Walking the Sea

Walking the Sea: September 2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Day is Done

Day is Done

Day is done and
Night is drawing near
But I’m awake,
Thinking here,
That I have given way too much,
Saying yes to this and such.
My life feels weighted
With demands.
Just let me be,
Let me see,
The flowers and
Enter the shining sea.

365-09 #281

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Stop Kiss

This fall is incredibally full to the point I feel overwhelmed. Part of this week's overflowing plate of to-dos has been photographing "Stop Kiss". Here are some of my favorite photos.

365-09 #280

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Sound of Music in Antwerp

Considerng this song is from one of my all time favorite movies and the fact I love dancing and the mundane becoming the sacred, this made me grin.

365-09 #279


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Mystics Class

We had a fantastic class on Saturday. I am auditing the Spiritual Writings of the Mystics class at the seminary this term and am already greatly enjoying it, homework and all. What more could you want than to spend the day with people who speak your language all studying something you dearly love? If I had to label myself as being from one tradition, I would say I am home in the mystic tradition so it was like studying where I come from all day and I loved it. My small group which I will have all term are really nice and very intelligent people and we always went over our time limit for meeting together. One of my friends is also taking the class. (Not to mention another friend is teaching it.) I am taking the class because I have missed the mystics. I have especially missed the mystic in myself. This class gives me a great opportunity to jump into them once again and once more to grab hands with the ones I consider my spiritual abbas and ammas. It is an honor to know them in this way and thus to follow in their footsteps.

365-09 #278

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Angels Around Us

You think you know the world, how it works. You think you know your theology, what the Bible says, and who God is, how he operates. You think you know until you realize what you don't know and that what you do know is what you thought you didn't know. You know?

I thought I had a reasonable grasp on things until God decided to turn things upside down. Well, perhaps not completely upside down, but he has definately turned some things on their sides. Did you know there are people who can see angels? Perfectly sane people. Did you know there are people who can see auras? The electromagnetic field surrounding each living person? Have you ever thought about how much is in our world that we don't see? I've always been aware of angels as they are talked about in the Bible, but I never thought much about them looking after me. I never thought about who they are or why God created angels in the first place. But due to having some very interesting and thought provoking discussions lately, you can bet I'm thinking about it now.

365-09 #277

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Paypal Donation Button Now Available!

A few days ago, my friend, Gil, from Britain suggested I add a paypal button onto my blog so people can donate online for my ministry to Kenya. You can still send a check to my mailing address, but if it is easier for you, you can also send your donation through paypal by clicking the button on the upper right, directly underneath my picture.

Thank you so much for your assistance and support in whatever form that takes. I am deeply grateful and appreciate you helping me to follow my call to go minister there in Western Kenya.

My mailing address is:

Sarah Katreen Hoggatt
PO Box 7522
Salem, OR 97303

364-09 #275

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Love is Worthy of Being Heard

"Love is worthy of being heard." I wrote this sentence in one of my posts for the mystics class and another student in my group really liked it. I went back, read my post, and really liked it too! It was one of those things I write because it just flows out then I go back and think, "Wow, that was pretty profound wasn't it?" Those are the times the deeper wisdom runs through my heart and hand.

Love IS worthy of being heard. Love is the most beautiful, most lasting thing we will ever feel, ever know. After all, God is love so love therefor, must be eternal. Something so beautiful, so breathtaking, must be expressed so the beauty can be shared, to bless the souls of many. It's like a flowing river. Love is the water and should not be held back for wherever it flows, life with flourish in its wake.

I was thinking about this tonight and thought, "Love is just a feeling until you put feet under it." Love is not only worthy of being heard, it ought to be heard. Love needs to be expressed by either what we say and/or what we do. We all speak and hear love in different ways. The important thing is to keep speaking it and to listen to it from others. Whatever love we give will last forever. However we share love with another soul connects us in a deep and eternal way. Love has a power far greater than we can ever imagine. When we love someone and express that love, the affects are exponential, we will never even fully realize what our love for someone means to them. I think we would be shocked if we did. If humanity is the body, love is the blood. It just can't be underestimated. Love above and before all.

365-09 #276

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A Pensieve Night

Tonight at church, we played the name game as we often do. We go around the circle, give our name and then answer a question. Sometimes it's a funny question, sometimes more serious. Tonight was very open ended: "What is on your mind tonight?" Collectivly, we had a lot on our minds tonight including me. If it wasn't so late, I would love to spend a couple of hours with my journal. But I need to head to bed and will have to do that tomorrow. Sometimes, that pensieve in Harry Potter would be very helpful to have. My journal is rather like a pensieve. I empty my thoughts out into it, a place I can say whatever I want however I want and revisit it later. It's one of the reasons I write. Thoughts are like living animals in my mind. Put too many of them in there, and they start jostling for room and I just need to let some of the preassure off. That is when I write. Like I told some fourth graders today after my friend introduced me to them as an author, I write because I have something to say I want to tell other people. But sometimes, my heart just needs to tip over and pour out. This is one of those nights.

