager up gently instead to letting them pull the chair out from under his head, but mostly they were really good. Wild, unruly, the-camel's-teeth-don't-really-need-to-be-bloody angels (no-really-I'm-serious-do-not-paint-blood-on-the-camel's-teeth).

There are ways in which Quaker kids are special. You can get 7th graders to talk about their doubts about God. You can tell a teenager to coordinate twenty younger kids in a painting project and not have anyone throw a tantrum. There's something about they way that we treat our kids that makes them more responsible than other kids their age. Sometimes.

Sometimes, they're more reluctant to quietly accept orders from adults. They're prone to making their own decisions about sex and drugs and can really make a mess out of things that way. They tend to be less motivated and fairly indecisive when it comes to careers. When you raise children to value simplicity and an inner spiritual life, they tend to be uncommitted to the labor market. Quaker boys seem especially unmotivated to say, finish college, do their own laundry, stop smoking pot and get a real job.

I remember teaching my younger brothers the story of Jonah and the whale. My youngest brother amused himself for quite some time by making vomiting noises, but in between the fits of giggles, we were able to talk about the story on a deeper level than the question-and-answer, were-you-really-paying-attention regurgitation that most kids expect to have to do when talking to grownups.

When I was working with a group of Methodist children, they were much calmer. They sat down when and where I asked them to, but could not wrap their minds around the open-ended questions I would ask them about the parables I was teaching them. I would get blank stares if I asked for their opinions, or for how the story might be applicable to their lives.

One of my friends, who got kicked out of Catholic Sunday school for asking too many questions, was taken aback when I was telling her about the lesson I lead where we talked about what the kids thought about god (the answer: reincarnation, probably real; God, probably not real). When it comes to matters of faith, I'm of the opinion that giving kids the ability to think about what they believe and learning about what other people believe gives them the opportunity to stay open to the leadings of the Holy Spirit a while longer than the didactic methods favored by other Christian denominations. Does this mean that we end up with some non-theists who believe in reincarnation and care more about the environment than the Spirit? Sure. But we don't end up with a large number of young adults who hate organized religion. I'd like to believe that this leaves them more open to the movement of the Spirit within as they grow older. I believe that we are drawn into the Community of Believers in God's time and the best way be can prepare our children for that is to keep them open to the ideas that God might exist and have a plan for them.

One of the things that I value most about my Quaker education was that I got to talk, really talk, to a number of adults about their faith and their faith in practice. Taking the time to be one of those grownups for a new generation of young Quakers is important to me. It's not a strong leading, it's not a long term commitment. It's something that I can do to give back to a Society which has given so much to me.

While I often come home from First Day School exhausted and mumbling incoherently about heathens, I've decided to go ahead and teach the junior high class again next semester. The curriculum, as set by the Meeting, covers the parables of Jesus next trimester and I'm looking forward to introducing them to the back half of the Bible. Maybe I'll even be able to share enough of my faith that they'll be able to realize someday that Evangelical and Christian aren't mutually inclusive terms. I could tell them that, of course, but they wouldn't listen. They're Quaker kids and they'll need to figure it out for themselves in their own time.

Yes, you have have snack now.

Elizabeth Bathurst


Niebuhr, Niebuhr, Niebuhr

Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime,
Therefore, we are saved by hope.
Nothing true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history;
Therefore, we are saved by faith.
Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone.
Therefore, we are saved by love.
No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as from our own;
Therefore, we are saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness.

-Reinhold Niebuhr


Love that dirty water

On Thursday night, I'll be attending a fundraiser for a local organization that's fighting for public transportation equity in my area. Afterwards, I'm having some folks over to watch the game.

It's hard not to get swept up in the joy that is Boston in October. We are Red Sox nation, and when things are good, they're really good. It's fun to be a part of it all; checking the scores, sharing them with friends and strangers, singing sweet caroline in the streets or on the subway.

Getting excited about public hearings about public transportation is a whole lot harder. There will be locally-made chocolates at the fundraiser, which should make it easier. The governor has recently said that he's planning to put up the funds to get the greenline extension finished ahead of schedule which seems to have some people hopeful. I'm still thinking a lawsuit is likely to be necessary, given the current timeline, the history of postponement, and the health risks involved. The Big Dig has not been kind to Somerville.

I'm feeling really connected to my community, and it certainly helps that my community includes people I can call friends, but it is sad to me that my involvement with the Quakers in the area is so limited. Is the disconnect because I am a "young adult" who'd rather not hang out with the Young Adults? Is the disconnect because New Englanders are decidedly less friendly that Southerners? Or is it because of the theological differences that separate us? I imagine it's all of the above. The reticent New Englanders expect the young adults to take me in, but I have no interest in their potlucks. I hung out with young adults while I was in college, and even then I didn't always feel that our age was significant enough to bind us together. Once I get the "real grown-ups" to really talk to me, they don't seem to like me very much.

I'm loving my community right now. I just wish I felt as involved, included and welcomed at the Quaker meeting as I do elsewhere.

Elizabeth Bathurst


God's baby.

My mother retells a story sometimes (often when she's proud of one of her own kids) about an elder in our Yearly Meeting, whose mother-in-law would remind her "now, Liz, this is not your baby, this is God's baby" upon seeing a child for the first time.

One of God's babies had a very difficult time getting out of the womb over the weekend. His shoulders were too broad and he got his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. Little Elijah stopped breathing, and once they got him out (by breaking his collarbone) it took fourteen minutes to resuscitate him. Needless to say, his condition is rather grave. He is in good hands: his mama who is full up with love, a cutting edge medical team at Duke, and God's.

Via text message this morning, his mother informs me that he is doing "pretty good today" which is encouraging. Your prayers are still appreciated.

Elizabeth Bathurst


Isaiah, again.

In times of darkness I return again and again to Isaiah:
Comfort, O comfort my people
speak gently to Jerusalem and cry to her
that she has served her term
that her penance is paid,
that she has received from the Lord's hand
double for all her sins.
Although today is dark and I am not where I want to be, I can take comfort that I am not where I once was and that He is with me. Even more, I can take comfort in knowing that I am where he wants me to be. Healing comes slowly, a gradual baptism by fire.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
True sanctification comes slowly, from the Lord's hand, in the Lord's time. We cannot announce that we are ready and claim it for ourselves. We must continually open ourselves to the Holy Silence, again and again, especially when we feel heavy under the weight of our transgressions.

I will be speaking gently to myself this evening, pausing to remember as needed what the Lord's hand feels like on my forehead.
I will run and not grow weary, I will walk and not faint.

Elizabeth Bathurst


I really suck at online dating...

I've recently signed up for an online dating account and have mentioned Quakerism. This is bringing all sorts of people who were raised Quaker out of the woodwork and has lead to some interesting conversations...

I think that talking about early Quaker theology is incredibly practical. Far too many Friends have forgotten that the peace testimony is a practical application of a cohesive interpretation of Scripture. On one end of the spectrum, my First Day School kids don't know that Jesus appears towards the end of the Bible despite being in junior high. On the other end of the spectrum are Friends who still talk about Jesus all the time, but have almost completely abandoned Quaker theology over the years, primarily to water it down to attract more members. But then again, I actually believe in all that early silliness about Christ coming to teach his people himself. In my many years of doing things with non-conservative friends of both kinds, I find that the lack of theological understanding terminally weakens their understanding of Quaker practices. They have to compensate with enthusiasm, which can draw them ever further from the Source. Their silences are shallower on the whole. Theology is the core of our faith, of any faith really, and continuing revelation is not the same thing as making it up as we go along.
I suppose by "conversations" I mean rants, but whatever. I sent this in an email to someone, but decided that it needed to also be posted here. I imagine that I'll get a better conversation out of the blogging community then out of a stranger who is looking for a date.

