December 30, 2005

Come dance with Me

Just a quick post on Psalm 150. Sorry I'm so late.

Something that stands out to me is the commonality of dance among spiritual traditions. There is the Stomp Dance of the Cherokee, the Whirling of the Sufi, the Jewish circle dances, the moving meditation of the Tibetan monks....and on and on and on.

Dance is common. Why? I think there is heard, again and again in different places and eras the call - "Come dance with Me."

Come dance with Me. Dance as an expression of spiritual joy. Dance as a means of drawing close to the Lover.

Personally, (though it has been awhile) I have been known to put in a CD (perhaps the David Crowder Band or Rita Springer...or something totally unexpected), close the blinds, crank up the volume, grab my prayer shawl to use as prop --- and dance my heart out. Whirling, clapping, singing, shouting, kneeling, whispering, whirling again. Somewhere in there self-awareness stops and I notice that I am not alone. I am answering the call to dance with my Love and my heart is opened and healed.

I didn't realize how much I had missed this until now. Thanks for the reminder!

December 29, 2005


I'm hoping folks have been thinking a bit about where we might grow next. Thus far two options are on the plate:

Read a canonical book -- preferably from the New Testament
Take a break

I suspect there are more possibilities out there. In particular I would like to have a general consideration of what we find helpful here and what we don't so we might incorporate changes in how we do things.

December 28, 2005

Quiet Praise

We have now reached the last summit of the mountain chain of Psalms. It rises high into the clear azure, and its brow is bathed in the sunlight of the eternal world of worship, it is a rapture. The poet prophet is full of inspiration and enthusiasm. He slays not to argue, to teach, to explain; but cries with burning words, "Praise him, Praise him, Praise ye the LORD."

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-92)


I read that the book of psalms parallels the spiritual journey. Two paths are outlined, the way to life and the way to death. If we choose God’s way to life, we still face blessings and sorrows, joy and grief, success and obstacles. All of these experiences of our lives can be found in the psalms. At the end of our journey, we may find ourselves inhabiting a place that not only revels in God’s grace, but also where we find God's grace to be immanent and transcendent. When this is experienced, gratitude and praise are the natural emotions one feels and is movedto express.

My personality is not very extroverted; indeed, I am mostly drawn inward, to silence and to quiet conversations rather than to outward displays of exuberance (no surprise that I have the personality of a Quaker or a Buddhist…) This is not to say that I don’t feel a tremendous gratitude and praise for God. When the psalmist suggests all these outward displays of singing praise, I smile. Yes, we may praise in these noisy and jubilant ways – with the sound of the trumpet, or the high sounding symbols, the beat of the tambourines, and with the timbrel and dance as was once introduced into the temples and tabernacles, and is found today in modern churches. However… this jubilation and praise also happens in the heart, in the depths of our silence, in which we may be moved to tears with gratitude and love for this Absolute wonder of our lives. This is the feeling of rapture, of being so in love with the beloved, that one feels drunk with love and praise. And how does the silent heart sing God’s praise? Perhaps by being truly mindful, and by truly loving – by noticing and loving in a rich and warm and full manner for all that breathes, all that is experienced, and all that is given. Our own soft smile is a song of praise.

December 27, 2005

Praise the Lord

Looking up the definition of the word "praise", I read that it means "to set a price on", or "to commend the worth of, to express approval or admiration of, to laud the glory of, to extol". And it is offered in response to what another has done ... in response to their deeds.

I don't normally think about praising Jesus/God and when I hear the phrase "Praise the Lord", my mind adds the next line, "... and pass the ammunition" :-) (link) But sometimes I am grateful for the things I think he's done for me, for his deeds, and then sometimes I sing to him.

