Parents' Creative Response to Conflict

You’ve probably heard about Children’s Creative Response to Conflict.

Well, don’t forget, we parents need the same. Let me tell you about such a parental response one recent morning.

A certain Nine Year Old expressed in playing a game called Dog Dice. These days, it is rare for him to express interest in doing something besides reading. So this was notable!

A certain Five Year Old had other ideas, however. “I want to play something with my whole body. Something like playing wolves, or gorillas.” Now, playing wolves and playing gorillas are longstanding Saturday morning traditions in this family. So, this was tough to ignore.

Nine Year Old was clear, though: He wanted to play Dog Dice. Five Year Old was about to get into a snit, if not throw a full-blown tantrum quite yet.

“I have an idea,” Forty-Two Year Old said. “Let’s play ‘Gorillas Playing Dog Dice’!” He beat his chest for emphasis.

Nine Year Old burst out laughing. He beat his chest. He said, “Oo, oo!”

Seeing which way the wind was blowing, Five Year Old curled up in Forty Two Year Old’s lap, and cooed like a baby gorilla. “I’m a baby gowilla!” he said in a babyish voice.

The game of Dog Dice commenced, with occasional bouts of chest-thumping and hooting. From time to time, the silverback suggested the blackback find some wild celery, and fed some to the baby.

In the end, Forty-Two Year Old actually won the game. More important, he won some peace and accord in his family. Now, how blessed is that?


CodePink at SF Vigil

Last week some members of Code Pink Women for Peace, including co-founder Medea Benjamin, came to the vigil for peace and justice sponsored by San Francisco Monthly Meeting, AFSC Pacific Mountain Region, Episcopal Peace Fellowship and Buddhist Peace Fellowship. That's Medea in the middle of the photo, taken by my friend Markley.

Markley has been one of the steadfast supporters of the vigil since it began in October 2001. I asked him for his permission to use the photo, and he granted it. He also forwarded the following announcement about tomorrow's vigil:
Join CODEPINK Fasters outside of Speaker Pelosi's Office!

Thursday August 23rd at 12:00pm
450 Golden Gate Avenue, San Francisco

Join the fasters as they participate in the weekly Quaker vigil outside of the San Francisco Federal Building at 12:00pm.

Afterward, CODEPINK fasters will host a gathering and Die-In at the doors of the San Francisco Federal Building. Bring a white or pink sheet and join the Die-in. Following the brief program, bear witness and support the fasters who are willing to commit civil disobedience.

The fasters will be on their 11th day, they've been holding an encampment outside of Senator Feinstein and Speaker Pelosi's homes in Pacific Heights to request the Senator and Speaker meet with them during the August Congressional recess. Senator Feinstein held a brief visit with the fasters yet Pelosi has not -- a request to hold a public Town Hall meeting for constituents was denied by the Speaker as well as a meeting with the fasters and San Francisco peace community.

We urge you to support the on-going fast and tell Speaker Pelosi to meet with her constituents and the peace community, here's how to support:
  • Contact Speaker Pelosi's office: (415) 556-4862
  • Join the Vigil and Die-In on Thursday August 23rd at 12 noon at the San Francisco Federal Building.
  • Support the on-going Congressional recess fast, take a day to fast either at home or in a public place between August 27th - September 3rd. Email pelosiwatch@globalexchange.org to let us know which day you'll be fasting.
  • Participate in the encampment by signing up here
  • To read or listen about the CODEPINK Fasters click here or here.
In Peace,

Becky, Charles, Frank, Janine, Jody, Medea, Mike, Nancy, Pam, Paul, Susan & Toby
CODEPINK Fasters & Campers for Peace


Must be doin' something right

Yesterday morning (Saturday) Five Year Old and I were playing, as is our custom.

He was racing his motorcycle back and forth, and I was holding a Fisher Price tow truck that he told me was the motorcycle driver's friend. The tow truck driver figurine offered his help frequently to the motorcycle rider, but the rider could pretty much fix everything himself. So, my main role was to be present, and to follow direction. Fair enough, I can do that.

At some later point, the tow truck driver became the motorcycle rider's adopted son. (Go, Five Year Old!)

Even later, as I fought off severe drowsiness -- yes, I confess, on a Saturday morning, another hour or two in bed seems more appealing than WATCHING A MOTORCYCLE GO BACK AND FORTH! A LOT! -- Five Year Old decided to have a meeting of the crew.