Elizabeth Bathurst


How I'm praying today.

I've been thinking about James' post on prayer and I thought I'd share how I'm praying today. My grandmother is having surgery this morning to remove her gallbladder. It's not a particularly risky surgery, but she is an octogenarian and very dear to me so I'm still quite concerned. When I'm unable to distract myself with work, I've been praying stuff like this:
May Your will be done with as little pain and suffering as possible. Please watch over the hospital staff and my family today, especially my grandfather and mother as they care for my grandmother.
Your prayers are appreciated as well.



Faithful Farming

I was sent a link to this article recently. It gives me great cheer to read such things. It has been a weight on my heart that organic food is so expensive and that until the last couple of years was relegated to specialty stores. As someone whose income has been hovering around the poverty line (both intentionally and unintentionally) for years it saddens me that the poorer you are the harder it is to get organic and/or responsibly grown food.

I would eat completely different if I could afford it. But between cost and convenience, I haven't eaten as well as I would like in a long while. I say cost and convenience because organic products are more available at major grocery stores these days but locally grown food is still often relegated to farmers markets--which I love but rarely have the time to get to. Time is a big issue for those of us living paycheck to paycheck...I don't have time to eat, much less go to special venues for food.

However, now that grocery stores are offering more organic types of foods sometimes you can get good deals on it. And I keep telling myself the more we buy at the regular grocery the more we can convince someone that this is a viable market and maybe one day we can bring the prices down...though now that I think about it, this point may be mute as it seems regular groceries are costing more and more each week.

What most stuck me about the article though was that it was religious groups leading the way for these more ethical farming practices. It isn't just about whether to go organic or not but that there needs to be more mindfulness of the whole product. The treatment of the workers and the animals needs to be ethical. These are not new concepts for people of faith. The Catholic Worker has had ties to farms throughout its existence.

The combination of faith to bring about ethical farming practices (doing right by the workers, the animals, and the plants) and my undying hope that through continually trying to make organic and whole foods more available on an equal scale to over-processed foods, will one day lead to a level buying field between such products gives me great joy after reading the article.

Another point in this article to reflect on is that sometimes fundamentalism may not be a bad thing...though I would like to think of it more as a Conservatism...as it manifests Conservative Quakers.

So what say you, faithful readers?


Conversations with God: How do you pray? Part 1

I know how to settle myself into worship. I know what it is like to be really centered and in that place of expectant worship. And I have tons of informal conversations throughout the day with my version of God. But how do you pray?

I don't even know how to ask for help or guideance in my everyday life from regular folks. How can I possibly do it in my spiritual life? At night I try to pray in a way I began imagining as a child after reading Laura Ingalls Wilder books. But I really feel that sometimes formal prayer is all about wording. Like the saying, "Becareful what you ask for." So it is with prayer. I feel that if I don't word things just right I will indeed get what I am praying for, but not in the ways I had conceived of it.

I am a big believer in the idea that we can ask all we want for something, but the steps we take to work towards that which we pray, through the way we live our lives, is equally important. As a child I used to pray for world peace...which is a really complex goal that has many intricacies, it needs a combination of prayer and personal action. Now I feel like the big stuff, like world peace and a cleaner, safer environment are the backdrop to my conversations with God. God knows my heart, perhaps better than I do, but it is up to me to address issues weighing on me with God. By asking for help and asking God to take up certain things I can let some of it go to do better Works. Granted, I have been only asking for help with two things for many weeks now. Mostly, its because I haven't gotten the wording right...I am terribly fearful at what will happen if we can't make these things work, God and I. I know I should give them over to his wisdom and powers, but the most important one is something I don't know how to give up...and that is the crux of the issue. It is something that I have little control over, yet the thought of living without it is heartbreaking. And the worst of it is, I do not know what steps I can take myself to help God's plan. But I am going to keep praying...because I am not ready to accept a life without the object of my desire.


Love. Love. Love.

This post is rather long and full of quotes. Bear with me.

Sometimes, I like to listen to mellow music while I work. This means I can listen to a lot of love songs over the course of a day. There are a lot of different kinds of love in my ipod:

"My girl, linen and curls
Lips parting like a flag'll unfurl
She's grand, the bend of her hand
Digging deep into the sweep of the sand"
-the Decemberists

"and you were no picnic
you were no prize
but you had just enough pathos
to keep me hypnotized"
-Ani Difranco

"And if I could hold on
Through the tears and the laughter
Would it be beautiful?
Or just a beautiful disaster"
-Kelly Clarkson

"I turned around
before I could run
I found you already settled down
in the back of my mind"
-Alison Krauss

"I've got doubts I can't even count.
I've got mirrors that take me apart.
I've got blues, a melting revolt.
I've got songs that stall when they start.
I've got you babe.
Diamonds and pearls, babe.
I've got you girl, that's all I need."
-The Damnwells

"If you want a father for your child
Or only want to walk with me a while
Across the sand
I'm your man"
-Leonard Cohen

"I'll love you till heaven rips the stars from his coat
and the moon rows away in a glass bottom boat."
-Peter Mayer

There are a lot of love songs out there and I know that there are a lot of kinds of love. I'm pretty comfortable with a loving parent/child relationship with my Creator, but I know that doesn't work for everyone. That's okay, because God is all kinds of love.

"Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love."
1 John 4:7-8.

"Everyone who loves" is a strong statement. On the other hand, saying that knowing love and knowing God are the same thing seems overly simplistic. Especially when our culture has a great deal of trouble distinguishing between love and like:

Bianca: There's a difference between like and love. Because, I like my Skechers, but I love my Prada backpack.
Chastity: But I love my Skechers.
Bianca: That's because you don't have a Prada backpack.
-10 things I hate about you
Is it the act of love which makes us open to the knowledge of God? Are we to believe that the capacity for love is inherently human, something which each and every one of us is born with, just as each of us is born with an inherent knowledge of God?

I don't have the answers to these questions. All I know is that I know God in an intimate and yet limited fashion, just as I know love in an intimate and yet limited fashion. I know what it is to be loved and to love, both my neighbor and my God. Oh, and I know that those feelings are pretty awesome.

Elizabeth Bathurst

Personal Query #8

Remembering that excesses which are harmful to human beings are abhorrent to Friends, what can I do to lessen such excesses in my own life, or by example to help others?

I generally think of this query as being about addictive substances. I don't drink to excess any more, I have valid prescriptions for all the drugs I take, and I've smoked about 3-5 cigarettes in the past year or so. I encourage my friends to hang out at times in ways that don't include drinking, especially those who might be drinking a bit much lately. I don't share my pills with folks who would like to take them recreationally. All of this could make answering this query quite easy.

