Friday, October 21, 2011

nate macy's worship resource project

My good f/Friend, Nate Macy, is working on a project on Kickstarter called "Creating Space: a worship resource." He's a gifted worship leader who intentionally tries to create worship experiences where people can be drawn in to listening to God together. I've had the privilege of working with Nate to plan and bring about worship experiences on many occasions.

Nate wants to make a worship CD and resource book (with chords, etc.), and he's asking for our help to get the project off the ground. He's 5/7ths of the way to his monetary goal with 12 days left. Go check out his Kickstarter site, his website and support him emotionally and/or financially.

I think this is going to be a great resource for Friends. For programmed Friends, it will provide insight into how to lead a programmed worship service in a way that intentionally invites God into the process and experience of worship planning and gathered worship services. For unprogrammed Friends, I think it would be a great resource at times when Friends want to utilize music, perhaps in special meetings for musical worship or in youth gatherings. It's all well and good to just listen to the Spirit together, but having music that is commonly known is helpful, I think, so that the Spirit can use that format at times to prompt people during unprogrammed meetings for worship.

Nate is up for coming and leading workshops or worship services, so you should go check out his stuff!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

israel/palestine: statehood & prisoner release

Israel and Palestine have been in the news quite a bit lately, and I'd like to offer my thoughts on recent events. Is the request for Palestinian statehood and/or entrance into UNESCO (requested mainly by Fatah, the more diplomatic party in Palestinian politics) positive or negative for Israel, Palestine, the United States, and the ongoing peace process regarding the land of Israel and Palestine? Is the prisoner release yesterday (orchestrated by Hamas, a more militant party in Palestinian politics) positive or negative for those same parties and the peace process? So here are some brief thoughts.

First, statehood and/or entrance into UNESCO and other UN agencies: 

Many people think the Palestinians asking for recognition from the UN is halting the peace process, because it is attempting to circumnavigate the peace process that they've been working on directly with Israel in order to force Israel to have to see them as a nation because of international pressure. In some ways this is true, but I don't think it's fair to say that Palestinians are breaking the treaties. Israel continuously breaks agreements made with Palestinians by continuing to build new settlements and make major improvements on established settlements of Israelis within the West Bank.

This is, in my opinion, analogous to citizens of the United States going onto a reservation and building on that land. Settlers in the United States did something very similar in the previous several centuries, making the argument that "they're not using the land" that is so familiar in the West Bank. This ignores the fact that many Palestinians, like many Native Americans, have a culture that utilizes and values land in a very different way from the way we think of "productive" land in Western cultures.

I could go on here, but I'll stop with that for now. Suffice it to say that settlements are still being built in the West Bank, and the Israeli government offers incentives to those who will go live in them. Many of the settlements are virtually empty buildings, but Israel tries to use them as "facts on the ground," saying that they can't just make people move elsewhere because those are their homes. This all goes directly against any peace agreements that have been made in the last 60 years between Israel and Palestine, so it makes a lot of sense that Palestinians would try something new.

Palestinian statehood might not be that great for the US in our goal to gain more leverage in the Middle East, but at the same time, if we supported Palestinian statehood, would this not make us more popular in the Middle East (with everyone but Israel)? Do we want to be allies only with the group in the Middle East with the least land and power (apart from what we give it)? Wouldn't it make more sense in a foreign policy sense if we made friends with Palestinian Arabs, and in so doing, made friends with other Arabs in the region?

This is not anti-semitism. This is valuing all people and their right to self-determination as a people, their right to not be systematically exterminated or evicted. But the US unquestioning support of Israel, even when Israel's actions are unjust, is completely inhumane. We would do well to support Palestinian statehood so that peace talks have the ability to move forward between equals. Perhaps a one-state solution would eventually work best, but it needs to be negotiated fairly.

Second, the prisoner exchange:

Yesterday I listened with interest as NPR reported on the prisoner exchange between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Here is an article and audio about the exchange. Basically, Israel got back one prisoner (Gilad Shalit), a soldier who had been caught and kept in custody by Hamas in Gaza until their demands for the release of Palestinian prisoners were met. They received 500 prisoners from Israeli detention centers, although not the original 500 they requested.

I am thrilled for the sake of the 501 prisoners who got to return home to their families! That is wonderful news.

The major problem with this is that Israel negotiated this with Hamas, which party is more apt to use terrorist methods to reach their ends. As the NPR story points out, it is likely that Israel brokered this deal right now in order to weaken Fatah as that more moderate party seeks statehood or other recognition from the UN. But the short-term gain of this tactic for Israel is likely to cause a longer-term problem in that making Hamas' tactics look effective means more acts of terrorism are likely to occur than if they were willing to negotiate peacefully with Fatah. Is Israel intentionally trying to make this happen so that people will continue to see Palestinians as terrorists, and continue to feel bad for the Jewish victims? This is just sick, since it means many innocent Israeli lives will be shed as a result of the Israeli government's manipulative policies.

