Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. Matthew 4:4 NIV Study Bible

And he was in the desert forty days being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. Mark 1:13 NIV Study Bible

I have been trying to attend to my spiritual needs more lately. It is hard. I allow myself to get pulled in too many directions and have a hard time saying ‘no’ especially when other people need something. I had a leading last August that I needed to start volunteering with a local Friends organization…and well, it is July now and I just sent the volunteer application in. So I am moving at a different pace than maybe the Lord would like to see. I have wanted to go to meeting more often for the last year or so yet still only make it maybe once a month. I know this is the direction I need to go in; to return to my spiritual home. But reincorporating it into my life seems difficult. But I feel the pull clearly…when I let myself.

A series of events recently had me thinking, again, on why it is that so many young adult Friends seem to drift away…I have many lines of thought on this phenomenon. Currently, I am pondering how it is that few of my year in QLSP are actively involved with Friends. Some are definitely, for example one of us is a pastor now. Some are slowly being drawn into projects in the larger society. Some of us do work that has some meaningful benefit to society and that work is tied to our spiritual beliefs. But I started to contemplate how it is that individuals from other parts of my Quaker life are more actively involved in the SOF then my QLSP friends. I think back on the unspoken currents of trying to “out Quaker” each other or those “super-Quakers” among us and if some how that un-quakerly attitude has attributed to some of us departing on another path rather than one serving the larger SOF. I don’t have answers or even any idea if what I just said is grounded in a reality that others experience.

Mainly, this is my attempt to say, “I am still here.” I think it has become clear that I need to make my way out of my personal desert and come back to the fold. It may take time but I am starting that journey—again.

Lapses and forgettings are so frequent. Our surroundings grow so exciting. Our occupations are so exacting. But when you catch yourself again, lose no time in self-recriminations, but breathe a silent prayer for forgiveness and begin again, just where you are. Thomas Kelly, A Testament of Devotion.


Jesse Helms died yesterday.

The Guardian described him as a "rightwing senator who opposed civil rights, gun laws, hippies, foreign aid and the UN." My initial response was that they left out art. The man opposed funding for the arts with vigor.

My earliest political memory is of a senatorial campaign between Harvey Gantt and Helms, which featured ads describing Gantt's political record and ended with the phrase "too liberal for North Carolina." I remember thinking that everything mentioned in the ad was a good thing and then being really surprised that it was an attack ad.

I remember watching "Dear Jesse" in college, and aside from being taken aback by the appearance of Matthew Shepard (yes, that Matthew Shepard), I remember being really surprised at how fair and balanced the documentary was, given that it was about Jesse Helms and was made by a gay man.

I almost had a party to celebrate his retirement. (I was thwarted by the rules in my apartment complex.) After his retirement, he settled into a fairly quiet life only popping into politics to endorse the occasional candidate. But he also became convinced that AIDS was a bad thing and argued for funding to fight AIDS in Africa. So much so that Bono praised him for it at one point.

He adopted a child, not because he and his wife could not conceive, but because the kid, who had cerebral palsy, had asked for parents for Christmas.

On this forth of July, I am struck by how similarly I think about Jesse Helms and America. I feel deeply conflicted when I think about them both and rack up more negative connotations than positive. They both are mostly symbolic in my mind, but they symbolize home: deeply flawed, well-intentioned and capable of change. That Jesse Helms, who in many ways was a symbol of hate, was capable of good deeds throughout his life, both large and small and was capable of rethinking things even late in life gives me hope for a better day in America, and in the wider world.

I'm hoping that Jesse is facing a merciful judgment in the Heaven of "Angels in America" :

Big city. Overgrown with weeds, but flowering weeds. On every corner a wrecking crew and something new and crooked going up catty corner to that. Windows missing in every edifice like broken teeth, gritty wind, and a gray high sky full of ravens... ...prophet birds, Roy. Piles of trash, but lapidary like rubies and obsidian, and diamond-colored cowspit streamers in the wind. And voting booths. And everyone in Balenciaga gowns with red corsages, and big dance palaces full of music and lights and racial impurity and gender confusion. And all the deities are creole, mulatto, brown as the mouths of rivers. Race, taste and history finally overcome.

I think that only in the Kingdom of Heaven can race, taste, and history be overcome. Good thing we've got the chance to catch glimpses of it here and now.

Elizabeth Bathurst