But when I broaden it out to think about what excesses I do have in my life, the picture isn't as pretty. Do I spend my money and time on frivolous things? All the time. How many pairs of leather-free shoes counts as excessive? Okay, I really don't need to ask that question. I know I have more than enough pairs of shoes. But is my shoe collection harmful? I don't know. The hot pink pumps are frivolous, to be certain, but at what point does frivolity become harmful? Is there a time/financial limit? Is one hour of mindless television okay? What about four?

I debated on whether to buy the pink pumps. They are utterly ridiculous. They were also less than five bucks at Goodwill. They amuse me and a little bit of money went in a charitable direction. I think that so long as I'm asking myself if each decision is frivolous, excessive or harmful I'm going to come out okay in the end. It's about being mindful, not about precise pre-prescribed judgments. At least, that's how I see it right now.


Leave that crack alone

Sometimes, people make bad decisions. Really bad decisions. I know of someone who has been making some very bad decisions lately. I find the whole situation upsetting and the details frustrating. How could she be so foolish? What was she thinking? How could she possibly be that stupid and thoughtless? AAAHHHHH!

As I write this, I realize this could actually apply to a lot of different people. From Lindsey Lohan and Nicole Richie to people I actually know to people I deeply care about to people I've never heard of who are nonetheless ruining their lives and the lives of others.

I can't convince any of these people that driving drunk, smoking pot while pregnant, sleeping with someone who doesn't respect you, etc are bad choices. Even if I could talk to them, they certainly wouldn't listen to me. I can't fix these problems but it is incredibly frustrating to see people making mistake after mistake when if they would just listen to me maybe, just maybe, they'd be okay. Not great, but okay.

I imagine that's the level of frustration God has with us. With me. I've make mistakes. I've sinned out of foolishness, out of arrogance, out of anger and fear and he has forgiven me. It's what He does. His mercy is unfathomable and I would do well to remember this a little more often.

The people I'm angry with right now about their stupid decisions for the most part have no idea I'm angry with them. Whether or not I can forgive them is a matter of my own heart and in the grand scheme of things doesn't matter all that much. They are in dire need of His forgiveness, however. It wouldn't hurt if they would listen to their freaking doctors, either.

Elizabeth Bathurst


That was easy! (NCYM-C Sessions 2007)

Whenever a really simple bit of business was completed, our clerk would press a red plastic "easy button" which would announce cheerfully: "That was easy!" Rumor has it that after a while, Sid's easy button was confiscated. I didn't attend a whole lot of business sessions so that I could recover from and prepare for Bible study, but I was deeply amused by the stories I heard about the "easy button."

In the commercials for the company which makes the "easy button," some sort of complicated office mess is cleaned up by hitting the "easy button". I could have used that while organizing the panel discussion for Saturday night.

After much pulling of teeth, four young adults were wrangled for a panel discussion on growing up in NCYM-C. My answer to one of the questions seemed to touch quite a few people, so I'm going to try to reproduce it here.

Do you have any fond or valuable memories of older Friends that have been meaningful to you on a continuing basis. Did you find any role models among Yearly Meeting Friends outside your immediate family?

Anytime that I am sitting in worship feeling cranky about a leading to speak, I think of Alfred Newlin. He was a recorded minister in a tiny rural meeting in Alamance County. Towards the end of his life, as he was losing his battle with lung cancer, he would sometimes have coughing fits that took him out of worship. For the last few months at least, he was coughing bright red blood into his handkerchief. I remember being told that Alfred was refusing to take the painkillers that his doctors had prescribed because he was afraid of becoming addicted to them, so I imagine he was in a great deal of pain. Every First Day that I was able to attend West Grove, Alfred stood up and gave his message and I never heard him complain. Not about having an incurable cancer, not about the pain, not about death, and never about having to keep up his ministry as he was dying.

I told this story on a panel that I really didn't want to take part in. I thought leading Bible Study was enough. I was still recovering from a migraine I had gotten that afternoon. And I really thought that since the panel was my father's idea that he should have been the one trying to convince people to sit on it. Okay, I still think that. But in the end, I think that the panel went well and I'm glad I participated. It wasn't that hard to talk about the things that we were asked to talk about (especially since many of them were conversations that we as YAFs have had with each other over and over and over). In the end, getting a couple young ladies' butts in the seats and crying a little as I talked about Alfred Newlin wasn't hard at all. In fact, it might well have been an occasion for Sid to use his "easy button."

Elizabeth Bathurst


Intellectual Quakerism: Of birthrights, convincement, and ethnic Quakers

I started this off with the intention of discussing "Birthright" quakers. I really liked what I had read on the post about birthright quakers from Quaker Street (and I would just like to state that sometimes the best conduct comes from convinced Friends). The post itself and the discussion in the comments was very good. I don't actually know that I can add anything. However, it made me recall some of my first days in big league Quaker circles.

As I have stated in several previous posts I grew up in the middle of no-where-Minnesota. I did not attend Meeting regularly till I was 12. And I choose to go to a Quaker College for the community provided and the opportunity to be surrounded by many other young Friends. I had missed out on going to summer camps and retreats and other such important developmental social functions of young Quakers. I mean yea, I had gone to FGC and yearly meeting and FINALLY got to go to some teen retreats, but I just felt like I was missing something.

However, my midwestern conceptual framework of Quakers was challenged when I arrived at college. The scholarship program I had somehow gotten into seemed to be filled with super-Quakers with connections to big names in Quaker circles, related to influential historical figures, and who had grown up Quaker --filled with camps, social circles, and friendships. While it was annoying that some of the people I was meeting in the program had to express that they new this person and that one...the really annoying part was when they would point out how they were related to insert famous name here. And how they were birthright and that their family had been Quaker for ions. It made me feel small, insignificant, and unworldly. I didn't think Quakers would be like that. I didn't know if I was related to famous Quakers, though my mother's side of the family has been Quaker for ions. It wasn't something that was important to my family...we are more of the live your life, let it speak for you kind of family. Not the speak to make your life more important kind. Which is often what happens with Quakers who feel the need to make you constantly aware of their lineage and relative importance (by way of birthrightness and who they are related to). Now, since I am pointing fingers it should probably be said that I consider Birthright to mean that you are born into the care of a meeting...technically, I was. My mother was a member of a meeting and I was born into the care of the meeting...I still have yet to attend said meeting. But I do consider myself Birthright...I don't care if the Society considers me to be one or not. At 16, I had a clearness committee to become a member of my home meeting. So I am Quaker and that is what matters.

Now, what does this have to do with Intellectual Quakerism. Sometimes it appears to me, that convinced friends (or fellow travelers who attend and don't commit) often love the intellectual aspects of what Friends say in our testimonies and other publications and discussions. In fact, they spend time devouring the writings and practices but have difficulty really getting into the practice and Spiritual practices. The theoretical ideals of Quakers are only a layer of the whole. What are Quakers? Are we a sect? A cult? That is sorta what we were considered early on...but we are a Christian sect...take away Christ and we are just a Peculiar People...which may be more like a cult...with no Charismatic leader...Now before, you start to think I am intolerant of those who do not love themselves some Christ...that is hardly the case...but at the peculiar Quaker College...I somehow learned to be a Christian...Perhaps I should start hyphenating my Quakerness as a Christian-Quaker.

But in truth I want to introduce a concept. Ethnically Quaker.

