Saturday, December 18, 2010

Learning: Lessons from Discrimination

What I learned from a lifetime of discrimination, first as being female and then as being gay, is that the people in positions of authority who have the education, “expertise”, and power over other peoples’ lives, don’t necessarily have the truth.

I learned that what is revealed to me through my life experience can be more valid than what others only know through their studies, belief systems and cultural “norms”.
Whenever unexamined, closely held beliefs result in harm to another person or people, those beliefs have to be challenged with the reality of the experiences of those who have been judged.

The Quaker processes of threshing sessions and clearness committees in which all gather to try and discern together with divine assistance and all are willing to be changed is a major reason that I am a Quaker.
Much has changed in my lifetime. Psychiatry has come to realize that being gay is not a sickness, the law in some countries no longer recognize being gay as a crime.

The last bastion of discrimination is in some of the churches that still recite one portion of the old purity laws while blithely ignoring all of the others.
Jesus said that he came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it.
What does it mean that the law was fulfilled? There is a lot of description of what he meant in Matthew 5:17-27
There is no mention of homosexuality here, but much about divorce and judging others.
Why don’t some churches attempt to recognize fulfillment of the law?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Remembering: Thanksgiving in Exile

Memphis, Tennessee - Nov, 1960

I boarded the bus in Bainbridge, Maryland still wearing the dress blue Navy uniform that had just been stripped of all of its' rate stripes and insignia. The command officers had planned to strip them off in front of the whole recruit training staff, but in the end decided that I didn't yet have enough rate to make an impression.
So, here I was headed for Memphis, Tennessee where some of my friends from boot camp were stationed and had a small house off base. I couldn't go home as the humiliation was too great. Six months before, my parents had watched me graduate from boot camp as Honor Woman of my company, meaning that I was considered to be career material.

Then I was retained as a physical training and water safety instructor as, at that time, I had completed two years of college as a Health and Physical Education major and also had my Red Cross Water Safety Instructor certificate.
I had joined the Navy after two years of college, as my mother was threatening to put me in an institution after having found out by breaking open a locked box of letters, that I loved a woman at college. I was dragged to our family doctor and to our minister, both of whom suggested that I be separated from my love.
Then someone that I had been at college with showed up in one of the recruit companies and she started the rumors.
I was confined to the barracks for about a month in lieu of the brig. At the time being gay was a crime.

I was taken to the Navy psychiatrist and all I remember was that he administered the Rorschach test as at the time being gay was considered a mental illness.

It wasn't long before the investigation began and I was interrogated daily regarding my relationship with a woman at college who had been my first love. The Navy interrogator was a very persistent man and I was a still shy 20 year old. I just needed it to stop, so finally admitted to acts that to this day I don't know what they were as I didn't know the words for things then and was much too embarrassed and shy to even consider asking. There was a female officer present, but she never said a word throughout the entire ordeal. I guess she was only there as a witness. They searched my room, looking for whatever evidence would convict me of the crime of being gay. All they found was a cheap paperback that I had bought at a drugstore, I don't know the title. It was some sordid tale of women that are always available and that give people the wrong impressions of the "gay lifestyle".

I had planned to finish college through a program that the Navy had at that time and go on to become an officer. But now I was facing the loss of a second career choice.
Somewhere I had heard that if I went to the chaplain that things would go easier. I swallowed my pride and told him that I wanted to change and I succeeded in getting a general discharge under honorable conditions. Most service women in my situation received either undesirable or dishonorable discharges.

I arrived in Memphis on Thanksgiving day. My friends were on duty, so I found my way to the house and the only thing in the refrigerator was some leftover stew. That was my Thanksgiving dinner that year and the beginning of the almost half century exile from my family of birth.

The Israelites spent forty years in exile in the desert, ostensibly to learn something. What was I being led to learn?