One good thing about this deal, however (besides the prisoners returning to their families), is that an Israeli peace activist, Gershon Baskin, brokered this deal. NPR reports him saying this was the most important thing he's done in his life. I think this part is awesome. He talked with the family of the missing soldier and he built relationships with Hamas leaders. He had no official capacity within the Israeli government, but he worked as a go-between for the last five years to make this exchange happen. This gives me hope, because I know not all Israelis agree with the policies of their government (no more than all people in the United States agree with our government's policies!), and it's great when Israelis working for peace make the news (here are some others). It also gives me hope because maybe someday, if we all work hard enough and refuse to give up, we can make a difference for peace in that land that is holy space for so many Jews, Muslims and Christians--in shallah.

Friday, October 14, 2011

book review: jesus loves women

I'm excited to review this new book, Jesus Loves Women: A Memoir of Body and Spirit, by my friend Tricia Gates Brown. (For those of you to whom it's important, she also has strong ties with Friends.) This book tells her story in beautiful, vulnerable prose that draws the reader in. I found myself thinking about her story and wanting to get back to reading it in the many moments of my day when I couldn't just sit around reading! It hooked me just as much as a good novel, although I have to admit it was a little weird reading such personal information about the life of someone I know. Somehow it feels different when reading a novel, or even a memoir of someone unknown to me, but since I know her and many of the others in the book, it felt a little voyeuristic to be so captivated by reading it.

But really, that's my only criticism of this book. Tricia's style managed to be engaging, readable, profound, deep, centering, humorous, sad and meaningful all in one book.

I appreciated the theme of the book, which you can begin to pick up on in the title. This is a spiritual memoir, but for Tricia, spirit is so bound up with the physical experience of herself and the world that this "spiritual" memoir comes off much different from the contemplative work one might imagine. She tells of her upbringing in a Christian denomination that caused her to feel less-than-human as a woman, and to find shame in her physical being. This book tells her journey of discovery as she seeks and finds God in the world around her, in relationships, in love and in herself. Tricia has a PhD in New Testament Literature, and she manages to incorporate some excellent, well-researched thought into this book in a way that definitely doesn't sound preachy but is confident and insightful. She tells of the misconceptions of much of the present-day American church regarding Jesus' view of women, the body and the created world, and paints a breathtaking picture of true Life as an embodied spirit.

Tricia is a gifted writer--I've read her dissertation, enjoyed her music and the poetry therein, and appreciated other articles I've read by her. Her memoir is no different. She writes it almost as poetry, describing the scenes around her with words that bring each moment to life. The insights she shares are deep and worth listening to. I am grateful she had the courage to share her story with such vulnerability.

In some ways, this memoir reminds me of another favorite book of mine, Sue Monk Kidd's Dance of the Dissident Daughter. The power of Sue Monk Kidd's work is in her creativity as she forms new ways to worship; much of the power of Tricia Gates Brown's work is in her word crafting and ability to tell a story, and in her complete and utter honesty, even about her mistakes. She is gracious and forgiving to others and to herself.

In case you couldn't tell, I definitely recommend this book! You can order it here.

Monday, October 10, 2011


The newest issue of the Friends Journal came out last week. The topic is Quaker Women in Ministry, so I submitted an article on the ministry of being a mom. They included my article "On Quaker Mothering." It's fun to see my words in print alongside some other great articles and art, some by Friends I know and some by those I have yet to meet. The full text isn't available online, but here's a link to the Contents page if you want to see what else is included in this issue. You can order a copy (or I have several copies they sent me if you want one!). 

Melanie Weidner's art is featured on the cover as well as inside. She is a good friend and I appreciate her art so much.

Becky Ankeny wrote an article called "Little Girl, Wake Up," which is available as full text online. She'll be our next Superintendent for Northwest Yearly Meeting come January.

Ashley Wilcox wrote a piece entitled, "Walking the Labyrinth." She's a Friend from Salem, OR who I've enjoyed getting to know over the last few years, and she goes to an unaffiliated meeting called Freedom Friends.

The pastor of Freedom Friends, Peggy Parsons, is profiled as a Quaker woman minister in this issue.

It's fun to be in such good company! The articles and other material by people I don't know is also good. I enjoy this unaffiliated Friends magazine and recommend it to those interested in Friends thought.