The term is not my own. A friend first used this in my presence at the retreat in Burlington. We used it to discuss how as individuals who come from Quaker stock, have a tendency as young adults we tend to drift away but cannot imagine being anything else. The ethnic Quaker is a term which to me has a softer tone than Birthright...because you are what you are, imbued with certain attributes based on how you were raised. I also don't see the type of person who loves to shove every one's noses in their birthrightness as using the term ethnically Quaker very often. However, I do think that us ethnic Quakers have an ingrained feel of Quakerism. We know when its right or wrong even if we can't tell you what that is. Sometimes I worry that convinced Friends rely too much on the theoretical ideal of Quakerism making it too cerebral when the theoretical underpinnings of Quakerism are only a fraction of the whole. I am not entirely convinced you can know Quakerism until you have truly felt the stirrings of the Spirit of the living God. Because being a minister (as we all are in Quakerism) means feeling the touch of God. The Nudge. The Stirring. The Calling. The Test. But it is a connection to the Spirit of Life, that of God in you and the experiential--unless you get a little mystical, unless you let God in--regardless of what you call it, you won't get Quakerism. It is not purely theoretical.



I'm headed off to North Carolina for NCYM-C Sessions, where I'll be leading Bible Study on Isaiah, Early Friends and the Christian Gospel. I'm planning to write up some reflections when I get back, but in the meantime I'll leave you all with this image:

Elizabeth Bathurst


Notes at 1:30am

I would like to take a moment to apologize for my last two posts oh-so-many months ago. Not for their personal nature but for how they were expressed. The experiential nature of Quakerism has lead us to value life's experiences as it reveals the Truths necessary to continuing revelations of the Spirit in our lives thereby creating a "kingdom of God" here on this earth. So it is not that I regret the highly personal nature of the posts but the whiney adolescent tone. As a result I took time away from the Quaking Harlot and blogging.

Currently, I have been following conversations on the blogshere and am working on several posts relating to progressive politics and religion, theism and non-theism, convergent Friends, and that thorny issue of "birthright" Quakers.

Peace be with you. And to those of you lucky enough to be at FGC enjoy! The campus at River Falls is very dear to me. As someone from NYM I have spent many lovely times there for YM and was present last time FGC visited.


"and everywhere the world is bare"

When things inevitably go wrong and they inevitably do, I want to curl up in my bed and savor the darkest silence I can find. This is of course, not the best of choices, as it is rarely dark enough and never quiet enough and there's only so much staring at a wall I can do before my thoughts begin to spiral dangerously downward. When things look bleak and I am in need of comfort, I recall a couple of verses from Isaiah:

Comfort, O, Comfort my people!
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem
and cry to her that she has served her term,
that her penance is paid,
that she has received from the Lord's hand
double for all her sins. (Isaiah 40:1-2)

This is the verse I use to remember the feeling I had when I first felt the overpowering glory of forgiveness. Whether I am standing on an overcrowded train, or huddled in my bed or sitting at my desk, I can recite this verse to myself and remember that although my fellow humans may fail me time and time again, He never will. I know that I can place my hope in the Lord and have my strength renewed and that is all I'll ever need.

The support of my dear friends and a little Avril seem to be helping for the moment as well:

Don't pretend, I think you know I'm damn precious
And hell yeah, I'm the motherfuckin' princess

Many thanks for the tea and sympathy,
Elizabeth Bathurst

*For those of you who will be attending NCYM-C sessions next month, I'll be covering Isaiah 40 more in depth, probably on First Day morning.
**Avril will not be covered.
***Sorry about the language, Mama.


Personal Query #5

To what extent is the performance of my worldly duties promoting or hindering my growth in grace and my service for God?

At the moment, there are a lot of things distracting me. I'm conducting a roommate search, exploring a new relationship, and spending a lot of time/energy on my therapy. It's a busy time of year at work, as we approach the end of the fiscal year and budgets must be spent out.

I think that there are ways in which getting my head fixed is helpful to my service for God. It's easier for me to find time to do service work and personal acts of kindness now that I'm doing pretty good. It's also much easier for me to center in worship when my crazy is under control. It's a good feeling, but it also takes a lot of effort.

I wish that I had more time for blogging. It's good for me. I need this space to put my thoughts in order and focus on my spiritual life. I think that it's going to continue to be on the back burner as I prepare for Yearly Meeting. I've still got a lot to think about and a lot to read in order to feel comfortable with leading the things I've agreed to lead. Perhaps I'll get over the hump soon and start enjoying the preparations and get some spiritual satisfaction out of them, but at the moment I just feel utterly overwhelmed.

Love is like rain, Part 2.

once again, this was written a little while ago. I apologize for the delay.

It's another dreary day in Boston. Perhaps the fourth day since we've seen the sun and everyone is getting a little cranky.

Last night, a good friend got engaged. I got word this afternoon that some college classmates are expecting their first child. It's spring and love is in the air.

I'm not immune. In a fit of foolishness, I accepted a date with a lovely man. He's wonderful and bright and everything I would look for in a man, if I were looking.

The first couple of weeks were great. He made excellent conversation and wrote me frequent witty emails. I was smiling and distracted and nothing bothered me all that much.

But last night, things changed. It became clear that things couldn't stay that way forever. It's time to start the unpleasant intimate conversations I'd rather not have. I'm spending too much time thinking about how to tell him x, y, and z when I ought to be doing ten other things. I'm already worried, terrified even of how these conversations will go. I have other things to do. It's not fair that I have to take these things into consideration.

Perhaps my reservations about relationships and love are based entirely in fear. Perhaps I just need to suck it up and hope that there's something comforting and elegant on the other side of this storm. But right now, I can only see fields of mud. I'm already cold and I have no idea if I'll ever be dry and warm again.

I've always taken comfort in the teachings of Christ about marriage:
"Not everyone who can accept this teaching but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so since birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can". (Matthew 19:10-12)

It's okay not to be married. It is not an affront to God to forgo this sacrament. It might bother my grandmother, but really, Jesus matters more.

Paul takes it a little further (as always.) It's not just okay for people to go through life without marriage, it's prefereable. After all, there's more time to focus on living an obidient Christian life when you don't have to worry about maintaining a marriage relationship or support a family.

You might as well get married if you can't keep it in your pants.

Being single is pretty easy for me. I really only have moments of wanting romantic moments in my life. I'm comforted in those moments by the Bible and by my relationship with Christ.

But now there's the young man in my life and already everything is complicated. I'm worried that already I'm being less attentive to the movement of the Spirit. I'm more interested in seeing if he's emailed me.

But I also can't wait to see him on Monday.

Elizabeth Bathurst


Easter reflections

Sometimes, it's hard for me to distinguish between different types of liberal friends. The majority of stuff I hear about FGC makes me roll my eyes. The tendency of certain active and well-known members in the large meeting I now attend to stand up and rebuke any ministry that is given about Christ is upsetting to me. The practice of combative "ministry," the aggressive dislike of Christianity, and the tendency to give membership to people who perhaps need a little more seasoning in order to truly believe in Quaker process and methods of worship make me long for more Conservative-style worship.