The one thing I miss the most about going to church is the music, and if , as Psalm #150 says, music qualifies as praise, then I did participate in it. Now that I'm not at church, I still sing to Jesus/God ... I sing the songs from a few "religious" music CDs (Taize and Robin Mark) but I think what he most likes are the songs of Peter and Gordon ... :-)

Nobody I know could love me more than you
You can give me so much love it seems untrue
Listen to the bird who sings it to the tree
And then when you've heard him, see if you agree
Nobody I know could love you more than me

Let everything that breathes praise the LORD!

This is the last psalm in the book of psalms.

It seems clear to me this Psalm was sung in corporate worship. It expresses a corporate experience of worship, celebration and praise. When I read the Hebrew scriptures looking for signs of what worship was like for the Israelites -- I keep running into the instructions of Leviticus about separating the fat from the organ meat before its burnt on the altar. In the Christian scriptures I see well-ordered synagogue worship looking for all the world like a classroom studying the ancient scrolls together.

But here. Here we hear calls to worship:
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with clanging cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!

Sounds strangely like a modern day Pentecostal praise service.

What I run up against here -- and I'm particularly mindful of it just coming out from under the Christmas celebrations of church and family -- is that for the biblical peoples and for maybe all cultures -- there are matter which seem like emotions, private, and personal experiences which are in fact treated like obligations and reinforced with coercive practices.

For scripture -- the two which fall into this category are love and joy. Scripture over and over again tells us, yea -- commands us -- to love and to rejoice and be glad. Happiness isn't a feeling isn't an experience that happens to us -- it is an obligation towards El Shaddai, God Almighty.

As a Christian I feel a certain obligation to take such things seriously -- this is not because the Bible is the wholly infallible Word of God but rather because millennia of faithful worship and witness affirms it. And this call to praise and worship takes the imperative case. It makes certain claims on me. And while I am free to accept or reject. There remains a claim to authority here.

But I'm more of an introverted type. I'm more drawn to study and meditation than to dancing around with tambourines. I have some choices.

I refuse to participate -- say 'no' to this whole project. I can participate (as quietly as I'm allowed to) while keeping my cognitive distance (my usual choice). I can lose myself in the celebration (something I find VERY difficult to do).
Let everything that breathes praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!

I deeper challenge than it appears on the surface. With Augustine I say Yes, Lord. But not yet.

December 26, 2005

Psalm 150

Praise the LORD! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty firmament!

Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his surpassing greatness!

Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp!

Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe!

Praise him with clanging cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!

Let everything that breathes praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!

December 23, 2005

Merry Christmas, Scripture Buddies :-)

Today, I'd like to remember Wenceslas, king of Bohemia in the 10th century ... read more about this saint here.

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath'ring winter fuel

"Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know'st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes' fountain."

"Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither."
Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind's wild lament
And the bitter weather

"Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps, my good page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter's rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly."

In his master's steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing

- Statue of St Wenceslas at Stara Boleslav

happy holy days or holly days or whatever

Christmas Link

December 21, 2005

another exit -- stage left (or perhaps right)

Robert (aka RW) has asked his name be removed from membership. Robert was useful to me by reminding me you didn't need to be left-wing to be a good Quake.

RW is also welcome to return when he feels so moved.

December 20, 2005

Clean Hands?

This psalm epitomizes O.T. religion, what Marcus Borg referred to as a 'purity' faith. In contrast Jesus was very unclean: talking with women! gentile women!, not washing his hands to eat. He said not one jot of the law should pass away. However the Sermon on the Mount shows the ways that Jesus transcended the law of Moses.

Speaking of Jesus Blake said he broke every one of the ten commandments and acted from pure virtue. So we're talking about two different kinds of purity: a religion of purity and a spirit of purity; the two are vastly different. You might say that the O.T. focuses on the first and Jesus the second. You might even say that the first is emphasized by (too) much of the conventional church, while the diaspora emphasizes the second.

December 19, 2005

God in all Things

The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it,
the world and all who live in it;
for he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the waters.