365-09 #274


Exploring the Images of God

So why did I use the feminine image of God in the story? Like many fiction writers will say, that is what I saw in my mind. I started with the usual "He" but it didn't seem right and I thought it would be fun to use another of my favorite images for a story that I put so much of my heart into. I like the feminine image of God. I am still becoming comfortable using it as it is still rather foreign to me but I like the flavor. I like holding an image of God I can relate to, who can relate to me. I'm not trying to bring God to my level, but using the image of God as woman among others helps me find God inside of me.

In "Joan of Arcadia", a television show though now canceled, is still quite powerful. In it, God shows up to talk to Joan in different forms. Sometime God is a cute guy, at times a little girl, at others God is a woman. Watching the show's episodes on youtube has taught me a lot about the characteristics of God and it has helped me see God much better in those around me. I am more open to God showing up in the unexpected when I accept and cherish a variety of images, feminine images among them. They are all important. I enjoy exploring them.

365-09 #273

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Please Explain to Me...

I got this comment on yesterday's post: "I just read your blog. Please explain to me why you feel God is a woman. I have never heard that one before." I wrote about this topic last year so before reflecting on why I chose to use that particular image of God, I am going to repost what I wrote then as I think it may be helpful.


I want to talk to you a lot more about the Feminine Divine. To do this though, I first want to share with you how I became interested in this topic and how it has changed me.

It all started inocently enough. Sister Antoinette, a woman I enjoy visiting with out at Mt. Angel Abbey, suggested I read "The Secret Life of Bees". Having no idea what it was about, (how bees miraculously fly perhaps?), I didn't track it down. On top of that, with all of the reading, projects, and papers I had to complete before finishing my graduate degree, I didn't have a lot of time budgeted for extracurricular reading. However, I quickly learned God has a very different idea of the difference between extracurriclar reading and reading that is required.

I was house sitting in the fall for a professor/friend of mine up in Vancouver, Washington over Thanksgiving. Having many of the same intellectual and spiritual interests as I, which would make sense considering how many classes I had with her, I was really looking forward to having access to her personal library. Looking through her shelves, I came across her copy of "The Secret Life of Bees". I was soon enthralled with the story. It's about a white teenager who escapes from her physically abusive father and finds herself at the home of "The Calendar Sisters"-May, June, and August, three black women who worship the black Madonna. They raise bees and sell their honey, teaching the girl the business and helping her to heal along the way. I loved it, it was a fantastic story and it was my first foray into the feminine divine. I told the woman I was seeing for spiritual direction at the time about the book and she suggested I also read "The Mermaid Chair" and "The Dance of the Dissendant Daughter" both by the same author. I was still finishing my program so put I them off. God though, did not.

Right before Christmas, I was on my regular rounds of author tables and holiday bazaars. I love doing these for not only do I get to talk with the public about my books, but I also get to "talk shop" with the other authors, always one of our favorite parts of any fair or bazaar. Next to me was Dolores Dahl, one of my favorite poets who is also a dear friend. She was reading, you guessed it, "The Mermaid Chair"! Seeing my interest, she told she would mail it to me when finished. A few weeks later, the book showed up in my post office box with the note I could keep it. This book pissed me off. It's written well and reminds me a bit of the island my aunt lives on that I love to spend time at, but it is about a woman's discovery of her deep femininity, creativity, and power within through having an affair with a monk. The monk part didn't bother me, neither did the sexual content, it was the possibility of divorce without caring for the other partner. A friend of mine was going through a divorce at the time so it was hitting too close to home for me. However, after reflection, I really appreciated this woman's discovery of her inner strength and her artistic expression.

Now I was intrigued. "The Dance of the Dissedant Daughter" was supposed to be the author's auto-biography. While talking with a friend nearly a year later, she told me she had a copy of a book in her car she had previously mentioned to me. When she handed the book to me, I was shocked, it was of course, "The Dance of the Dissedant Daughter". I think God knew I needed to read the two fiction books before delving into this one. This one, knocked my socks off and opened up a whole new world of truth and reality. This woman studied the feminine divine for herself after becoming fed up with the overwhelming male images in the Chrisitian church. I love being told a good story and thoroughly liked this one. Though from the perspective of a middle-aged woman, I still got a lot from it.

This book launched me into my own study of the feminine divine. Soon I was perusing books such as "History of the Goddess" and "Women Who Run with the Wolves". Online, I looked up sexuality, both for myself and in relation to my work as a spiritual director. The topic seemed to come up in conversations and being able to talk about what I was learning and sharing ideas with others was a gift. Then about a month ago, I was one of the speakers at the Pacific Northwest Quaker Women's Theology Conference where I attended a workshop on "The Feminine Divine". Sitting there in a lively discussion, I almost cried, it felt so good to hear other women use the word "Goddess" and exploring the beauty of upholding feminine images of God alongside the masculine ones so prominent in our culture. I also came away with another book to read. I don't have the title with me at the moment, but it will be fun to see how God brings it across my path just when I need to read it. [I later read the book, "A God Who Looks Like Me".