I am aware that there are many reasons to be uncomfortable with Christianity: aggressive evangelism, historical and contemporary persecution in Jesus' name, etc. I'm also aware that the "SPICE" testimonies which FGC friends tend to be so fond of are based in a cohesive and flexible interpretation of scripture. My own mother finds her feminism often conflicts with the New Testament, which is understandable given how much her Catholic upbringing/education chafed against her ideas about women and equality. It was when I announced when I was about two years old that I wanted to be a priest that my parents finally left the Catholic Church for Princeton Friends Meeting.

Over the weekend, I had the chance to worship with Princeton Friends for Easter. Princeton, like my local meeting, is an unprogrammed dual-affiliated (FGC/FUM) meeting in a college town. Unlike my local meeting, Princeton is a small meeting in a semi-rural setting on the outskirts of town. And there I found that several members were lead to speak of the crucifixion story and were not rebuked during worship by someone who identifies as a non-theist or pagan or Jewish Friend. I am certain these elements are present in the meeting, especially given the items and wishes that I was asked to pass on to family members, but they weren't combative, at least not on Easter Sunday.

I am trying to think of what I might be able to do to help heal the wounds that cause so much of the anti-Christian sentiment where I worship. I will continue to faithfully give the messages I am given, which are so often about comfort, sin, obedience, redemption, forgiveness and Christ's love. I will continue to spread the gospel as I am asked, although I feel my voice is largely unwelcomed. I don't feel that every Quaker needs to be fully Christian, but I simply can't understand how one can be virulently anti-Christian and still be a Quaker. Why can't one of the paths up the mountain be hand in hand with Christ Jesus?

I know that whatever I do, it will only be so far as I am led. In thinking about this issue, the only thing that is clear to me is that I need to continue to be fully honest about my faith. Honest about my universalism and it's limits. Honest about the power of Christian Salvation in my life. Honest about my struggles with theology and scripture. And perhaps most importantly, honest about how uncomfortable I feel expressing my Christianity in the Big Urban Meeting I attend.


My Struggles; Isolation

I find myself trying to establish a social network --again. This is the fourth time in six years, 1) after college returning to Minnesota, 2) moving back to North Carolina after 3 years in Minnesota, 3)moving to Maryland to start graduate school, and now 4) the transition from graduate school to professional life and finding friends with a similar schedules...

I have found that more often than not my life consists of work...with very little social outlet. I have a weekly "date" with a F/friend, who I first met at a NYM (Northern Yearly Meeting) youth retreat when I was 16. She and I ended up in Baltimore serendipitously about the same time. I am thankful for our weekly dinners, however, as our lives go in various directions we are braking the date more and more frequently.

I have two friends from school I see semi-regularly when our schedules permit. I am certainly not complaining that I only have a few friends in the area...but it can get lonely, living in a big city and doing most things solo...

I told God that my only resolution for 2007 was to go to meeting more often. But that he was responsible for getting my up in time. Which is perhaps not fair, but part of being faithful is being lead. Going to meeting frequently would not only be good for the obvious spiritual reasons...and lord knows I need to spend more time being devote and working on being centered. But it would also provide me with a healthy social outlet. The community of corporate worship would be good. However, even when I am up on Sunday mornings I don't always get to meeting.

I have had several instances of impending panic attacks on my way to meeting. Sometimes this has to do with parking, sometimes this has to do with which meeting I am trying to go to, and sometimes it is the thought of having to face so many new people all alone. When I get the feeling that I am working my way toward a panic attack or feel my blood pressure rising...I usually abort my mission. It seems to be counter-productive to get that worked up in an attempt to stave off my spiritual malnutrition to center myself to deal with the week ahead. When I have managed to get myself to meeting without any problems, it has been a very rewarding experience. So why do I make it so difficult on myself to attend regularly?


My Struggles; youthful idealism

y'all really don't know my life
y'all really don't know my struggles
or how much liquor I guzzle
y'all really don't know my fears
and how many years to get here

Missy Elliott, My Struggles

I always wondered how the idealism of the '60's morphed into the greed and me-first attitudes of the Yuppies in the '80's. And for the same reasons why do so many people scoff at the "idealism of youth." But I am starting to understand the connection. It is the same reason that there is a saying about Quakers that says, "Quakers came to the new world to do good --instead they did well."

Recently, I have found myself putting income ahead of passion. I want to earn enough money to make rent and have an apartment to myself. However, things are never that simple. It's a selfish decision that will cost a lot even it it appears to be imbued with simplicity on the outside. I have debts. I don't have any furniture. And right now I don't have money for a deposit. Much less rent for this month. I don't want to live paycheck to paycheck anymore. I looking for work and if I resign myself to a boring bureaucratic life I can easily stop having to worry about finances within a year.

How nice it would be to not have to lie awake at night thinking about the shell game of my finances. The pages of lists and spread sheets of my personal budget are imprinted on my eyelids. Or having to open the file of my excel spread sheet budget "My Financial Goatfuck" every pay day and see my paycheck evaporate and only pay down the list of "I owe" by a hundred dollars, even though I paid much more than that--gotta love interest.

I have spent the last few months reading pulp sci-fi. It keeps me occupied enough to not be tempted to spend money. I go to work, come home sometimes have dinner and then read for 4 hours and go to bed. I have virtually stopped drinking and am toying with stopping smoking. At this rate I will be well prepared to become a cog in the bureaucratic machine and a cat lady. Ready to embrace my powerfully mundane existence. A deal with the devil, financial security is yours it will only cost you your personality and humanity.

I think I understand now what happened to the idealism of the '60's...and I am not happy about it.

To be continued...


Personal Query #3

Do I make a place in my daily life for inward retirement and communion with the Divine Spirit? To what extent has this brought satisfaction spiritually? Are there ways in which I might attain greater satisfaction or inspiration? Does my daily schedule need review and revision at this time?

While I'd like to believe that I am always open to the movements of the spirit in my daily life, I don't make space in my daily routine for prayer or bible study. It happens as it happens, which is not all that infrequently. I'd like to have it happen more often, even daily, but I don't think that's something that I can fit into my daily schedule right now. My everyday life is overwhelming to me as it is. If I were to set aside time for prayer would that ground me and make it easier for me to fit in everything else? Would it cheapen my extemporaneous prayers by making it just another thing I need to get done today before I can go to bed? I'm so unsteady, so unbalanced that right now I can't get very far with the answers to those questions, much less make any changes to my schedule. I've just got to keep the ball rolling. Maybe this is my crazy talking, but it's also my crazy-management-skills talking. When things calm down again, perhaps I can make some changes, but you don't reorganize the tupperware drawer while the smoke alarm is going off. I'm pretty sure it's just some burnt toast and not a grease fire this time, but I think this metaphor has gone far enough. Lord, hold me close and get me through this day. I can't do it without you.

Elizabeth Bathurst

What kiddie table?

Last night, I went to the opera. The audience, though decidedly better dressed, had similar demographics to a Quaker meeting, as well as many library functions. Grey hair and white skin abound. In all three of these arenas I regularly hear that the greying of the profession/audience/meeting is a problem. Where are the young people? What's going to happen when all the opera-goers, elderly Quakers, and librarians retire or die?