Sunday, August 1, 2010


This morning at Freedom Friends Church there was a young service dog that got very anxious and ran around searching the room whenever her handler went into another room. It came to me that this was an analogy for it being very difficult at times to have faith in what is unseen. But, isn’t it our purpose to make Love visible in the world by following the teachings of Jesus.

And then I began to reflect on what was my task to make love visible in the world and then to share that.
There are several outstanding examples in my life when I have failed at this task and they are etched permanently into my consciousness. I am trying to make an effort to be more aware of opportunities as they arise and to act out of being centered.

Many people have spoken of how they have felt the Presence of God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit as holding them. I have never felt that, nor have I heard a “still small voice”, and yet there has been something, an almost imperceptible guidance, and I have been at a loss as to how to describe my experience of the Divine Presence. I then thought it is more like a knowing, but not quite that and I asked myself, how do you know something. It finally came to me that the word that I have been looking for is more like a perception. A perceiving of what I need to do or say or what I am to do. This has been with me my whole life and I never had a word to describe it.

Monday, July 5, 2010


I have been having promptings lately to make regular visits to Friends churches. My meeting no longer fills my spiritual needs and hasn’t for some time. I need and love the expectant waiting in Holy silence, but that is only a part. Early Friends knew the bible so well that they were easily able to refer to passages that spoke to their lives. I have followed the common lectionary for most of my adult life to try and understand how the teachings might apply to my life, but this cannot be a solitary endeavor. A community is needed to discern together. There is among unprogrammed Friends a tolerance for many paths, except it seems for following the teachings of Jesus. To me this is like throwing out the baby with the bath water, to throw the teachings out with the way that some who call themselves Christian have misinterpreted those teachings and use them to judge and condemn others.

Yesterday I traveled to the westside of Portland to visit West Hills Friends Church. The west hills have always been a challenge for me to find my way around. I had Brunhilde, my GPS, with me and it took 40 minutes for what should have been a 20 minute drive. When I finally arrived, it came to me that this drive was an apt illustration of my spiritual journey. Going around in circles, many dead ends, and every once in awhile landing in the right place.

Part of the difficulty throughout my life has been that a part of me has not been acceptable in any place, but this is becoming less true. So, I will continue to seek out places where I might learn how the teachings of Jesus speak to me today and how I might follow the way.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Walk With Me: Mentors, Elders, and Friends

Eighth PNW Quaker Women’s Theology Conference
16 - 20 June 2010
Seabeck Conference Center
Seabeck, Washington

I am calling up memories of your sincere and unqualified faith (the leaning of your entire personality on God in Christ in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness), [a faith] that first lived permanently in [the heart of] your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am [fully] persuaded, [dwells] in you also.
That is why I would remind you to stir up (rekindle the embers of, fan the flame of, and keep burning) the [gracious] gift of God, [the inner fire] that is in you by means of the laying on of my hands with those of the elders at your ordination].
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control.
2 Timothy 1:5-7 (Amplified Bible)

"Many Friends today are crying out for spiritual mentors, for ministers and elders who are lovingly steeped in our tradition. Some Friends hunger for a deeper relationship with God, for a connection with a divine power that heals and empowers. We long for wise and loving role models and examples." From: Martha Paxson Grundy, Tall Poppies: Supporting Gifts of Ministry and Eldering in the Monthly Meeting, p. 27, Pendle Hill Publications.

"As meetings became settled, elders performed a variety of functions, according to their gifts and leadings. . . . [A]ll gifts and ministries were for building up the spiritual life of the meeting and the Society: directing and re-directing people to the Spirit of God, to the Inward Christ, the Light, the Inward Teacher, the Guide, the one true Priest and Shepherd. It was clearly understood that any member of the meeting might be called to some part of this service, but that some were specifically led by the Spirit at any given time." From: Patricia Loring, Listening Spirituality Vol. II, 1999.

THEME: Walk With Me: Mentors, Elders, and Friends

I have never had a mentor.
I have had many of the opposite; people who tried to discourage me from paths that I felt were true to my inner guide.