Shortly after reading Sue Monk Kidd's autobiography of her spiritual jounrney, I was cutting pears one Sunday morning when God asked me, "So what would I look like as a woman?" Caught off guard, I thought about Kidd's image of a wizened old woman, long white hair, wrinkled face and all. That didn't fit for me but then came an image that did. I told God, "You're a black woman." You tell it like it is, you're in a person's face with a strong voice. You're also gentle and wise, loving, and kind. You're someone a person can depend on. I know this is a gross over-exageration of a black woman but I hope upholding them as an image of God helps your irritation. Della Reese's character of Tess on Touched by an Angel also has a great influence here. As a person, Della Reese is someone I admire and respect. She reminds me of God. (Read her autobiography, it's wonderful!)

A few weeks after this, a friend who was auditting Spirituality and Suffering with me (I took it for fun) told me about this book called, "The Shack". The little she told me didn't sound that great until I KEPT hearing about it, again and again and again so I bought my own copy and settled on the couch one afternoon to read it. When I got to the part about Papa opening the cabin's door to Mack, I gasped audibly. The author, William P. Young, wrote God the Father as a black woman. Jesus was an Arab, and the Holy Spirit was an Asian woman. I LOVED it. The conversations Mack has with the three, especially with Papa have stayed with me ever since. As a person who loves spiritual images, Papa has become a very powerful one for me. She tells it like it is and speaks with Mack openly, with understanding and compassion. She is someone who is very approachable. I needed this image of God. I needed this Mother who understood my growth as a woman and who could help me in that, who dances around the kitchen listening to rock music that hasn't been written yet while stiring biscuit batter. Though God is not woman, or man, She/He gives us images, including personal images, that strengthen our bond and help us know God better. Even so, I know that no image, male, female, or any image from the natural world, can ever fully describe who God is. It all falls GROSSLY short of seeing the One we love fully. Still, I think the feminine divine certainly brings some missing pieces back into the picture.

Since we already dealt with the biblical issue [previous post], let me address another question I would expect to hear. "I have never heard of this in church. Are you still Christian?" The reason few have heard of this in church is because most western Christian churches still don't discuss female images of God. Femininity is still something that needs to be hidden and covered up in many communities. The more we hide and ignore the feminine images of God, the less we will honor those qualitites within ourselves. The same works the other way around, the more we hide our own femaleness, the more we ignore God. If you think you can know God while ignoring a part of your humanity, you are gravely mistaken. We cannot know God without accepting that of God within ourselves.

Because female images of God are mostly ignored at best, surpressed at worst, in many churches, those who embrace them live on the edges of the church, the fringe if you will. I am one of these. I am not happy with the rule-laden prevalant view of "living in faith". I would rather break the rules than keep them for they bind far too many people in a rigid world where God embraces you only if you meet certain standards of looks and behavior. This should not be so. The God I know loves EVERYBODY, even those who bash the rules over other people's heads as if to dent them into the shape they want. (By the way, this never really works. All it is doing is bashing that person's soul.)

I still consider myself a Christian in that I love God and I do believe Jesus is God and lived with us to show us what a relationship with God is like. I also believe God gives us freedom, real freedom, life without a rule list of do's and dont's, things to follow. If you are in relationship with God and letting God guide you, making choices together, (God respects our choices), you will also be living in right relationship with yourself, with others, and with the earth. Or I should say, you and I are in the process of living this way. Living a free life is a result of loving God. You don't follow the rules to be "approved" by God, God already loves us, everybody, male AND female.

365-09 #272

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A Life of Love and Meaning

At first, I wasn't sure what had woken me up so early. Still half asleep, I rolled over in bed, barely making out the early morning sun just peeking over the horizon, shining light between the clouds. It had been a good dream, like being awashed in love, and I wanted to savor that feeling a little longer while the cool morning air brushed over my face.

Realizing I wasn't alone in the room, I looked over to the side of my bed and saw God sitting in a chair, a sketchbook in her hands and a feather in her hair, happily humming a melodic tune while busily scratching away with a pencil. Weird even for God, I shook the last bits of drowsy from my head and asked her what she was thinking waking me up so early in the morning when I wanted to sleep in.

Amused, she looked at me with delight in her eyes and explained how she had been sketching out some ideas she had for my life and wanted to know what I thought it should look like. What did I want to have in my life? If I could choose anything I wanted, what would I want most?

It didn't take me long to come up with the answer. With my dream still floating like mist at the edge of my consciousness, I took her sketch pad in my hands and wrote this:

"I do not ask for success. I do not ask for wealth. I ask for a full life of love, joy, meaning, and hope. I ask that my life will benefit more than just myself, that my life will be a blessing to others like seeds of flowers spread in their gardens. I ask to know your voice and to see your face."

God took the paper from my outstretched hand, read it and smiled, telling me, "By asking for the truly important things, the ones that will last, your life will be rich in love, joy, meaning, and hope, and you will be successful to me."

And thus it was.

365-09 #271

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Life Needs to be Lived

I have come to realize I have a method for when I travel:

1. Decide where I'm going.
2. Get excited.
3. Go to the library and check out at least five books about where I'm going. These can include but are not limited to travel books, books on what I may find there such as animals, and a non-fiction story that takes place where I'm going.
4. Read said books.
5. Get even more excited because now I know why where I'm going is really special.
6. Return books.
7. Go on trip.

