The ride last week

I have had a few requests for a
better report on the ride last week.

As you wish.

Alivia will write about it a bit from the Birthday girl perspective.
This was my experience.

The plan was Baker City and Back with a one day run around the wollowa mountains. Baker City is darn near the idaho border - 300 miles as the crow flys, but crows and roads rarely stay together. Baker city was chosen as the destination because it has a fabulous restored 1890's hotel called the Geyser Grand. I believe in a good bed and a good dinner after a long day's ride.

We left on the longest day of the year. I have a tradition of doing the longest ride of the year ont he longest day. Pre-Alivia I ususally did this with Bike Bud Walt Lawry. Walt and I once did a 600 mile day in Eastern Oregon. What with the new bigger, untried bike we decided to make it 300-350.

We buzzed up around Mount Hood and down the backside. The road from Hood (26) to Maupin in one of the sweetest roads in the state. Out of Maupin we went up the back road appropriately named BakeOven road ( do not try it in July or August) This was a good place to try my first impression of Burt Monroe. Still on break-in I took Asfoloth Bucepholus up to 6k rpm and he was doing a nice steady-as-rails flat 100 mph. This took us through Shaniko to Fossil. We had gone 200 miles and it was early afternoon.

Part of the fun of the day was that we had decided not to bring a map. So I got to have a delightful conversation with an old gent in the local diner that started with

"Hello sir, we seem to be in Fossil - could you give me some idea of where that is?"

The look on his face was priceless - I guess he has never spoken to someone who didn't actually know where they were before. I found out from him that there was no crows-fly road East from Fossil to Baker and that we had to go 100 miles south to John Day and then a 100 miles from John Day to bed. Half of a 400 mile day to go and it was 2pm. Seemed ok.

Then just outside fossil came the sign that every biker dreads.
"Fresh Oil - Loose Gravel"
The average motorcycle makes contact with the pavement on just two patches of rubber, each a couple of inches square. Anything that decreases the traction on those couple of inches is not your friend. The road we were on was twistie and badly banked. Slowing down is the sensible option, but my new bike isn't real stable at slow, especially on a badly banked turn. It is top heavy, and my skills are just rising to it's requirements. Part of the while there was this winabago on my ass - so if I dumped it I was going to be a speed bump for the 'Bago. Stress-o-rama. Liv's 500 shadow was taking this a lot better than I was.

It was about the that I discovered that the bike/body interface was not optimal. I have to reach just a little too far to hang on to the handlebars and at 200 miles excruciating upper back pain set in.

The gravel stretch was FIFTY miles long!

The sad part was that I had the sense that this was some of the prettiest country I have ever ridden through. Rock formations, riding along river beds, vistas galore.

We made John day about 5:30 with another 100 miles to go.
Baker City at about 7:30.
I was so exhausted and in so much pain that if I had traded my cruiser in to get this bike I would have been inconsolable.

A thick rare steak, a heap of Walla Walla Sweets rings and a beer helped a lot.

But the extra day out got scrapped. We spent the next day sleeping a lot and then exploring Baker City. WE called home and said that we needed an extra day to get back.

Friday we did 200 miles, made lots of stops and stopped at three pm in Prineville.

The day was warm, but the scenery was fantastic. Lots more canyons and rivers. The Ochoco forest is ponderosa pine, and still green forest floor at this time of year, Pretty doesn't even start it. Lots more canyons and rivers and rock formations in crayola colors.

Saturday we came over the cascades again this time farther south at Sisters.
On the straight stretch out of sisters I discovered a neat thing. I was stretching my back by taking one hand off the bars at a time and twisting and reaching my arm behind me. Taking the right hand off the throttle slows you a bit, but not too quickly - left hand has no effect unless you need the clutch. The bike was so stable that I was flashing back to my childhood Schwinn which I could ride and even turn with no hands. So I experimented and took both hands off the bar - Straight and Stable - who knew?

The day got hot - over a hundred at Detroit Dam. So we were glad to see the barn about 3pm.

