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.