When I want to find information about something, I tend to go to the library. This may be similar to going to the mattresses like in "The Godfather" but I haven't decided yet. It's just the way it is. All those books just waiting to be read... It certainly improves the trips I take when I have a better idea of what I want to see and do while I'm there and appreciate what I come across. It's a fun way to do things. I like the technique, I appreciate that about myself. Most of all, though, I like how I now know that there comes a point when the book needs to be put down because life cannot only be read about, it has to be lived.

365-09 #270

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The Next Steps

When I said things were going to come fast and furious, apparently I meant it. Eden, the missionary in Kenya I have been talking to and who is helping plan all this, let those of us who are traveling as ambassadors know about our choices of itinerary. There are eight of us and I believe we mostly come from the United States and across Europe. It will be nice to have people to process the experience with. Between Eden's traveling tips sheet and a packing list I found, I have my work cut out for me this fall. I am sure you will be hearing more about all that.

Yesterday I mentioned that I am thinking about the question of what I am bringing to the people of Africa. In Eden's tip sheet, there was a beautiful and powerful answer: "Your very presence is a tremendous blessing to those you meet. Your willingness to listen to stories, to meet people where they are, to pray with them, to take tea with them, to shake their hands and affirm your oneness in Christ -- these are all gifts you can give that will build the kingdom of God."

My next steps include working with Terri in Philadelphia and Eden and Bainito on an itinerary, formally registering, and choosing a safari company. (There are SOOOO many!) I also need to buy my plane ticket. Vaccinations are also on my radar. It will be very interesting to see that all come together over the next week.

As we work on planning this out, I am aware I am basically asking them to break my heart and destroy my blindness to things I cannot see. I imagine the process will be quite painful, exhilarating, and certainly life changing. How I look at the world and the culture around me will be changed forever after. It is what I want.

365-09 #269

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I'm Going to Africa!

“If you dream the impossible and reach for the stars, you may find God calling you from among them.”

Just over two weeks ago I started dreaming that “impossible dream”. I have been invited to go speak at the triennial of the Young Quaker Christian Association of Africa which includes facilitating programs and workshops. It began when on a seemingly typical morning two and a half weeks ago when my friend, John Lomuria, e-mailed me asking me what I thought about going to the triennial of the Young Quaker Christian Association of Africa that we had talked about when he was here in Oregon last April. I looked up the information online and was intrigued but a trip to Africa was definitely not part of the budget though it has been a long-time dream. Then quietly, God slipped a small piece of paper under my nose that simply said, “Susan Bax Foundation Grant”. A well-placed telephone call and I had the name of an additional grant to apply for. A day later, I found a third. Thus, the unbelievable, miraculous call of God for me to go to Africa began.

For two weeks, I wrote grant applications, met with a Clearness Committee to help me search out some questions, and talked about the trip with mentors and Friends who wrote letters of recommendation for me. I’ve considered my long-standing passion to be exposed to other cultures and to learn from them, my skills as a speaker and spiritual director, my openness, and experience with young adults through the Quaker Youth Book Project. Bainito Wamalwa sent a formal letter of invitation to speak and to be a workshop and program facilitator. Not yet knowing if I was going to be awarded any of the grants, I really need all three, I started turning my life inside-out so I could go. Things I was planning on doing such as taking an acting class and trying out for a play were off my schedule for financial and time reasons. This trip is that pearl of great price for which I am willing to let a lot of other things go and it has been a very interesting experience and lesson in faith and trust to let go of one thing without having something else to grab onto.

Then, this afternoon, I received word I have been awarded the second grant in addition to the first which will pay my airfare to and from Kenya. (I won’t hear about the third for several weeks and will be fundraising for the rest of the money I need.) It was the “go” signal I have been waiting for. This ministry has happened very quickly but I feel deeply called to go. God has opened this door and I am taking it with a full heart.

The other night I was talking with a missionary in Kenya and she asked me what I wanted to do or see besides the conference while I was there. I told her I wanted my western-culture blinders taken off. I want a larger view of the world, I want to see things as they really are. A wild elephant or two thrown in would also be fantastic.

I will be passing along details and other thoughts about the trip as I prepare. Things are going to be happening very fast from here on in, there is so much to plan. Luckily, I’ll have the help and support I need from people around the world and here at home.

I want to especially take the time to thank those of you who have made this trip possible either through your letters of recommendation, serving on the Clearness Committee, editing my applications, encouraging me, giving advice, and for donating funds to the trip before I even asked. I also want to thank those who had a particularly memorable reaction to my news when I told you. You know who you are.  You are extraordinary friends and I thank God for each and every one of you. THANK YOU ALL!!!


Where are you going?

Kenya! I am flying into Nairobi and will be spending most of my time in Southern and Western Kenya.

When are you going?

I will be buying my plane tickets once we work on the itinerary a little more but right now it looks like I will be leaving around November 30th and getting back on December 20th. Yes, that is fast planning.

Are you traveling by yourself?