This psalm seems to be speaking of panentheism. My blogging friend Jon writes, “One of the wildest aspects of mystical Christian thought lies in the simple truth that God is everywhere. And if God is in fact everywhere, then God is in all things, and all things are in God”. Mystical theologian Matthew Fox writes: "As the ocean is in the fish and the fish are in God, so God is in everything and everything is in God."

This concept is so fundamental, yet how difficult it is to wrap our minds around this. We tend to separate things into good and bad, of God and not of God, in fact we tend to even separate ourselves as not being of God. However, this psalm clearly suggests otherwise: God is in all things.

Psalm 24 / C

Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place? Those who have clean hands and pure hearts, who do not lift up their souls to what is false, and do not swear deceitfully.

I guess this sounds reasonable and right ... only the worthy shall be allowed to ascend the hill of the Lord, to stand in his holy place. But I think the interesting thing is how this reasonable logic has been obviatedby the gospel message ... now everyone is welcome. A homily I read recently speaks of this - link - and says, in part ...

... God the doorkeeper. Part of me would be very happy knowing that God has standards—high standards too—it’s the part of me that would look down on any club that would have me as a member …... I guess I want standards too. I guess I find it hard to believe that I don’t have to try and try and likely fail. I guess I’d rather fail than lay down the burden and let myself be loved. Because I guess it does come down to love and loving and being loved.

Psalm 23

The earth is the LORD's and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it; for he has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers.

Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place?

Those who have clean hands and pure hearts, who do not lift up their souls to what is false, and do not swear deceitfully.

They will receive blessing from the LORD, and vindication from the God of their salvation.

Such is the company of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.


Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in.

Who is the King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle.

Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in.

Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory.


December 17, 2005

a skripture study member moves on

Joe -- aka Beppe -- has asked his name be removed from membership. Joe introduced us -- or remidned us -- of the possibilities in the Friendly Bible Study approach of Joanne and Larry Spears and he introduced the Quaker blogging world to podcasting.

His energies are elsewhere. He is welcome to return when he feels so moved.

December 16, 2005

My Yogic Reflection

No, this is not another mistaken post like that of December 5 when I posted something here that was meant for unclimber. Sorry about that.

Psalm 2, I have no idea. It sounds violent and scary to me. I fear that I am having problems 'hearing' God through the Bible. I figure that God talks through many means and that the Bible is one of them. Let him who has ears hear. I hear nothing from Psalm 2. But, as Larry has said on his own blog, God talks to all of us and Larry wonders whether what God really wants is for us to ask our neighbors what God told them. I am enjoying reading what God has said to you.

I recently took a yoga class and the instructor would send us e-mails with a Yoga thought for the day, some meditation for us to ponder. These meditations didn't really do much for me, but she inadvertantly gave me one that did.

In one week's class, as I did my pose, I could hear the instructor move about the room saying to various students, "I'm here." I assumed she did that to alert them that she was about to touch them to assist or adjust them in their pose so that they wouldn't be startled.

I thought a lot about that simple "I am here" and all that it means

It means -- I will assist you, adjust you, help you move into the pose

It means -- you are not alone, I will travel with you on your spiritual path, I will be your friend

It means -- I am here, right now, in the present
I am not ruminating on the car that cut me off or a co-worker's comment that seemed insulting
I am not thinking about how I'm going to get a project done or Christmas cards out
I am not trying to escape or dull my senses
I am here

As a mother it reminds me that all my children require of me is that "I am here" for them
to listen to them and love them and care for them, its as simple as being here with them

As a Christian who has a lot of problems with the materiality and consumerism that surround Christmas, it says to me that God came down to be with us for awhile, to live with us, and teach us, and experience life the same way we do.

I am here.


December 14, 2005

david's reflections on psalm 2

I think as Larry says, this in its original context, is the voice of a minor tribal chieftain. I'm not entirely comfy with the label barbarian as its is a label created by the Roman Empire to describe conquered peoples -- the bearded ones. Both anachronistic and ethnocentric. Besides -- I wear a beard!

