24 November 2005

Thanksgiving Shorts

I love Northwest Yearly Meeting! There's something so sturdy about this group. When I get frustrated at the apparent timidity, traditionalism, and uninspiring politics, there's still a day-in and day-out faithfulness that somehow doesn't give up.

So, for example, this year, lots of churches distributed this bulletin insert for the annual Thanksgiving Offering:

2005 Thanksgiving Offering

Supporting Peace Education
for Northwest Yearly Meeting

How carefully have you examined your beliefs concerning war?

Some thoughts from Ralph Beebe

My uncle killed several Germans in World War I. Then one killed him.

Uncle Lester was convinced he was protecting God's people. The Germans all wore belt buckles inscribed, "God is with us."

How do we know when Jesus wants us to kill someone? The peace education program for NWYM is trying to help young people answer that question. I have read some of his letters, and am certain my Uncle Lester, a deevoted Christian, had never even considered whether Jesus might not want him to kill the Germans.

Has the United States government ever done anything you thought was a mistake? If so, is it possible that one of those mistakes might be getting us into a war Jesus doesn't want us to fight? Yet if I am in the military, I have sworn to uphold my government and obey my superiors, whether or not my country made a mistake, whether or not Jesus wants me to kill another human being.

The Board of Peace and Social Concerns is determined to make sure no young person from our Yearly Meeting is ever targeting someone with a rifle, or about to fire a missile or drop a bomb, without knowing for sure whether he or she is doing Jesus' will. We are determined to give our young people the opportunity to really ponder what Jesus said on the subject; to examine why most Christians today believe killing an enemy is acceptable and heroic; and to determine personally whether they believe Jesus teaches conscientious objection to all killing.

In the final analysis each Christian's conscience is subject to the teachings of Jesus. We want to support our young people no matter what their decision. But unlike Uncle Lester, we don't want any of them to kill or be killed without having considered whether or not it is Jesus' will. What better offering of thanks can we make than to give such a gift to our precious children and grandchildren?

The Northwest Yearly Meeting Board of Peace and Social Concerns invites you to make a donation this Thanksgiving in support of peace education throughout the Northwest.

There's no rule preventing people from outside Northwest YM supporting the peace education program. More information at the YM's Web site.

Finally in print!! It seems like forever since we began working on the Friends International Library's trilingual version of Lighting Candles in the Dark, now entitled Power of Goodness. I thought I was in a hurry as I left the house yesterday for the gym, but then I spotted three book-sized packages almost underfoot by the front door. Even before I saw the name Edward Sargent on the return address label, I knew that these were the long-awaited copies of the book, which Edward so kindly transported from Moscow after the Friends House Moscow board meeting. (*sigh* ... The first meeting after the end of my service on that wonderful board.)

Here's more information on the book whose arrival made my day.

The news from Baghdad continues to provide a constant incentive for prayer. Our friend Maxine wrote last week that a mortar shell landed on her apartment building's roof while she wasn't at home. This happened not long after a nearby restaurant was blown up, and shortly before the terror-bombing of a hotel she'd recently visited.

She concluded her sobering account with these words:

I feel a pattern coming on here. It seems that I'm always just missing these incidents.

Sometimes I wonder why. People who know CPT say that God watches over us, that it seems like the bad things never happen to us. I agree that God watches over us, but I don't believe that nothing bad may ever happen to us. It's part of the risk we take when we come here, when we decide to work in a place where these things happen. It's a conscious decision, for us as a group and for each of us individually (including me). It's not made lightly, and believe me we all struggle with it. The bottom line is we all feel like there is still enough reason to be here that's worth the risk.

That doesn't make it easy, it doesn't answer every question, but it speaks to the commitment of group of people who still think it's possible to change the world.

I'm glad to be part of that group.
So, here's the contradiction I face as her supposed friend: Am I glad she's part of that group? I'm very torn, actually.

Last week I wrote that, when society seems bent on sabotaging God's loving will, we need to take the risk to take our Jesus-centered "NO" to the level of a public phenomenon. That's part of what the Christian Peacemaker Teams do in Iraq and elsewhere. If each Friends church and meeting sent or at least supported a CPT team member, that would be a good start, but that would mean accepting risks, not just to reputation, but to life and limb. The honest truth is that I'd rather be there myself than on my knees here at home, praying for my friends' safety.

For now, here's how I resolve it: I trust the discernment process that Max and her friends used to choose service in Baghdad. Actually, I cling to that trust almost bodily.

Quieter, but not sugary: Lauren Sheehan. The blues music that I usually favor is thumpy, bass-driven, cutting, and loud. Quieter, more folky variants often strike me as too wholesome to be the real thing. Usually, however, if I press myself beyond my customary ruts, I am pleasantly surprised, or occasionally overjoyed.

That's what happened to me at the Waterfront Blues Festival last summer when I heard Lauren Sheehan the first time. (I mentioned her and several others in this post.) She's both a musician and an educator, and she had both roles going in her Front Porch Stage appearance—for example, demonstrating the wonderful but vanishing genre of blues banjo.

Cover of 'Two Wings' from www.laurensheehanmusic.comLast week I ran into her in, of all places, a school meeting. I found out two interesting things—her background in Waldorf education (my father went to a Waldorf school in Norway) and the fact that her new CD, Two Wings, is doing well on the folk charts. And it deserves to. I'm so used to being carried by the volume and visceral power of blues music, it really is good for me to listen more carefully and explore, with the help of Sheehan's musicianship, the gorgeous structure underneath that power.

Her voice is just right for this music, too. It's in turns resonant and playful, and never gets mannered in that way that makes me grit my teeth when white musicians get in over their heads.

I like most of the songs on this CD, but a couple of them are especially fine. The traditional "Rising River Blues," is so delicate and beautiful and strong at the same time, it's almost painful. I loved what she did to adjust Robert Johnson's "Kind Hearted Woman" to make it a woman's song. And, wandering outside traditionally-defined blues, her voice collaborates wonderfully with Phil Wiggins's harmonica on her version of "Only One Only."

I spent much of yesterday listening at high volume to an Australian podcast dedicated to Howlin' Wolf. Truly a sonic feast. But after that, listening to Two Wings again was not a downer at all, just a delightfully cleansing contrast.

Additional commentary not needed: Carol Joy Brendlinger's thoughts on linking producer and consumer through fair trade purchases; Is Frank Viola a Quaker without knowing it?; Quaker Life editor participates in a joint statement on the hotel bombing in Amman, Jordan; Love and fear: Rowan Williams quotes a prayer by Michael Leunig (from Simon Barrow's Faith in Society weblog).

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