Yes, I will most likely be flying there and back by myself but while I am there, I will be guided by others who know the lay of the land. My pastor, Peggy, has informed me that while I am on the ministry portion of the trip, I will have what she calls “handlers”, people who will take very good care of me.

What will you be doing or speaking on?

I don’t have all the details yet as up until today, I couldn’t give a definite yes that I would be coming. I do know they are particularly interested in my talking to the women about being in ministry.

How are you paying for this trip?

I have thus far raised $2,275 out of the $3,915 I will need. Most of this is from the International Outreach Granting Group and Susan Bax Fund for women traveling in the ministry. I am saving everything I can as I will also be losing income while I’m gone and need to pay my bills in addition to paying for the trip. I am also asking friends and family to help or to donate finances instead of birthday or Christmas presents. (My 30th birthday is on November 16th.)

Are you going on safari while you’re there?

YES!!! Going on safari in Kenya has been one of my long standing items on my “I want to BLANK before I die” list. Thus, to celebrate my 30th birthday, I am going on a safari where I am REALLY hoping to see wild elephants. This will be an incredible experience! I am flying into Nairobi early and doing the safari before the conference so I can fully devote my time for the rest of the trip. After a lot of research, I have decided on a four day, three night camping safari. This will keep costs quite low and give me the experience I desire of being close to the earth as I sleep under the African stars. I have not decided on which company to go with yet. So instead of presents this year, I would love it if you would help me make my dream come true by helping with the cost of the safari or with the costs of things I’ll need for it. I think this will be my favorite birthday present ever. If you want to send a donation or gift, you can mail it to:

Sarah Katreen Hoggatt
PO Box 7522
Salem, OR 97303

Are you nervous?

I am a bit nervous but not for the reasons you would think, at least right now. The traveling I can handle. Come to think of it, all the shots I need also make me a bit nervous. Maybe nervous isn’t the best way to describe this. I am searching for the answer of what I will bring to fellow Friends there in Africa. I am going with a very teachable and open heart. I want to learn from them. From what I have seen and read thus far, they have an extraordinary faith. What I bring is a continual question I’ll be asking myself.

Would you write an article for my magazine or come speak at our group when you get back?

I haven’t been asked this one yet, but hope I will be. The answer is a very enthusiastic yes! Let me know what you have in mind and we can talk about it.

If you have any other questions, I am happy to answer them. Please leave a comment or contact me and I will reply back. Thank you for all your support as I take this next large step on my journey!


365-09 #258

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"Questions are not scary. What is scary is when people don't have any. What is tragic is faith that has no room for them."

I am reading "Velvet Elvis" right now and am taking it little bit by little bit, not because it is hard to digest or uninteresting, but because the author's words are such a direct hit to where I've been, what I hold close, and where I am now, that I have to get over the shock wave of it before reading on.

Today's shock wave was on asking questions, lots of questions. They seem to make up most of my spiritual diet right now, I feel like I am truly living the question because I know no answer can be given me right now. I have to wait, I have to keep asking the question.

Another quote that deeply resonated with me was, "What was so powerful for those I spoke with was that they were free to voice what was deepest in their hearts and minds. Questions, doubts, struggles. It wasn't [so much] the information that helped them - it was simply being in an environment in which they were free to voice what was inside." That place to ask questions certainly made a night and day difference in my own life.

Questioning frees us. Not relying on a strict doctrine but knowing the person of God, not just the beliefs about God, knowing God welcomes our questions and that we can live in uncertaintly is freeing. The important thing is knowing to whom to ask our questions and to keep raising them up.

365-09 #257


He Is

This is one of my favorite songs, "He Is" by Aaron and Jeoffrey. It touches a deep eternal place in me.

365-09 #256

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I am Me

Tonight was our first tap class after a wonderfully long break of a month and a half. During the break, Stacey and Sheri participated in a tap workshop in Vancouver BC and as is always the case, she brought back new material for us. Tonight she talked a lot about being loose, relaxed, dancing out of our core, and not being concerned with dancing on the outside, but dancing on the inside.

This got me thinking for the rest of the evening. I'm still putting this into words for myself but I will try to share it with you. Perhaps by sharing some of my own heart, you will find truth in it for yours.

There are many people in my life and I belong to a variety of groups who all see me in a different way, some truer than others. I value these groups and these relationships but living out of who they think I am is like dancing on the outside. God gave us each an internal rhythm and it is the music I hear and feel on the inside that I need to pay attention to. It is important to not get caught up in the music others play for me, good though it may be, I need to keep listening to the music inside of me, the song God wrote within me before I was born. Sometimes that means taking chances on a dream, sometimes saying no when others say yes or shouting yes when others scream no. It is knowing who I am and keeping my focus on what I have been called to do and not letting things distract me. It is living out of my soul with integrity.

I am myself. I will always be myself. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what anyone else says. I am simply me with my hands fused into God's thus I am complete.

This is one of my favorite stories, one sinking ever deeper and deeper into my heart as a living journey I continue to walk.

365-09 #255

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Exploring the Mystics

There are many things running through my head tonight. For one, today we started posting for the mystics class I am taking. Here is what I wrote.