On the train back from Symphony Hall I was surrounded by older couples examining their programs, who looked at me with bemusement when I joined in their conversations about the performance. This look of bemusement is common in all three arenas. It comes from a very different place than the occasional look of askance when a young person appears and speaks up, but there are ways in which it has the same effect. My fellow patrons of the art were pleased to have me there, but clearly dismissive of me. My love of the opera will keep me coming back so long as I can find affordable tickets, despite my feeling out of place, the same way that my love of metadata and order keeps me plowing ahead in my career. The same applies to my attendance at Quaker meeting. I'll keep coming back because my faith and my God require the spiritual practice of communal worship despite the fact that I feel like I'm not accepted in certain forums as a Real Quaker because I'm not over the age of fifty.

So just how did I find myself the object of bemusement at meeting, at work and at play? Mostly, I think I had adults in my life who always encouraged my interests, even when I appeared to lack the intellectual, spiritual or emotional depth the appreciate them fully. I would put myself to sleep by playing Beverly Sills on my Fisher Price Record Player as a preschooler. Many a Saturday afternoon was spent doing chores with the weekly Met broadcast on in the background. I was taken to performances and museums that my mother wanted to see and expected to behave as best I could. Additionally, I was blessed to be taken under the wing of a series of librarians who never avoided answering a question and gave me all the background information I could handle, even when I was just a student worker pasting barcodes on books.
And when it comes to my Quaker faith, my parents encouraged my explorations of different religions and denominations without censure. I had conversations with many Friends of different generations who treated me as a treasured member of the community. I was expected to attend and participate in worship to the best of my personal abilities, not as a member of a general age category. I had access a wide variety of Quaker texts in my home, even when some texts were clearly above my reading level. I didn't have trouble being taken seriously as an individual until I started interacting with Quakers outside of my yearly meeting. I don't know if this is because I grew up before their watchful eyes or if the way my yearly meeting approaches the spiritual development of our children is significantly different, but I have been blessed to have always been treated as a full member of my meeting and yearly meeting since I was a teenager.

Being taken under the wing of kindly members of an insular and aging group can be very important. Perhaps more important is for kindly members of that insular and aging group to treat newcomers, and especially young people, as individuals and have high expectations of them. Assuming that teenagers or young adults need to hang out with their peers to the exclusion of the life of the rest of the meeting or that children cannot be expected to sit in worship for an hour does not challenge them to join the community on their own time as individuals with individual strengths and gifts.

Elizabeth Bathurst


Love is like rain, part one

I wrote this back in June, but it still applies. Except that the deary today is snow and not rain.

It's a dreary day in Boston. We're having a wimpy little thunderstorm at the moment and it reminded me of a quote from the book "Breath, Eyes, Memory":

"Love is like rain. It comes in a drizzle sometimes. Then it starts pouring and if you aren't careful it will drown you." -Edwidge Danicat

Love is a dangerous thing, binding us to one another. It's what holds us together but it can hurt like hell. I know that some people like falling in love, but I am not one of them.

I am at an age where many of my friends are cohabitating, getting married and/or reproducing. I love watching their babies grow. I'm happy for them when they have relationships that are healthy and fulfilling. But it's not what I want for myself. Definitely not now, and maybe not ever.

I should clarify this a little. I'd like to have children, but mostly in a biological clock kind of way. I'm pretty sure I don't want to raise a child alone and I really don't think I'd make a good partner.

While I occasionally have those wistful moments of wouldn't-it-be-nice-if-I-had-someone-to-hold-my-hand-and-buy-me-flowers, those moments are far outweighed by my deep and sincere love of privacy, solitude and independence.

More later...

Elizabeth Bathurst



Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

I haven't forgotten about the blog. The blog is a tool to bring myself back to mediations and centered thought/action. My brain has been very active lately, so active that it is a jumble of rantings and incomplete thoughts. I think about blogging and I can't even see where to start. Or how to clear my head. I went to meeting last week. It was really good. That Sunday started off so well, meeting, a walk, I cooked...then the preasures about money and finances and the direction I am taking or not taking appeared on the horizon. I have been in a tailspin all week. I have too many big decisions in the next few months and not enough control over when I get to make the decisions...I have too many doors open, causing a wind tunnel that keeps me immobile. I keep waiting for them to shut...I keep waiting for the way to open, clearly with minimal obstruction...and it hasn't. I am tired...I am tired of questioning my future and my directions and my decisions that got me here, much less the decisions I am trying to make. And I don't have the financial resources to take the first steps I need to take to ease the weight of the crisis looming over my head right now. I try to be still and silent, but my head starts to feel like it will explode and that is not centeredness. I am four years past my Americorps year which marked true economic downturn in my life and the only changes are a Master's degree and the State I live in.

So I haven't disappeared. I just can't seem to find my way.

Happy are those who find wisdom, and those who get understanding...She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called happy. Proverbs 3:13, 18


I said what, what?

While answering questions about my sexual/reproductive history and intentions for a CDC survey a few weeks ago, I surprised myself. Not on how I answered the questions about cocaine and crack usage or whether I have had "sexual intercourse with a man in the rectum or butt (also known as anal sex)," but on the demographics questions.

The question about race has been confusing for me since I was in high school and I mostly get around that by not answering the question whenever I can. This wasn't an option but I did get to "check all that apply" which is second best. I grew up being told by my family that I was one thing and being seen by the rest of the world as another. I didn't have the concept of biracialism until I was a teenager and at times even that label has felt like selling out. Knowing that I will be faced with answering what race I am always causes some anxiety. What are the consequences of my answer/non-answer? It's stressful, more so even than talking about my sexual history with a complete stranger while she takes notes, but it's a known stress.

I know if I am going to be asked to check a box next to a racial category I'm going worry about whether or not I've made the right choice for a little while afterwards. I didn't realize that answering some of the religion questions would be so hard. "Christian, other" has become easy. I'm a Christian and I'm perfectly comfortable with the term and just about everything it implies. But then there was this follow-up question, asking me to check off words that applied to me like:
  • fundamentalist
  • born-again
  • conservative
  • evangelical
Three out of four were easy. I am not a fundamentalist. I am not conservative in the way that they mean. I am not evangelical. But born-again? I'm not like the Born-Again Christians I grew up around and I think eternal life sounds like a punishment, not a reward, and
I'm not convinced that Christ is the only way for everyone, but...
I do know that I had a life-changing spiritual experience in which I felt baptized in the Holy Spirit, which is really similar to that bit about being born again in the third chapter of John so maybe I am a born-again Christian. And now the CDC knows it.

Elizabeth Bathurst


Concerns Part II

Perhaps it was returning from what has been one of the most profound experiences I have been apart of in a long time. Perhaps it was getting some quality time with the spirit resultined in a greater awareness of the areas in my life that need attention.

I struggled all day at work with a very bitter anger. I have just recieved a master's degree and am still doing the same type of work that I was doing right out of college. Basic administrative tasks, hand holding of my boss, and cleaning up my over extended boss' mess. It is yet again another in a series of jobs stretching over the last 6 years which both underpay and under-utilize me. It is not that I am devoted to earning a lot of money, but I do think that getting paid what you are worth is important. I have lived in both intentional and unitentional poverty; now I want to live a life where I don't have to go hungry throughout the week or cut every corner possible. I know that I am happiest in jobs that are helping my fellows and making the world better. I really believe in the project I am currently engaged in, however, at every turn there are empty promises and red-tape mixed with a lot of drudgery. While I am realistic that those are often present in even the best of jobs, this is daily a practice of patience and humility that would make even someone with a good temperment and a saintly demeanor have trouble.