As a pre-teen, when I talked of going to college, my mother tried to dissuade me saying, "you'll be like your aunt Betty and get married after two years". My aunt Betty was my father's younger sister, the only girl and the only one of his family of five siblings to get the opportunity and she didn't finish. I guess it seemed logical to them to project that onto me. My reply was always "I'll never get married", which was promptly also dismissed as the naiveté of the young.

I subsequently succumbed to societal pressures as it was difficult to resist in the 1940's and 50's with no support, but I always knew that marriage to a man was not my métier, my vocation or path in life.

Another area in which I was discouraged from following my inner guide was religion. I was raised mostly in the United Presbyterian church, although we did not attend regularly. My father worked many weekends and my mother did not drive. I also felt, even as a very young child that it was not the path to the Divine for me as I felt there was too much hell fire and damnation and very little grace, although I could not articulate this at the time. In my early twenties, I was drawn to Roman Catholicism and "converted" to that religion. When my mother found out, there was a big confrontation and attempts to get me to change my mind. It wasn't until my early forties that I discovered that I was a Quaker. By then, I was away from those who would discourage me in my path to the encounter with the Divine.

But when it comes to spirituality, books can sometimes provide the catalyst or guidance that will help you go deeper in your relationship with God. In a sense, my mentors may have been the writers of books.

In the end, the only mentor that I truly had was my inner mentor who saw me through all of the above and more.


There is some confusion among a few Friends in our meeting about who is an elder. Being an unprogrammed meeting means that there is no permanent body of “Elders”, but the duties of nurture and discipline which constitute eldering are shared among the Oversight and Worship and Ministry committees. There is a member of meeting whom some Friends experience as being “mean” and a Friend who left meeting partly because of them told me that they felt there was no recourse as this Friend was an elder. I replied that this person was not an elder and that being old does not qualify a Friend as an elder. It is also difficult to recognize elders when the positions rotate every few years on the committees.
I may be wrong, but my sense is that if asked, very few could readily identify who are the current elders in our meeting.
It seems to me that the lack of either mentoring or spiritual direction negatively affects the development of elders. I have served on both of these committees in the past and have now been asked to serve on the Ministry and Oversight committee of North Pacific Yearly Meeting beginning in 2011. I can only hope that with God's help I will be able to adequately serve.


Several friends lately that have left meeting have told me of their finding new communities in Humanists and Unitarians and have tried to get me to try these out. I have no interest and the only response that I can think of is that they are not Quaker. The Quaker form of worship, expectant waiting for a connection with the Divine, for me, cannot be surpassed by any other practice. Add to that the testimonies, and the practice of waiting for Divine guidance in meeting for worship for business and these are the things that I could not leave behind.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Shared Worship

Last first day was a beautiful spring day for the morning drive to Camas Friends Church.
A wonderful turnout from two Quaker meetings (Bridge City and Multnomah and a Quaker church (Camas Friends) for a shared service.
Wess Daniels, the pastor had sent out an email that week with the lectionary reading with the text to be discussed, it comes from the Gospel of John 20:19-29.
“When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” (John 20:19–29 NRSV)

After reading the passages, Wess presented a few queries to the congregation which garnered a lot of comments from Friends from all three congregations. This seemed to me to be akin to our unprogrammed yearly meeting’s (North Pacific Yearly Meeting) worship discussion groups format on a larger scale. Friends are still remarking about how powerful this was and how it brought new meaning to their understanding.

During the period of expectant waiting in the silence there were a few very meaningful messages from Friends from the different congregations. It was truly a gathered meeting.

Also impressive was the sharing of personal concerns asking for prayers and the gratitudes expressed during the service. This was a wonderful manifestation of holding each other in the Light.