As a young 20-something, a friend wrote to me, “I do believe you are a mystic at heart.” Not knowing what a “mystic” was, I looked it up in my dictionary and found it meant having direct communication with the divine. I rather liked that. It wasn’t until seminary I realized there was a long tradition of mysticism, people who gave me words for my experiences, those who guided me and encouraged me across the years.

I was reminded of this while reading the introductions to our texts when the editor of Not of This World likened mysticism to an “other world that now is”. One of my metaphors for mysticism is that it is like stepping through the wardrobe door into Narnia, a door I haven’t been stepping into often enough lately. That same editor talked about the three-fold way: purgation, illumination, and union. I wondered how the writings of the mystics discuss each stage. Mechthild of Magdeburg would be union with her images of love and sensuality with God and John of the Cross and his writings on the dark night of the soul delve into purgation. I believe Therese’ of Lisieux works more with illumination. It’s an interesting idea to think about as I read.

Speaking of sensuality, I did not agree with Egan when he said that as mystics are purged of sensuality, they grow in virtue. (pg. 17) Sensuality, sexuality, and spirituality can be quite interwoven and one cannot be fully what it was meant to be without the other two.

365-09 #254

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Same Kind of Different as Me

I can hardly believe what time it is. I've been reading this fantastic book I think you should all look up. It's called "Same Kind of Different As Me: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together" I found it last week while I was over for dinner at my friend, Debbie's house. While she worked on her computer, I browsed her bookshelves. As I shared with her, looking at the shelves of books belonging to a friend from seminary is like being welcomed into the arms of a warm hug by a old woman. Unlike other bookshelves, I instinctively trust the books of such friends for not only do our libraries look a lot alike, but I am more open to reading the books I am unfamiliar with because the same people who mentored me and guided me on my spiritual journey, guided and mentored them.

This book streaked past my expectations into the category of books I believe will stay with me and is one of those books I needed to read right now. The story revolves around the lives of two men, one a white rich art dealer and the other, a black homeless man who eventually meet and form a close friendship. It's about real life, tragedy, joy, wisdom, and a God who is there with us in it all. I think I outright cried through a quarter of the book. I can understand why Debbie bought copies for her kids as well, it's that good.

In my own life, I have a friend, a brother, in Kenya. We have VASTLY different backgrounds and cultures. He has known poverty and homelessness as I have never imagined, I have had privileges he's never known. Though we didn't have the trouble the two friends have in the book in coming to the place of friendship, I can understand how two souls recognize in each other something far more than skin color and upbringing. Such friends find that a bond exist deeper than can be broken. It is a priceless gift when found.

365-09 #253

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Fun Weekend!

I had quite a fun weekend. We played cards, walked the beach, took a hike in the woods, sat around the campfire, and played with the dogs. After the last week and a half of working so much on my computer, it felt great to let go of the load I was carrying for a while and take off for some fun with my friends. Thanks guys!

365-09 #252

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Friday, September 11, 2009

I'm Going Camping!

I'm off to go camping at the beach. It will be a fun weekend! I wanted to at least do one camping trip this year so I have been defending this weekend like no other. I'm looking forward to the fun and relaxation. I've been working a lot on my computer this week so it will be really nice to be able to shut it off for a bit. We all need that. I am sure there will be pictures for you on Sunday!

365-09 #251

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Life is Like...

Life is like blackberry bushes in the summer. There is an abundance of delectable fruit to be picked off the vine but you have to get past the thorns first. The berries are indeed worth the thorns, but just watch out for them.

Life is like putting fertilizer in the garden. We regularly get crap dumped on us but it is what we do with the crap that makes the difference. If we let the hard things in our lives challenge us and encourage our growth, we will become more than we ever thought possible.

365-09 #250


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Build Anyway

Tonight as I was getting ready for bed, I was thinking about what it is like to step out in faith, to prepare your heart, your life, for something that you hope will happen but don't know for sure if it will. It is like that moment when a trapeez artist lets go of their bar and hasn't been caught yet. All you can really do is to rest in the assurance of Who is catching you. I zipped through the Bible in my head thinking of any other people who had such moments, I'm sure there are many but the one who came to mind was Noah. He built his life around building the ark long before the flood. Build the ark anyway. Thanks God.

365-09 #249

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An Experience for Thought

This is one of those posts where I share an experience and ask the questions without really giving much in the way of answers.

I was at church tonight, (imagine youngish adults sitting in a large circle), when we were discussing Matthew 18 and forgiveness. I was intrigued, Jordan had pointed out how the parable related to the conversation right before and how the meaning is found by considering the two parts together, that it doesn't matter what someone else does to us or how many times they sin, we still need to forgive them because God has already forgiven us so much more.

