Saturday, April 9, 2016

Hello again...

How time does fly!  It has been almost three years since I requested release from my Quaker meeting and began a period of searching.  It as been almost three years since I felt led to share my journey.

For as long as I can remember my goal has been to find Unity with Spirit.  As a child and young woman I lived that out as a member of the Anglican Communion, serving as lay reader/minister, Acolyte and Acolyte Mistress, Nun in the Order of St. Helena,  Candidate for the Priesthood, Mentor/Facilitator in the Education for Ministry program until the Churches teachings and my inner leadings came into conflict to such a degree that I needed to find another way.  That way was the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).  For twenty plus years I followed a similar path, deeply immersing myself in the work, studying, searching, serving as Elder,  Peace Concerns Coordinator, Meeting and Regional Clerk, AVP facilitator both in the U.S. and the Republic of Georgia, until I could no longer bear the heartache.

For three years now, I have wandered in the spiritual wilderness.  I attend Friends meeting from time to time and am grateful to retain that thread.  I am grateful to be welcomed to Ceremony beside the First Peoples of this land and for their willingness to teach this Caucasian woman. I feel the cleansing power of Inipi Ceremony (sweat lodge), of Sundance, and I pray that I may soon have the strength and understanding to be put on the hill for Vision Quest.

These practices help me to focus yet I still yearn for a Spiritual community.  A place to share the path with others and to test faithfulness with like-minded travelers.  "Who will walk with me?" I ask.  The answer comes "I am always with you."  A smile comes for I know the truth of this.  It is so easy to loose sight of this Presence. 

I struggle to put in place the cycle of prayer and reading and meditation that I know will help me to remain centered.  I search for work that feeds my soul; my inner peace, in the hope that I will then reflect Peace back to the world. That remains my leading.  I ask that you hold my hand, as I hold each of yours as we continue our journeys.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Leaving the Religious Society of Friends

In April of this year I relinquished my membership in my monthly meeting, thereby leaving the Religious Society of Friends.  That act has been both difficult and freeing.  It came of deep prayer, testing, and faithfulness.  Throughout the last several years, as an active member of New York Yearly Meeting I was asked by God to carry messages to the Yearly Meeting.  Messages that were difficult to speak and challenged Friends to look deep within and called them to change.  I was faithful to those direct leadings despite the fact that again and again it appeared that those messages fell on deaf ears.  The process left me sorrowfull and despairing - not for myself but for the Religious Society of Friends.  As the years moved on it became more and more painful for me to serve in this way.  I regularly prayed to be released from the work of carrying God's messages to his Peculiar People.  Year after year God's response followed the same pattern; "No, it's not time yet.  I still have work for you to do here."  I continued to ask until about a year ago when I again asked God if it was time yet.  That time the answer was different.  The answer was "Yes, you are released."  I immediately began letting go of my commitments to Friends and when my final commitment was complete in April, 2013 I relinquished my membership.  The relief was almost palpable.

It is hard to say what it is about without sounding a judgement call, and perhaps that is not all bad.  Each Friend is called to walk with and live into each one of the Testimonies so that each life is tested against that measure - growing into and learning from the love and wisdom found in each.  For the testimonies are meant to be living - as living as our faith:  Each Friend need that intimate experience of what working toward simplicity, integrity, peace, community, and equality looks like in their own life, for without it they cannot claim the Testimonies - they cannot testify to those experiences.   Friends practice is a living, ongoing call, based in faith.  Faith and Practice must go hand in hand.  If we are doing the work that God would have us do; living as God would have us live, using the testimonies that Friends now and before us have lifted up, then our lives become rich and full and blessed.  That is the promise, the hope, of the Religious Society of Friends.

As Friends worry about ever shrinking membership and talk about advancement, I have often shared my belief that when Friends begin the work of living out what they say they believe they won't need to worry about advancement, for those who are seeking the Light will see the Light of Friends shining brightly and find their way to membership.  The work is not about figuring out how to get more members.  The work is to reawaken a deep commitment to fully living into Friends faith and practice as individuals, as Monthly Meetings, as Regions and Quarters and as Yearly Meetings.  I continue to hold that faith and practice in my heart as I hold New York Yearly Meeting in my prayers.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day 2012

This day finds me filled with sorrow for all those men and women whose lives are forever changed by the horrors of war.  The men and women who we train to carryout war.  The men and women who give their lives in that pursuit and those left to live their lives struggling with the wounds; physical, mental, psychological.   It doesn't matter if I agree with the cause of the war.  It doesn't matter that I believe that war is wrong.  Today, what matters is that these untold thousands made incredible sacrifices doing what they believed was the right thing to do.  Tears run down my face as I lift their unknown names in prayer.

I am filled with sorrow for the devastation that war wreaks, not only on those fighting that war, but on the people; the innocent bystanders.  Could it be that we are all innocent bystanders?  That in some small way we all bear the scars of war?  We are, after all, connected by our very DNA.  How can one feel that kind of pain without it affecting another?

I will never forget one day, when my youngest daughter was serving this country as a Marine in Iraq. I Had gone out to do some shopping.  As I returned home, I prepared to turn on to my street.  I could see my home, my driveway, and in my driveway was parked a late model navy blue sedan.  I felt panic rise in me.  The thoughts that stormed through my mind went from terror to wanting to flee so they couldn't tell me because somehow if I didn't know it wouldn't be true, to the knowledge that if it were true it was inescapable - surrender.  You see, I knew that car was exactly the type of car that would arrive at my home with two officers inside to tell me that my daughter was no more.  I continued to my home and found, to my great relief that the car belonged to police officers checking on a domestic dispute.  I was so grateful!  Nonetheless, I carry that pain, deep within me, of what could have been - what almost was.  The knowledge that thousands of other mothers are not so lucky.  I know I will never forget the pain and fear that I felt.  It drives me ever harder to help find ways in which we can all live in peace.