Not a bad run about. But this bike is going into the shop for some mods. Pronto.
The cruiser Rocinante may get the nod for FGC.

The Piratitudes

This week the title and teaser to my UPI columnhave come over to the blog with the column.
Titles and teasers are written by editors, usually I like mine better,
but this week Larry Moffitt UPI editor extraordinaire beat me all to heck!

The Piratitudes

Blessed are the swashbucklers.

Blessed are those who shiver me timbers.
They walk among us.
They look like us - at least on weekdays.
They are pirates, and you should be worried!

So there I was…

… Sitting in a restaurant with a friend when some unusual snippets of conversation carried across the room. The conversation was a bit raucous and included the words “avast” and “scurvy dogs.”
“Aarrr” I said to my dinner companion, “Thar be pirates here.”
“Aye, but I’ve got yer back,” said she.

Indeed, there were pirates – a whole galley full; bilge rats, old salts, and wenches a plenty. And it is a true fact of the universe that if someone is talking pirate in your vicinity, it is nearly impossible not to join in with an “aye, aye” or two. I have also noticed that the craving for flagons of grog rises as well.

We left the establishment as the pirates disembarked. I noticed a wee bairn, not more than three. She was dressed up in tiny 17th century English splendor; frilly frock and golden curls spilling over her velvet cape. She was adorable. As we passed her I decided to join the fun a bit.

“Darlin, it seems ye have been kidnapped by pirates. If ye need a rescue, just holler.” The tyke laughed cherubically. “Oh, it’s ok, that’s just my dad; he likes to pretend he’s a pirate.” To which the swashbuckler escorting her added. “Aarrr – she’s safe as safe can be – we never damage the merchandise.” The baby laughed again.

Funny stuff. Made for a colorful evening. Then I got to thinking about what it must be like growing up in the pirate lifestyle. Daddy sells insurance and mommy drives you to ballet; except on the weekends when he becomes a privateer and she becomes a buxom wench and they dress you up and take you to the local state park where lots of other people dress like this and talk like that and they walk the plank a lot.

You see, there are a lot of people living the pirate lifestyle, google it up if you doubt me. Or sail around
the pirate web ring and see the variety of commerce and avocation dedicated to piracy.

They have their own lingo, having coined the noun ‘piratitude’ to name the spiritual/emotional/intellectual state of being a pirate. It involves swagger. It involves lust. It involves the flagrant flaunting of normal conventions while simultaneously adhering to a strict interpretation of the Pirate Code of Ethics. A piratitude can be adopted in any walk of life, even in times and places where the full expression of the lifestyle is not tolerated.

There are major municipalities that have Pirate Days like others have Founder’s Day or Pioneer Days. There are parades where pirates come out of the woodwork, flying the Jolly Roger instead of the red white and blue. They shiver their timbers without a shed of shame.

They have been secretly indoctrinated you children at Disney Theme Parks since 1967.

“Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me.
We pillage, we plunder, we rifle, and loot,
Drink up, me 'earties, yo ho.
We kidnap and ravage and don't give a hoot,
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.
We extort, we pilfer, we filch, and sack,
Maraud and embezzle, and even high-jack,
…We kindle and char, inflame and ignite,
… We burn up the city, we're really a fright,
We're rascals, scoundrels, villans, and knaves,

… We're devils and black sheep, really bad eggs,
… We're beggars and blighters, ne'er-do-well cads,
Aye, but we're loved by our mommies and dads.”

What will become of the children raised in the pirate lifestyle? Will they become pirates? Will they plunder? Will they pillage? Or will they rebel against the piracy of their parents and form an ex-pirate movement of Naval re-enactors? I do not know, but I think that the watchdogs of morality are not paying enough attention to this. This is a group that advocates ravage not marriage. This group does not demand rights – they scoff at rights. “You have the right to be ransomed – we’ll take that in doubloons, please.” They don’t ask to be allowed to adopt – they will slip in at night and steal your babies away to Neverland. They don’t want into your churches – they want to burn your churches for plunder.