Israel of this period struggled to keep its identity. It was surrounded by other Semitic peoples governed by their own tribal chieftains. They wanted to keep their territory, maintain their identity as the sons of Abraham, and somehow be faithful to this God of theirs. This kind of nationalism is far from dead -- it is far from being relegated to and ancient and primitive past. We may believe there is a better way -- but that has far from been proven by either history or international/interfaith consensus.

What wisdom or spiritual nourishment can I draw from this text despite this?

The power of politics is relative. God alone is king and those who claim the title for themselves will eventually fall.

The other powers and principalities and rulers of the dark air -- the things that rule my life and oppress me -- they too rule at the sufferance of God Almighty. They too will either serve spiritual ends, my liberation and the liberation of others, or they too will fall.

What originally was likely a hymn in honour of a king's coronation in Jerusalem, is taken up allegorically, typologically, spiritually, to point towards a day when God and God's ways will rule in my heart and life instead of all the petty potentates that direct my life now.

That is gospel. That is good news. Marana tha.

December 13, 2005


The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and his anointed, saying,

"Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us.

"He who sits in the heavens laughs; the LORD has them in derision.

These lines suggest that rulers, people held in esteem by others, or even those who just think that they are kings of the world sans God, who do not recognize God in all things, and who try to break their bonds with God, may think themselves free. However, God must just laugh at this. For how can anyone break his bond with God? It would be like a fish, breaking his bond with water, or a tree breaking its bond with the earth. We can no more separate ourselves from God than we can separate ourselves from the air that we breathe. It’s laughable to think otherwise.

This was so succinctly echoed by poet Kabir:

If you don't break your ropes while you're alive,
do you think
the ghosts will do it after?


I laugh when I hear that the fish in the water is thirsty.

and now, poet Hafiz...

I have a thousand brilliant lies
for the question:
What is God?

If you think that the Truth can be known From words,

If you think that the Sun and the Ocean

Can pass throuh that tiny opening

Called the mouth,

O someone should start laughing!

Someone should start wildly laughing -


December 12, 2005

Psalm 2 - Yikes! / C

Serve the LORD with fear; with trembling bow down in homage, Lest God be angry and you perish from the way in a sudden blaze of anger

... The God of this psalm is more like a bully than a loving father, and seems underserving of respect or love, though he may indeed evoke fear.

Happy are all who take refuge in God!

... I think not - you'd always have the worry you might anger God and be turned into a pillar of salt.

I find it hard to reconcile the OT God and the NT God - they seem pretty different to me.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. - 1 John 4:18

Why do the Heathen Rage?

(KJ version of Pslam 2): It takes one to know one, we used to say. Heathens indeed!

It helps to get some historical perspective: It's presumably about King David. (Some of the 'unlettered' believe that David wrote all the Psalms.) He was the tribal chieftan who "slew tens of thousands".

He was also the founder of the House of David, from which Jesus sprang.

So we have a contradiction here: a bloody, barbaric king, who was said to have written the most popular of the O.T. books, also founded the line from which the Messiah sprang.

This psalm is used in the N.T. to fill out the description of Jesus: "Thou art my beloved son in whom I am well pleased."

The psalm superficially sounds like Alley Oop, but it's like a filthy mine from which one brings forth diamonds. You might say that of the entire O.T. Out of the miry clay we came.

Psalm 2 (NRSV)

Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain?

The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and his anointed, saying,

"Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us."

He who sits in the heavens laughs; the LORD has them in derision.

Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying,

"I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill."

I will tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to me, "You are my son; today I have begotten you.

Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.

You shall break them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel."

Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth.

Serve the LORD with fear, with trembling

kiss his feet, or he will be angry, and you will perish in the way; for his wrath is quickly kindled. Happy are all who take refuge in him.

December 07, 2005


The only vote thus far for next project is "something from the NT" from Crystal. That only narrows it down to what? Twenty-eight books?

We're only a few weeks from Christmas. Increasing time commitments.