As an individual I believe that we, the human race, have at our disposal the means to seek peace rather than promulgating the terrors of war.  I pray that we can accept that as a true possibility for once we do we will find the way. 

The fact that I actively seek peace is not meant in any way to dishonor those who feel sure in their hearts that they are called to serve.  I honor their belief and the sacrifices that their beliefs force them to make.  I know that for them it is a mark of their love for country above all else.  I hope that they will come to understand and honor the beliefs that I hold - that peace is possible.  Turning the tide - finding our way to peace, will require sacrifice, and some may die in its pursuit.  A world at peace will require immense courage and strength of will and character.  Qualities that already exist.  Can we choose another way: if not for ourselves for our children and our children's children?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sakartvelo 2011 - last day

It's a gray, chilly day here in Tbilisi; drizzling off and on.  Our time here in Sakartvello has been full of many joys, times of intense discussion and learning, and definitely blessings. 

Our time doing AVP workshops, working with facilitators here as well as during the youth forum fills my heart with joy and hope for the future.  There is still a huge amount of work to be done; particularly, new facilitators to be trained so that there will be enough who can dedicate time during the week when the younger facilitators are either at their jobs or at University.

I had been looking at meeting with representatives at the US Embassy as simply a courtesy call but was pleasantly surprised to find their willingness to connect us to NGO partners and to be available to us as we move AVP forward.

Our meeting with other Georgian officials were warm and cordial but it's apparant that it will take a great deal more work to show them that AVP is important to add to their offerings.  My personal feeling is that until there are more AVP facilitators to do the work, a delay may be well. 

We continue to search for funding to translate the balance of the AVP basic manual and the remaining three manuals into Georgian.

My Elder and co-facilitator on this trip has shown an amazing capacity for language!  She has learned the Georgian alphabet and frequently sounds out words on various signs along the way.  Because Georgian is written  purely by sound, she is also able to write some words.  I am now challenged to step up my own work - beyond the many words that I have learned to at least semi-fluent level before our return.  Having Turtle traveling with me is definitely one of the blessings of this trip.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Near the Diplomat Hotel in Tbilisi, Site of the Youth Forum
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Sakartvelo – Sunday, October 23, 2011

Today was the last day of the Youth Forum.  On Wednesday, we were present at the forum but did not have an active facilitating role.  Yesterday we did one exercise in the morning and today, was the final day.  When we agreed to be part of this gathering I had some concerns around the focus because of its subtitle “Intercultural and Inter-Religious Dialogue as a Tool for Combating Hate Speech and Hate Accidents (we learned this was meant to be “Incidents”) in Europe”.  As we moved into the work it was clear to Turtle and me that part of our role at the forum was to open way for questions about using a term such as “Hate Speech” and what happens when we create “the other”.  In the closing today there was talk of needing to find a term that came from a positive place – looking at, and talking about using our positive energy to combat that which is negative; acknowledging that negative energy cannot overcome negative energy.  There were times when I almost heard Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words in the room.  It felt good to know that our presence was part of what moved this conversation forward.

In our time at the Forum, we built a warm and wonderful relationship with Natia Giorgidze, the primary facilitator of the Youth Forum who, it turned out was a former AVP facilitator and friend of Maia’s with whom she had lost contact.  They swore that they would not loose track of one another again!

It appears that what is left of our time in Sakartvelo will be a bit quieter than we’d expected.  Tomorrow morning we will go to Maia’s daughter, Natulie’s home so that Maia will have access to a piano and be able to teach us a Georgian song.  From there we’ll travel on for a meeting at the US Embassy at 2:00.  The following day we’ll do a training workshop for AVP facilitators.  Wednesday we’re promised a day of sightseeing.  I’m really looking forward to being out in this beautiful country.  I suspect that we may go to places that I’ve seen before like the first capital, Mtskheta.  It feels like I just can’t get enough!  On the other hand, my bed, and Max the cat, are beginning to call to me.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sakartvelo - First day at the Youth Forum

Today was the first day of the Youth Forum.  The day was devoted to using AVP exercises to bring people into community; to understand violence as a means of beginning to understand how to work toward non-violence; and to practice using the skills that we'd built during the day.  Maia and Turtle and I worked together to facilitate the day.  Feed back at the end of the day was quite positive with the great majority sharing that they had moved past a place of national identity to a place of seeing one another as human beings and friends.  Many of the participants are from countries where they are traditionally at odds with one another so this was wonderful feedback to receive.

Tomorrow we will return to the conference as participants for the day - being available to talk and share our experiences.  The following day we will do an exercise called "Building a New Society" in the morning and our part will be complete.  The coordinators of this conference are very young, predominantly women who have done a fantastic job of bringing together, in 25 participants, an incredibly diverse group and a program that leads them to, and through the problems of hate speech, hate actions, and discrimination.  I am very impressed!

Both Turtle and I are working to keep colds at bay so earlier nights than we have had are welcome! 

Next week, our last here, is beginning to fill up with a visit to the American Embassy to talk about AVP and to attempt to elicit their support, will take place on Monday afternoon, and a meeting with facilitators to work on their skills will happen on Wednesday evening.  Still to be scheduled a meeting with the Abkhazian High Council in Exile and a full day mini-workshop for the South Ossetians.  It seems we will be busy until the very end!