I am just tired. I am tired of trying to do the best possible things with my life and being met with a series of bad timing. First it was the economic crash in 2001 when I graduated college, then it was a series of low paying jobs to (barely) pay the bills. Then a series of moves in Minnesota, a return to NC, and then Maryland. I want to sit still. I want to have roots. I want to feel centered in a greater way than just the spirit, my body and emotions need time to center. But those are not things that have been afforded me in the tender beginnings of adult life. Currently, I am waiting for a snafu with payroll to be fixed so I can actually be paid for working 40hrs a week, and then I can start to pay off my debts incurred while waiting for my tuition scholarship to be processed this fall...then I could deal with the odd (and the situation is a bit odd but for many reasons you will have to just trust me on that) demands of my job a bit better.

I had dinner last night with a F/friend of many years, and we were talking about what is going on in our lives and our frustrations...though our paths have differed in many ways, they often run in parallel. And what helped the most last night was to know that I am not alone. I have no answers or direction...but at least I am not alone.



I attended the gathering of YAF's in New Jersey this past weekend. I am still processing much of it. However, what is reoccurring in my head right now, it how wicked real adult life is. I am feeling spiritually re-awakened after being away from the Society for nearly six years. But upon returning to Baltimore all I can see and feel are constraints of my current life. It is very clear that I need a new job ASAP. That I need to move out of my living situation...but how broad to I make my search. I have usually been of the mind that I would return home--to Minnesota...but I have fallen in love with Baltimore and perhaps with someone residing here. But should I stay or move on? Do I return to my home and my family and my commitments to them or do I stay with my heart desires? Do I stay to find rewarding work here and see where the path leads with this relationship? The relationship looks like an awful mess from the outside and people wonder why I have not turned my back on it. Much like Baltimore itself looks to many.

I dislike transitioning. It is all I have done for the last six years. Perhaps it will be easier to follow my path now that I am ready to listen again.



Giving ministry takes quite a bit out of me. Less then it used to, but still enough to warrant a nap. Last First Day I was sitting in bed after breakfast, planning on enjoying a little house-to-myself when I got that nudge. I grumbled, went to meeting, said what I was given to say and then managed to enjoy the rest of a fairly centered meeting. When it was time for introductions, I reintroduced myself since I had spoken and don't know many people and in doing so identified myself as an irregular attender.
One of the Friends who came up to thank me for my message teased that I should come more often. I snarkily replied that I would if they would have centered meetings more often. I thought at the time I shouldn't have said it, but now I'm standing by it. It's important for meetings to be reminded that there are young adults who are seeking quality worship and no amount of potlucks or programming is going to draw them in. (I know this isn't a singular quality of young adults). A loving community would be awesome, but what I'm looking for in a "church family" is a group that consistently has centered worship.
By the way, the Friend's response was that meeting was more centered when I attended. It's a pretty apt reminder that we each play a part in the quality of every meeting we attend and that chances are I'm not helping matters by quietly stewing when someone gets up to give a movie review in the middle of worship.

Elizabeth Bathurst

Personal Query #2

Am I striving to develop my physical, mental, and spiritual abilities and to use them to the glory of God? What have I recently undertaken to this end, and what future opportunities are sought?
My body is weak and it limits me. I tire easily and do not have the energy to do the volunteer work I would like to do. I am frequently ill and it takes me a while to recover from the mildest of infections. I know that part of this is a result of my being out of shape and part of it is physical symptoms of my mental illness. I have recently joined a gym and hope to make a habit of going regularly.

With regard to my mental abilities, I think I do all right. I read books that challenge me intellectually, both religious and secular. I have recently changed jobs to one that is far more intellectually stimulating. I'm aware that keeping my mind sharp and engaged, especially with a willingness engage in matters theological and sociological is an important part of being able to properly interpret my leadings.

I am anxious about developing my budding spiritual abilities. The only one I can think of at the moment is giving ministry, and I hate it. I hate hate hate hate speaking in meeting. I've gotten much better at standing up quickly and not dissociating nearly as much while I speak, but I still hate it. I really need to work on that part, I guess. I also worry about developing an ego with regard to giving ministry. It is important for me to remember that when I am speaking, I am speaking what the Lord would have me say. There is no pride to be had in being a vessel.


Taking the Lord's name in vain and the 12 commandments

What does it mean to take the lord's name in vain?

I have recently been pondering this question. I think this question first formed in my mind when my boyfriend who was brought up Catholic became angry with me after I pulled one of my favorite Quaker jokes. He had misplaced a citation for his dissertation proposel and exclaimed, "Jesus Crist." I naturally answered, "yes." He looked at me and told me to watch my mouth, that that was blasphemous language. I replied, "No, there is that of god in all of us. So my responding to your utterance of 'Jesus Christ' is less blasphemous." At which point I think he quit listening ( I never said we were a functional couple).

However, the idea of what constitutes taking the lord's name in vain has continued to roll around in my brain. The answer that keeps coming to me, is that we take this statement too literally. That it is not as simple as avoiding using phrases like, "Jesus H. Christ" or "God Damn It."

The 10 Commandments begin:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

You shall have no other gods before me.

You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

---Exodus 20:1-7, New International Version

It has occurred to me, that we misuse god's name a lot. We worship money, beauty, and youth...and sometimes god. We say that god doesn't like this or that. We have presidents who think they are here by some devine decree and then arrange wars, cheat the poor, and pamper the rich. I think that a lot of the talk about it being god's will to do this or believe that is in fact taking the Lord's Name In Vain. Who are we to know? Yes, you can try to be faithful, but part of being a vessel of the Lord is to discern what is worldly pride motivating us and what is divine humility. I think that every time we act with hate, prejudice, malice, or in any un-Loving manner we are taking the Lord's name in vain.

One of the main points Jesus makes in his teachings is the importance of love. I think that is infact what makes him stand out amongst the prophets of the Bible...LOVE.

Love the Lord your God with all with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and all the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

Matthew 22:37-40 New International Version

Because these two commandments that Jesus brought us are two of the hardest in many ways, that might answer why we are still so far from creating a lasting Kingdom of God here on Earth. Act from the divine; act from love.


Hate, intolerance, and quaker colleges

As an alumni of two sites of higher education, I view each as very different. The institution where I received my master's degree was a means to an end and was not chosen with the same criteria as my undergraduate institution.

My undergraduate institution was chosen to learn about myself and the world. I wanted to go somewhere far away from home and to a Quaker institution. Guilford College in NC is where I ended up. I went there for a bigger purpose. There were many wonderful things that came with my time at Guilford. I met some of the most wonderful people in my life. I had amazing professors who ignited my love for a discipline I still work within. It was a time of great spiritual awakening, learning, and devotion.

I recently found out from another alum that over the weekend there was a racially motivated hate crime on the campus. The students who were attacked are Palestinian. They went to Ramallah Friends School, before coming to Guilford College. The attackers are from NC and are on the football team. It is a sad and sobering event. The college responded with this statement 72 hours after the event. More information in an article from the Greensboro News and Record. And the AP has picked it up.