I thought he meant pit crew, but as it turned out, he meant ALL the motorcycle riders who had been in the races, not just the one we could see.

So, we pulled together a group of three or four construction workers, who stood in admirably as the other racers. Then Five Year Old said, "My motorcycle rider is the CLERK."

[Cue sappy music; father beams proudly at his son.]


Quaker Workers?

This piece by Bil Paul, a local columnist, appeared in the San Mateo Daily News today:

Catholic Worker House helps needy on a limited budget

Quote: "The Catholic Workers share a few similarities with the Quakers (more formally known as the Religious Society of Friends). The Catholic Workers aren't a homogenous group, and Purcell doesn't speak for all of them, but he believes that 'nothing's more important than people. ... The way I live is that people who are so-called losers are treated as if they are our brothers and sisters. If they need something and I can find it, I (provide it).'"

It's striking that the column doesn't mention Dorothy Day or the Catholic Church -- only Quakers!

There is a real affinity among Friends with the Catholic Worker movement. Our friends Carin Anderson and Chris Moore-Backman lived at the very same Redwood City house for a while. Forrest Curo recently wrote about the LA Catholic Worker and speculated about why there's no Quaker Worker movement at A Quaker Watering Hole. Stephen at our meeting subscribes to the LA Worker's newsletter. When I was at 15th Street Meeting in New York in the early 1990s, John and Vince had great stories to tell about volunteering at the Lower East Side Worker house.

In the blog post linked to above, Forrest wrote, "Despite minor hardships and inconvenience, we are drawn to the Catholic Worker way of life because it 'makes sense' where the so-called 'American Way of Life' doesn't."

Yep. Makes sense to me. Even if I don't live that way, much.

May we all treat so-called losers as our brothers and sisters. May we labor -- together, side by side -- for peace and justice and dignity for all creation.
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PS May the Lord bless and keep the members of the India team from Newberg Friends Church, including Gregg Koskela, who are on their way to or in India right now. May they travel safely and may they open hearts -- their own and others'.


Holy Silence and some queries

I've been feeling blah and tired lately. Something about going to FGC Gathering, buying a first home with four layers of financing in the deal, going to yearly meeting, and then unpacking boxes. It just kind of ... I don't know... leaves me feeling tired and blah!

I did just read Brent Bill's Holy Silence: The Gift of Quaker Spirituality. It was a bit of a tonic. I thought it would be helpful for a newcomer to meeting, because it explains with some quite lovely examples about Friends' worship and even the liturgy of silence worship (in much less academic terms than Pink Dandelion's academic treatise, Liturgies of Quakerism; I have to admit I didn't get far in that one yet after buying it from QuakerBooks at the FGC Gathering).

However, I also know that I'm way too deep into Quakerism myself to have a good idea of what it might be like for a person who's new. I'd love to hear what others have thought of it.

This past Sunday -- was it only yesterday? -- at San Francisco Meeting we had two pieces of vocal ministry. Mine was the first, reflecting on how Quakerism is a "listening spirituality" and not a "telling spirituality." One responsibility is to listen outside to others with our hearts and minds open. Our other responsibility is also to listen inside -- both to hear one's own truth about how one is doing, so one can express that to others clearly and not expect them to read one's mind; and also to hear Truth. And in U.S. culture, we're constantly being told what to think or do, so taking time to listen inside and outside ourselves really is countercultural.

I didn't quite express it that way. It was not an earth-shattering type of message, but it came back more than three times, and it felt right to speak, so I did.

The only other vocal ministry was from a visitor from the Isle of Jersey who had grown up Quaker and gone to a Quaker school, but had not attended meeting in nearly 20 years, and how grateful and moved he was to be among us that morning.

The real treat of the day was the third in a series of three morning discussions on the advices and queries. This time we did worship sharing around three queries, two from Pacific Yearly Meeting and one from Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative). Does that count as syncretistic? Anyway, three queries worked surprisingly well together, and it was a very rich and centered time. One Friend called it a "feast," and I have to agree. Here they are:

Do I center my life in an awareness of God’s presence so that all things take their rightful place? (Pacific Yearly Meeting, Simplicity)

How are love and unity maintained among us? (Pacific Yearly Meeting, Meeting Community)

In what ways do we share our deepest experiences, struggles, concerns and beliefs… yet encourage [others] to develop their potential as the Spirit leads them? (Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative), Home and Family)

PS Another treat for the day was our friends David, A., and D. playing with Nine Year Old and Five Year Old so we could do some unpacking.


