James Tower on Quakers and Jesus: Christ as center

James Tower on Quak­ers and Jesus: Christ as cen­ter.

It is a dynamic cen­ter, a cre­ative Life that presses to birth within us. It is a Light Within which illu­mi­nes the face of God and casts new shad­ows and new glo­ries on the face of humans. It is a seed stir­ring to life, if we do not choke it. 

Being Convinced

Being Con­vinced. Iris Grav­ille talks about find­ing the Quaker way:

the Quaker Way isn’t the only way. For over thirty years, though, Quak­erism has been the spir­i­tual home, or nest, that sus­tains and nur­tures the pres­ence of God in my life. It’s the com­mu­nity that keeps me grounded in the Pres­ence within as well as out­side of me that guides my actions. 

‘Q’ is for Quaking: Charismatic and Pentecostal Aspects of the Quaker Way

‘Q’ is for Quak­ing: Charis­matic and Pen­te­costal Aspects of the Quaker Way. From Stu­art Mas­ter:

For early Friends, the most impor­tant dimen­sion of the expe­ri­ence of bap­tism in the Spirit was that it led to a regen­er­ated life; one in which peo­ple found them­selves brought into right rela­tion­ship with God, with other peo­ple and with the whole cre­ation. The charis­matic phe­nom­e­non of Quak­ing was a man­i­fes­ta­tion of the work of the power of God within them but the real fruit of the process was a new life.

Gil George takes a deeper look at divisions among NorthWest YM Friends

Gil George takes a deeper look at divi­sions among North­West YM Friends. The causes direct and indi­rect:

The cur­rent con­flict is osten­si­bly about the murky sub­ject of LGBTQ inclu­sion in the life and min­istry of the NWYM, but I believe is actu­ally about who gets to set and enforce the iden­tity of the NWYM. This par­tic­u­lar fight has gone on for many, many, years with skir­mishes dat­ing back to the 1960s and is rooted in Chris­tian reac­tions to the cul­ture shift that began then.

Another Divorce in the Family

Another Divorce in the Fam­ily. From a blog called Quaker Par­ent­ing:

It’s heart­break­ing to watch divi­sion grow; to watch a divorce in the mak­ing. I’ve wit­nessed this occur lit­er­ally in my child­hood and young adult life. It’s a hard­en­ing of hearts. It’s a lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. It’s what­ever the exact oppo­site of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion is. It’s hor­ri­ble.

Up Into The Cherry Tree

Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses
Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Gar­den of Verses

My mother died a few days ago. While I’m over­whelmed with the mes­sages of prayers and con­do­lences, at least at some level it feels like cheat­ing to accept them too fully. This isn’t a new con­di­tion. This is just the final moment of a slow-motion death.

A lit­tle over five years ago my mother was for­mally diag­nosed with Alzheimer’s. It was quite brave of her to get the test­ing done when she did. This had always been her most-feared sce­nario for aging. Grow­ing up, we had befriended an active elderly neigh­bor who had gen­tly died in her sleep after a minor slip on some ice. My mom thought that was the best exit ever. She swore Mrs. Gold­smith had come to her in a dream the next night to con­grat­u­late her­self, say­ing “See, I told you I was lucky!” For years after­wards, my mother con­vinced her­self that she would go in a sim­i­larly ele­gant way.

My mom, Liz, must have sensed that Alzheimer’s was a pos­si­bil­ity when she sched­uled that doctor’s visit. The news didn’t come as much of a sur­prise to us fam­ily. I had been jok­ing for years that my mom seemed to have only twenty sto­ries that she kept on rota­tion. After she read a study that cross­word puz­zles keep your brain sharp as we age, she became an obses­sive cross­word puz­zler; when the Sudoku craze hit, she was right on top of it. She had bravely bought her first house in her late 60s. How proud she was. At the time she let us all know, repeat­edly, that she would be leav­ing it “in a box.” Caulk­ing trim, replac­ing win­dows, and trou­bleshoot­ing a mud room leak that defied a dozen con­trac­tors became her occu­pa­tion, along with vol­un­teer­ing and watch­ing grand­kids. But by 2010, she must have known she wasn’t going to have Mrs. Goldsmith’s luck. It was time to adjust.

When she called to tell me the diag­no­sis, she couldn’t even use the A-word. She told me her “brain was dying” and that the doc­tor was putting her on Ari­cept. A quick Google search con­firmed this was an Alzheimer’s drug and a call with the doc­tor later that after­noon helped map out the road ahead.

Alzheimer’s is a slow-motion death. She’s been dis­ap­pear­ing from us for a long while. Reg­u­lar out­ings became less fre­quent till we couldn’t even take her out to a nearby restau­rant for her birth­day. As words dis­ap­peared and speech began fal­ter­ing, I’d show her recent kid pho­tos on my phone and tell sto­ries to fill the emp­ty­ing space. Even­tu­ally she stopped show­ing inter­est even in this. On my last reg­u­lar visit with her, I brought the kids and we had lots of fun tak­ing pic­tures. Mom kept point­ing out at the phone’s dis­play as if it were a mir­ror. But con­ver­sa­tion was too dis­jointed and after a few min­utes, my kids started wan­der­ing in ever widen­ing cir­cles look­ing for inter­est­ing but­tons and alarms to touch and pull and I had to round them up to leave.

In the past few weeks her for­get­ful­ness has extended to eat­ing and swal­low­ing. Inter­ven­tion would only buy a lit­tle more time until she for­got how to breathe. Alzheimer’s is a one way trip.

On my last few vis­its she was mostly sleep­ing. She’s was calm, preter­nat­u­rally calm. Lying on her back, pale and peace­ful, she looked as if she might already be a body rest­ing in a cas­ket. Only the slight rise of sheets as she breathed gave away the news that she was still with us, if barely. I felt awk­ward just sit­ting there. Some peo­ple are good in these kinds of sit­u­a­tions, but I self-consciously strug­gle. With lit­tle chance of inter­ac­tion, I struck on the idea of read­ing from a favorite book of poems that she had read to me on count­less nights as a child.  “Up into the cherry tree, who should climb but lit­tle me?” I don’t know if she heard me or pic­tured the cherry tree in her haze, but it was a way for us to be together.

The slow-motion nature of Alzheimer’s means she slept a lot until she didn’t. For rea­sons that go deep into biog­ra­phy, she was a won­der­fully friendly per­son who didn’t have a lot of close friends any­more. It seems pecu­liar that one can walk upon the earth for so many decades and only have a dozen or so peo­ple notice your depar­ture. But then maybe that’s the norm for those who live deep into their eight­ies. Most of us will leave life with the same kind of quiet rip­ples with which we entered.

Liz (Betsy) Klein(top) aka Mom

My mom Liz just passed away tonight. It’s not unex­pected. And sadly, given her health, it’s per­haps not even so tragic; she’s been declin­ing for years from Alzheimer’s and all but stopped eat­ing in recent weeks. I’m sure I’ll find voice to tell some sto­ries in the months ahead, but for now I’ll share some pic­tures. She would have turned 85 next month.

A note about names: she was born in late sum­mer 1930 as Eliz­a­beth Ann Klein­top. In her adult life she went as Betsy and took the last names of her part­ners. In her late 60s she decided to take back a vari­a­tion of her last name and overnight Betsy Kel­ley became Liz Klein.