Then at one point during the discussion, we got onto a side path of theology talking about the controversy between once saved, always saved or that you can loose your salvation if you turn away. We were struggling with this when two of the guys starting going back and forth with each other, each talking over the person in louder and louder voices, not stopping to listen to what the other had to say. I jumped in and asked them to stop talking for one minute and cool down. Immediately, one of the guys, who generally takes up a lot of space in a room, jumps in to continue the argument when the pastor, Jordan, interrupts him and says, "Wait, Sarah asked you to be quiet." Jordan affirmed my power and decision to stop the conversation. He shared his power with me. This took me by surprise more than anything else. The guy in question didn't say anything else for the rest of the discussion. The guy he had been arguing with joined in at times but didn't say a lot. Other people shared their opinions and the talk went on, it was a really good time.

The guy who didn't say anything else left the room shortly before the discussion ended and I didn't see him for the rest of the time. Before we started the music, the one who had still talked a little told us he felt like an idiot for raising his voice like that, asked for our forgiveness, and shared with us how in his family, raising your voice above the other person's is how to get heard. Before he picked up his guitar for the closing song, I leaned over to him and told him I didn't think he was an idiot nor did I think there was anything to forgive.

My reflections: I now would have rather asked them, instead of being quiet for a moment and calming down, to really listen to one another and speak one at a time. I would have encouraged their voices as well, not only asking them to be quiet for a moment. What I don't think they understood, was I only wanted them to be quiet for a moment and then they could resume the conversation, not quit it all together.

I also think that perhaps they were doing something wrong by not respecting other people's voices and perhaps forgiveness was needed for him to feel an accepted part of the group again. What I find very interesting, is they both took being reigned back in very personally, as if I just cut their self-esteem to zero or worse. When I stopped them from arguing like that, I wasn't thinking less of their value, it was simply an inappropriate way to discuss the issue. An observation, not a value statement. Remember that post? It was an excellent reminder to me that many of those who appear to have the toughest skin, actually can be wounded quite easily without me having meant to do it.

So that is what happened. I am hoping Jordan got to talk afterwards with the one who left. I am going to try to talk to them each within the next week. If anything, I need to talk with Jordan about what happened to help me process it and I want to reconnect with the quiet one. It will be good practice to put what we JUST talked about concerning reconcilliation into practice.

After reading MaryKate Morse's book, Making Room for Leadership: Power, Space and Influence, tonight was particularly interesting in experiencing what she talked about after being made more aware of the space and influence in group dynamics. Thanks MaryKate!

365-09 #248

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Monday, September 7, 2009

Life is a lot like that

Life is a lot like sand art. You think life is going to be one image and with a turn of God's hand, he transforms it into something quite different. Same sand, same hands, new picture. It keeps on changing from one wonder to another. We don't always understand what God is transforming life into, sometimes it looks like a mess but if we wait another second or two, clarity does come and we are lost im amazement. (Before God changes it again.) Yeah, life is a lot like that.

(Keep watching when it goes black, it comes back after a few seconds.)

365-09 #247


Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Return on Their Investment

I had an interesting question asked of me tonight. A friend observed that the Quakers have invested a great deal in me with all I have been involved with among them. (THANK YOU!!!) Having only been in the Quaker church for three years, my friend wanted to know if I was committed to them, if the Quakers were going to get a good return for what they've invested. It is a completely justified question to ask. It was an interesting question to answer.

I told her that the Quaker church is the garden in which I am planted. I deeply agree with many of their core beliefs such as God being in every person and God being the highest authority, not the Bible. God and the Bible won't disagree with each other, but go to the author himself/herself if you need the final word. I also appreciate the giving of silence and time to the people and things in our lives, to our faith in God. The Quakers tend to be very open to people who ask questions and who may not fit in with mainstream Christianity. With all I've learned and how I've grown, the Quaker church is a very good fit for me. I plan on ministering among them for a long time to come.

However, I grew up in a strong Christian church, not Quaker, and have learned too much of Christian history and other denominations to ever put myself in a denominational box. It's like flying up high in the air and knowing you'll never be able to limit yourself to only walking on the ground. Gaining a larger view of things, I have strong streaks of many faiths. I was raised Christian, born Jewish, with a deep affinity for Eastern Orthodoxy and Catholicism. In fact, all my spiritual directors have been Catholic and my favorite religious bookstore is Eastern Orthodox. My relationship is with God and that is as far as my deep religious identity goes. My bond with God is who I am, what church I am involved with is what I do.

As many of you know, I am a public speaker and it doesn't matter to me what denomination asks me to come, I love being the kind of person who can relate to and talk with people from a wide variety of faith walks. I see myself not only as a bridge builder among Quakers, but as a bridge builder between all the children of God. After all, God does not look at us through the categories of denominations, why should I? This goes for my spiritual direction practice as well. I will happily see clients from any group. We are all the children of God.

So Quakerism is the garden in which I am planted, my home base, and the group I am invested in (they'll get a great return), but my roots go well beyond the Quaker walls and into the gardens of all people who call the one I love their beloved too.

365-09 #246

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Friday, September 4, 2009

Friday Night - Fun!

Deanna asked me how I would be spending my Friday night if she wasn't down here visiting. I told her I would probably be home working on my computer or taking photos of the My Fair Lady cast hanging out in their dressing room. She said she would be napping/defuzzing her afghan. "No wonder we're single," quipped she. Too true.