Guest Post: John Pixley on Taking Back Jesus

Some thoughts by John Pixley, Claremont Meeting, 7/26/2007
Handed out at a Pacific Yearly Meeting evening discussion group, “Taking Back Jesus,” 8/1/2007; published with John's permission

Last fall, a young man that I hired as an attendant would often show up to work wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt, on the front of which he had sewn a picture of a Hindu goddess. I was intrigued by this and told him I thought it was cool. He suggested that I have a picture of Jesus Christ sewn onto the bib of my overalls. “That’d be dope!” he enthused.

Jesus on my bibs! That would be cool, if not dope, I thought. Those who know me know that overalls are what I wear, that they are very much a part of my life. Jesus is also a big part of my life. Most likely because of my significant, in-your-face disability, I have long been attracted to his message of love for the different, the outsider, even the enemy. Why not have Jesus, who I admire – indeed, love – and try to honor in how I live my life, close to me, on my bib, and for all the world to see?

But then I got worried. If I went around sporting a picture of Jesus, people would get the wrong idea about me. Never mind that they would think I was out to convert, or “save,” the world. People would think I am a right-wing fundamentalist nut.

People would see me with my picture of Jesus and think I was saying that women shouldn’t be able to get abortions, that gays and lesbians are bad, that it is not only acceptable but honorable to go to and also start war, that it is okay to torture people.

This is what many people think of when they think of Jesus – or at least of Christianity. The sad, shameful fact is that Jesus has been taken by conservative Christians, the Christian right, and used as their exclusive spokesman. This man who preached and demonstrated radical love and inclusiveness, who showed it to the world, has been hijacked and made to say that women and gays shouldn’t have equal rights, that war is good, that torture is fine.

Jesus has been made to say and condone things that he never said and condoned. How else can President Bush, who is against same-sex marriage and a woman’s right to have control over her own body and life, and who sanctions war and torture (not to mention the death penalty), claim not only to be a Christian but also that Jesus is his most-admired philosopher?

It is bad enough that this gives Jesus and Christianity a bad name. Earlier this year, I saw Jesus Camp, a documentary about a summer camp for Christian fundamentalist kids, and I was struck by how the audience at the college screening was laughing. While much of what is said in the film is outrageous and funny, I came away very concerned that Jesus has become a laughing-stock.

Jesus has also been used in other hurtful ways. Since I was a young child, people have stopped me on the sidewalk to tell me that if I believe in Jesus, I will be healed. I have even been told that I will walk if I pray to Jesus! The message is less about Jesus and more of a judgment – that, in being disabled and in a wheelchair, I am sick or not a complete, whole person and in need of healing and not worthy (at least in their eyes, if not Jesus’) until I am healed.

I have no doubt that all of these people are quite sincere and well-intentioned, which makes what they do with Jesus all the more disturbing. (Indeed, the director of Jesus Camp said at the screening I attended that Christian fundamentalists have embraced the film.) Is it any wonder that, especially as a disabled and now gay man, I have become wary of Jesus or at least talk of him? I am sad to say that I am all but ashamed to say that I love Jesus. I notice this, for example, when I’m with my gay friends, and they get frightened and angry when I mention Jesus. This is a tragedy.

I wonder how many other people who would otherwise consider themselves Christians have been scared off or driven away from Jesus by the way he has been appropriated and represented in these ways. Could this be why some or many of us in pacific Yearly Meeting feel more at home with our safe, warm universalism than with what at least I see as the old-time Christo-centric Quakerism of George Fox?

It is time to take back Jesus. I want to embrace him as the man of peace and love he truly was. Indeed, I want to wear him and show him off proudly on my gay, disabled body. I dare say that he, with his world-changing message of all-inclusive love, would like that.
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[UPDATE: It turns out that Forrest Curo had already posted this piece at "A Quaker Watering Hole," along with some additional thoughts of his own: http://acitycanbemoved.blogspot.com/2007/08/taking-back-jesus.html. I'm only slowly catching up with blogreading after moving and going to Yearly Meeting, so I missed this before. -- cm]