A hearty potluck of soup, bread, and salads was shared over good conversations afterward.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


This morning at potluck between Meeting for Worship and Meeting for Worship for Business I did my usual thing and took a seat at an empty table and waited for folks to come to me. I can never make the decision of who to sit with.
A gentleman soon approached and asked if he could sit there, and the table soon filled. He introduced himself as a retired pastor. I asked what denomination and he replied that it was a very small evangelical church. Now, I had just the evening before began reading If God is Love rediscovering grace in an ungracious world by Phillip Gulley (a Quaker pastor) and James Mulholland (a theologian). I decided to be brave and ask the retired pastor if he was on the side of grace or if he believed in the requirement of works. We had a very lively discussion and it ended with him asking me to write down the book so that he could read it. He was wearing a hearing aid and mentioned that he had only 20 percent hearing left and he liked our form of worship as it relieved him of much of the anxiety of trying to hear. Another man at our table serendipitously just happened to be a sign language interpreter for the courts and began telling him about requesting in time closed captioning when he attended public events. He described in detail how to request this ahead of time and how it was covered under the Americans with Disabilities law. I said to the pastor that I didn't believe in co-incidence either and he replied "it is called Grace" and he said he awoke every morning looking ahead to what the day would bring to him. This day brought him several good things already. I stand on the side of Grace.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Being Gathered

I worshipped with Camas Friends Church this morning.

The reading was from:
Luke 13:31-35 (Amplified Bible)
31At that very hour some Pharisees came up and said to Him, Go away from here, for Herod is determined to kill You.
32And He said to them, Go and tell that fox [sly and crafty, skulking and cowardly], Behold, I drive out demons and perform healings today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish (complete) My course.
33Nevertheless, I must continue on My way today and tomorrow and the day after that--for it will never do for a prophet to be destroyed away from Jerusalem!
34O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who continue to kill the prophets and to stone those who are sent to you! How often I have desired and yearned to gather your children together [around Me], as a hen [gathers] her young under her wings, but you would not!
35Behold, your house is forsaken (abandoned, left to you destitute of God's help)! And I tell you, you will not see Me again until the time comes when you shall say, Blessed (to be celebrated with praises) is He Who comes in the name of the Lord!

TheQuery was:
How might you gather or be gathered over Lent?
When I first sat down, I said a silent prayer that we would sense the presence of the Divine among us.
After a time, to my complete discomfort I was moved to speak and was glad that I had put my inhaler in my pocket that morning, as it made me breathless and dizzy.
I said something to the effect that in our day words can be stones that we throw at each other. It grieves me that we do this among branches of Friends with our judgments of each other before actually knowing each other. I pray that G_D will help us to gather and that we do so with gratitude.
After I sat down, I remembered our last Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's Theology Conference and the vision that came to me of the poster that illustrates the various branches of Friends, and my observation that it is still one tree.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


I had a strange dream the other night. I was lying down on my side in what appeared to be a church or sanctuary and then my consciousness left my body and rose up to the ceiling. I was thanking G_d profusely even though I had stopped at the ceiling rather than continuing on to heaven. It still felt peaceful.
I think that the dream might have been the result of having recently seen the movie, Avatar, in which scientists had found a way to link their consciousness to an artificial body that resembled those of a tribe of native people on a distant planet. After the movie, we had a conversation with a woman outside who had not yet seen the movie, but told us that the story had been told before and that some friends had taken the script from Disney’s Pochahontas, substituted names from Avatar and it was the same story. Also, David Brooks of the New York Times wrote a piece about it being a too often used story with a “white messiah”. I think they missed a lot. There were similarities, a large, powerful corporation coming to destroy a native culture for the minerals there, and the main protagonist falling in love with the daughter of the chief. But what was different about this story was that the invaders did not succeed. The natives thoroughly routed them and then the one who had come among them as an avatar actually died to his old self and his consciousness was permanently transferred to the avatar body by the wife of the chief, who herself was the tribes’ shaman. It was a resurrection story that I could appreciate. That one could see joining with another people to overcome evil that threatened all is a heartening message.