Instead of working on a computer or napping, we went down to Boone's Treasury, our favorite pub for beer, cajunized tator tots, good music, and rummy- our favorite card game. It was an excellent evening, a perfect Friday night. And the band looked and sounded really great. A pleasure to behold. We might have to catch their show in Portland sometime. Thanks Deanna for a great night!

365-09 #245


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Tradition: Too Big to Miss!

The Oregon State Fair is currently in full swing here in Salem. It is one of those events I remember going to as long as I've been alive. Though they try to bring in new things to see and do every year, I love some of the standbys. You can still find scones in the scone booth on the main road, the animals are there stinking up the barns as they have always been, the folks who will tell you whether you'll go to Heaven or not are still setting up shop in their white tin booth, and the hawkers selling everything that will make your life better/cleaner/easier are still luring customers in Columbia Hall with their new gadgets. There is a lot to be said for tradition.

365-09 #244

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Diversity Comes to Life

I wrote the following as a report on the Wholeness and Diversity Conference I attended last March. Enjoy!

Being born and raised in the Northwest, I haven’t been exposed to a great deal of diversity in my life. Living an hour away from the Pacific Ocean, this area has only been settled by the white man for a hundred and sixty years. Our oldest buildings are the clapboard mission houses built by the first pioneer settlers. Though we have a smattering of Germans, Russians, and a good size minority of Hispanics, most people are white, many descended from the first pioneers who crossed the continent on the Oregon Trail. As children, we learn about what it took to cross the harsh land in a covered wagon, what supplies we would have needed, and we play games on whether or not we would have survived. I usually didn’t.

When I had the opportunity to visit Savannah, Georgia, and St. Helena Island in South Carolina earlier this year, I saw a very different view of diversity that has changed my outlook since. Seeing the harbor in Savannah where ballast stones from the slave ships were used as paving stones, the church with holes in the floor to let runaway slaves breathe while hiding, the market where black prisoners were sold, and a red brick church that slaves built but weren’t allowed to use, brought everything I had only read about in history books, that was before unreal and intangible thousands of miles away, alive and a part of the world I see today- who I am today. It was like seeing a vision in a dream and then having that picture come to life before my eyes. Once that happens, one can no longer turn away and say it was just a dream or it’s in the past. It’s not in the past, slavery, prejudice, and disparity between races is part of our present as well. I can no longer look at the chasm between races and ignore it, or say it’s not that bad. I’ve seen it, I’ve seen what it can do and I am now more passionate than ever to stand in the gap and form the bonds that may one day make a bridge.

Before attending the conference, I formed a bond within myself reading the book, The Shack. In the book, the author uses the character of a black woman to represent God the Father. It was one of my favorite parts of the whole story as it was an image that had already become meaningful to me. It broke the classic father picture I had and taught me some new things about who God is. While sitting in our meeting room on St. Helena, I spent one session looking across the circle at a black woman imagining she was God joining our group in a very physical manner. Though I didn’t think much on the general effects of thoughts such as that at the time, I believe we were each learning to transcend and appreciate diversity which we all do when we can truly see God in another who looks and acts differently than we do.

This lesson was put to the test a month later after returning home from the conference when I got to share what I learned with my fellow editorial board members of the Quaker Youth Book Project. Gathered in a house less than two minutes from the Pacific Ocean, diversity entered my part of the world as I had never seen. Hailing from five countries, I told them about my experiences at the conference, what I learned, and how it changed me as a person. We put such lessons into practical application as we met together to discuss submissions, exploring each other’s cultures to better understand where we and some of the writings came from. We learned to really listen to one another, to respect each other’s traditions, and most of all, the bonds of love between us were strengthened in spite of and because of our differences. I now feel I have brothers and sisters around the world both from the Wholeness and Diversity Conference and from the Quaker Youth Book Project Editorial Board.

Being exposed to diversity, different cultures, southern comfort and English food, different accents I have learned to understand along with the thoughts behind them, and different ways of behaving, has taught me a new way to relate to the world. I can see better with eyes that are not my own, value lives I have not lived, and encourage voices to speak I do not understand. Living in diversity is important, people willing to form bonds and cross barriers are desperately needed. Now that I have seen these issues alive around me, I will continue to seek out diversity and continue to encourage others to do the same no matter where I go and who I meet. Diversity is always there to appreciate if we open our eyes.

365-09 #243

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Merely an Observation

As I walked around the Oregon State Fair today, I was reminded of a phrase I learned from William P. Young, author of The Shack. "It's an observation, not a value statement." What that means is when I say something, I am merely stating something I sense or see, it is not about your value as a person. For example, if you tell me about a conversation and I say, "That wasn't a supportive thing to say," I am not saying: "You idiot! How could you be so insensitive! You are a terrible person!" I am merely observing that what you said was not supportive to the person to whom you spoke. That's it, just an observation. Frankly, I don't even remember what was said to me today that reminded me of this but there are often times during my day I bring this phrase to mind to remind myself not to take personally something someone else said. They are not speaking of my value, which can't be touched or diminished anyway, they are merely making an observation. This phrase alone has helped me beyond description. Give it a whirl.

365-09 #242

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