I am having many mixed emotions at the moment that I should probably sit with until I know what is coming from a godly place and what is pure emotion. It pains me to see the media running stories connecting Quaker values and hate crimes. For now all we can do is to pray. Pray for the college community. Pray for the victims. Pray for the perpetrators. Pray for guidance in finding solutions to racism, intolerance, and ignorance. Pray for a day when we have true equality. Pray for a day when we have taken away occasion for war, strife, and violence. Pray for God's Kingdom here on Earth. Pray to be a vessel for God's work. Pray that the Spirit leads us to do good works to help create a more just and equitable and loving world.

The Nunnery, Part II: Living with an aching heart

I have loved. That I suppose is better than having never loved. I am not talking the love I have for my family or my friends or God, nature and creation. I mean the love of lovers. And just when I was ready to tell you, you go away. I still don't know your reasons. I miss you, I love you. But its been a month since I heard your vioce. Our last conversation gave no hint that you were leaving me.

for you
i would no longer pick
my so-pickable nose
or bite my delicious nails

for you i would fix my teeth
and buy a mattress

for you
i'd kill my favorite roach
that lives in the woodwork
by the drawing table*

I never let myself dare to love before. But you...You made me feel ways I had never dared to hope for. With you I am comfortable and safe. I feel secure and unashamed when we are intimate. I loved that though you drank Budweiser, we could take about politics, social justice, and making the world better than we found it. With you I dared to hope that I had found someone who could love me, even with all of my neuroses and scary damaged places.

Yeah that was
once in a lifetime

you gotta be clean and
with new shoes
to love like I loved you.

I think it won't happen again.*

But even though I love you so "ten dollar bill," you can't just disappear on me for a month--with only a vague email. Maybe if I were doing my research in Italy or if you were home in Kenya, I could understand going so long with such sparce communication. But as far as I can tell we are 30 minutes apart on opposite sides of the same city. And really it is indicitive of how you have always behaved...you made feel like I was a convience. That time with me only worked when it convient for you, that you were always holding back a little. But I loved you, and I knew that if you would just let down your guard we would have what I think we are both looking for. With you I knew I wasn't settling, but I would need a lot of patience. And if you were to show up on my doorstep tonight unannounced, I would be more than happy to welcome you back into my life.

damn you
you come and go
like rivers
which makes it hard
on rocks*

So how do you go about a breakup, when it isn't what your heart desires? I pray to god that I can find a way to work this out. That you will come back. That whatever happens things will resolve in a way where you and I can be happy and whole. Because even though I don't want to lose you, I want the best for you. Which is ironic because you won't do better than me.

In case you put me down I put you down
already, doll
I know the games you play

In case you put me down I got it figured
how there are better mouths than yours
more swinging bodies
wilder scenes than this.

In case you put me down it won't help much.*

Back to the nunnery with me. I don't like to date, too much effort and energy goes into it. I made an exception for you. I love you and god bless. And though I don't want to do it, I can't just keep waiting on you. Either come back and give me as much as I give you...or goodbye. It hurts, believe me. And I wish there wasn't such a large part of me hoping that you will return to me...

you are not quite
the air I breathe
thank god

so go. *

*All poems (in purple) are from More or less love poems by Diane DiPrima


Personal Query #1

1) Do I cherish that of God within me, that His power growing in me may rule my life? Do I seek to follow Jesus Christ who shows us the Father and teaches us the way?

I have come to cherish the still small voice that resonates but does not originate in me and no longer resent the intermittent interference with my plans. The sense of being sanctified/forgiven/saved, while truly indescribable, is the most significant influence on my well-being and sense of self-worth. I wish that I could walk in the power of that Light at all times, but I find I am too often distracted by the day-to-day needs of my worldly life.
I wholeheartly seek to follow Jesus Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. I have no higher calling than to serve my Lord.

The preceding is the first Query for Individuals from the Faith and Practice of North Carolina Yearly Meeting (Conservative) and my answer. Previous queries and answers can be found in the archives.

Elizabeth Bathurst

Race + Football

Last night, I was talking to Ms. Naylor on the phone and asked her if she could look up the final score of the Colts/Pats game for me. I'd watched the first three quarters, but had to head home for bed before it finished. I was quite happy this morning to awake to radio reports and a voicemail with the news that the Colts had rallied for the win in the second half.

Once they get past the whole pacifist female football-fan dissonance, people seem surprised that I regularly root against the Pats given my current geography. But as they defeated both my Panthers and my Eagles in Superbowls the first two years I lived here, I'm a loathe to switch allegiances. Last night I was rooting for the Colts. Not just because I wanted them to end their losing streak against the Pats in playoffs games, or because I thought it would be awesome for Vinetari to help defeat the Pats after they let him go last season. Part of the reason I was rooting for the Colts in this game was that if they won, Coach Dungy would be the second African-American head coach to take a team to the Superbowl. The first was Lovie Smith of the Chicago Bears, who preceded him in that honor by only a few hours.

While professional football has been open to African Americans for many years now, the "intelligent" positions of quarterback and coach have continued to be held mostly by whites. There has been some press about the prejudices that remain about the comparative mental/physical abilities of whites and blacks, in particular the Rush Limbaugh/Donovan McNabb controversy back in 2003. While professional football is simply a frivolous entertainment, arguably neither beautiful nor worthwhile, it is pleasant to celebrate the "firsts" wherever they are happening and dream of a day when we have no more of these "firsts" to celebrate because they are all distant memories of the steps towards a just and equitable society.

Elizabeth Bathurst



Sometimes there is nothing as welcoming being home. I just returned from visiting my parents in Minnesota. It was a good visit. I was able to spend time with my parents, grandparents and friends. It was a blessing and a balm for my soul.

My mother loves Christmas music. She loves being able to listen to it. Shortly after I arrived home she and I were cooking and listening to carols-- Silent Night came on. I started reflecting on that song and many of the carols. Many carols that are traditional at Christmas rejoice and detail the birth of Jesus. But to think about Bethlehem and Jerusalem, to think of the part of the world where Jesus lived and the physical location of the stories of the Bible, we see only conflict now. Daily there is religious strife, wars, death, and exploitation. It’s true that miracles are present even in the middle of war, but they are surrounded by the brutality of humanity. There is no silent night now.

Peace on Earth and Good Will to Men.

My home meeting has a lovely Christmas Eve tradition of potluck, singing, and worship. In the last few years we have even gotten my father a lapsed non-practicing Catholic to attend with the rest of the family. I get sent ahead to pick up my grandparents who no longer drive and who make a fine art of slowness. My grandfather is particularly a master in the craft of slowness.

This year’s celebration was lovely. I got to see many people I had not seen since last year’s Christmas. I was also able to reunite with old friends and start our friendships anew. The potluck was wonderful, complete with the traditional rum optional homemade Egg Nog.

After the potluck we all gather in the meeting room for caroling followed by silent worship. As we selected songs, I kept reflecting on the lyrics with their talk of peace and salvation that was forth-coming now that our savior has been born in Bethlehem. I started thinking back to my ruminations on Silent Night. Before I knew it I was speaking out of the silence between songs. Reflecting on war, conflict, religion, and humanity.

We have made Jesus’ life petty. We have made it a celebration of consumer goods prostrated before the alter of material greed. We create conflict and war in the name of the Prince of Peace. We Christians, are the new money-changers in the temple.

What was truly a blessing in this was the response after meeting had risen. Several people came to speak with my about the points I had raised and thanked me for my ministry. I am very grateful to have my home meeting.

It is good to be home.