I'm really the wrong guy to make suggestions at this point because I really haven't been present as I might and you folks have carried the load. But I'm going to propose a way forward anyway.

For the next three Mondays I will post one of the Psalms for your consideration. Folks can respond as they feel led. This will bring us into 2006.

During these same three weeks folks can consider whether this project should continue and in what form. We can then, in January, either begin afresh or lay it down, or change the format as we decide is best.

End of Thomas - LC

This marks the end of the Thomas study here. I may do some more Thomas work at one of my other blogs. Thanks for all the good work that so many here have done.

December 06, 2005

A personal note

Ellie and I began our Quaker adventure at Langley Hill MM in Northern VA in 1983. Tom Fox joined this meeting a year or two after we did. When we left there one of our closest friends, John Surr was the clerk of that meeting. He has sent this to me (and other friends), and I want to share it with people reading this blog:

John Surr
(301) 469-9170
Please reply to:

Begin forwarded message:

> ***We ask that you give the two urgent messages below your deepest consideration, and direct them on to others who share our concerns regarding the violent and unjust interruptions in the lives of people in Iraq on a daily basis. We have a special concern for the four Christian Peacemaker Team members abducted November 26, 2005.****
> ______________________________________
> WHO WE ARE: We are Langley Hill Monthly Meeting, of the Religious Society of Friends, the Meeting of Tom Fox, the member of the Christian Peacemaker Team from America who is being held hostage.
> WHAT WE ARE DOING: We are holding a public candlelight vigil for Tom Fox, other members of Christian Peacemaker Teams held with him, those who have taken them hostage, and the many individuals and families that have been negatively impacted by this war. The vigil will be held at Clarendon Metro Park, Arlington, Virginia, on Wednesday, Dec 7 from 7:00-9:00 pm EST. This park is at the Clarendon Metro stop between Wilson and Clarendon Blvds. We will read the text of Tom's work as found on his weblog: Bring candles and dress warmly.
> WHAT WE ARE ASKING: For each and everyone to join us by:
> 1. Attending Wednesday evening's vigil in Clarendon.
> 2. Holding a similutaneous candlelight vigil in your community
> 3. If you cannot attend a vigil, then holding your own personal vigil; putting a candle in your window or on your front lawn
> 4. Reading Tom's postings found on his website
> 5. Holding Tom and his fellow CPT team members in the Light, seeking their safe and immediate release, and also those who suffer similar situations of captivity. We ask you to also hold their captors in the Light, that they might see why they must release their captives.
> We know that many people throughout the world have made efforts to secure the release of these hostages and we are grateful for their support.
> _____________________________________________
> Tom Fox, now being held captive in Iraq, is a beloved and longstanding member of our Quaker worship community. One of our strongly held beliefs is that if we listen, God can guide our lives. Before Tom went to Iraq, we considered with him his sense that he was being inspired by God to do what he could to relieve the suffering of individual Iraqis and to serve peace and justice. We were aware of the danger he faced. He went with our support and continues to have our support and love. We know Tom very well and can affirm that he is neither a spy nor an evangelist.
> The tenets of our Quaker faith ask us to work for peace in the world and to respect that of God in everyone. That is what led Tom to go to Iraq. We believe strongly in justice, mercy, and peace. We opposed this war as we oppose all wars. We believe in a God that is compassionate and merciful, as do the people of Iraq.
> We ask you as an act of justice, mercy, and devotion to release Tom and the other Christian Peacemaker Team members so that they can continue their work on behalf of those who suffer.
> Releasing the captives, so that they can continue to serve the Iraqi people, would be an act of dignity and courage.
> Signed,
> Langley Hill Monthly Meeting
> Religious Society of Friends
> Doug Smith, Clerk

December 05, 2005

Need more guidance

It appears that we have now looked at the 65 sayings that seem to be quite dissimilar to those in the other four gospels. This may be a good stopping point for Thomas. Or do you want to go on looking at the other 49?