They have a celebrity spokesperson – Johnny Depp – who admits to modeling his character after Keith Richards. Now there is a guy who has piratitude! Keith recently fell out of a coconut tree in the South Pacific – are you paying attention now?

But I am here to tell you that pirates are not as pretty as Johnny Depp. They have bad teeth and bad breath, and body odor. You can shout “Parlez” all day long and it is not going to do you any good. I have been to Africa and if you have the misfortune of being on a ship off of the Somali Coast you can meet real pirates. These days pirates carry AK-47’s and shoulder launched rocket grenades.

And America has people, lots of people, who think that imitating these guys and their historical antecedents is good family fun. So when you sit in your pew in your house of worship and wonder why America is so unchurched, and why the morals of the country seem to be sliding – remember that your lifestyle is competing with the pirate lifestyle. And some weekends the pirates are winning.



Near as I can tell there are at least three kinds of therapuetic motorcycle rides.

1- You are stressed out and all wound up and NEED a ride to unwind and relax.
2- You need a dose of wind/views/power joy - a basic vitamin
3 - You need to have the starch taken out of your shorts so that you can be content for a bit.

This weeks ride had a lot of two and three

(art by www.Adelante )


out of the office

Alivia and I are about to take off for a little three day buzz around Eastern Oregon. Today is the longest day of the year which obviously calls for the longest motorcycle ride of the year. Friday is Liv's birthday and that obviously calls for hijinks and hilarity.

I am hoping to find a nice flat stretch of road out there in the middle of nowhere to do my best impression of Burt Munroe. I have not had a chance yet to let the new bike show me what he can do.

see you soon


Gaming Community

tuesday's UPI column

So Here I am…

Living in a gaming community. Not Las Vegas or down the block from a tribal casino; no, my home has become a launching pad for a 21st century on-line community.

It’s not like I wasn’t warned. My husband was a gamer when I met him 30 years ago. Back then it was paper baseball. He had this box of papers and little cards. On the card were the statistics of every baseball player ever. He put them on teams and played games with dice to determine the outcomes. He could spend hours at this. It was clearly calming. I thought it was cute. I did notice that my hometown team the Cubs lost in the paper world too.

There was a brief foray into Dungeons and Dragons in the early eighties. This did not bother me. Then some guys in a garage in Berkeley invented these infernal computing machines that none of us can live without.

The nineties saw lots of computer games come and go in our house. My children were initiated into the lifestyle. They played games in which they built entire civilizations. Both of my daughters at some point in their young lives thought of world domination as a legitimate career path.

Then came MMORPG: that is, Massively Multi-player On-line Role Playing Games. In our house it is Everquest – sometimes called Evercrack. It is one of many games of this type. World-wide, 350,000 people play this one game.

It works like this. In the game there is a world, a complete world. There are oceans, continents, cities, climates and countries. This world has days and nights, weather and all the features of a natural world. It is inhabited by creatures that only live in the world, and by the hundreds of thousands of earth humans who create a character there and animate them. It is three dimensional and kind of pretty.

My family lives on the world called Norrath. It is rather medieval. They ride horses and live in castles. There are many races of people on this world; gnomes, elves, erudites etc. Norrath is filled with monsters and deadly situations of the martial variety, but in some ways it is a nicer world than this one. There is no porn on Norrath. Actually, I think that there is no sex on Norrath, despite the fact that all the inhabitants are beautiful and sexy. You fight monsters and can be killed by them, but you can’t kill other people unless they consent to a duel. There is a standard method of resurrection. There is magic, but not much in the way of religion. There are no starving children on the streets of Norrath.

Norrath lacks only two things, human touch and good food for the real belly. I can still pull my family away from the game with a good dinner.

My husband’s name is Manfred, he is a 59th level erudite wizard – I guess this is pretty powerful. He has a nice house there, if you like stone. My daughters tell me that he is liked and respected in that world just like he is in this one. He is good at crafting – making things which he gives away or sells.

Daughter number 1 is named Amaranthe, she is a level 59 swashbuckler. I never really saw myself as the mother of a swashbuckler, but life is full of surprises. I watched a lot of Erroll Flynn as a girl – I wonder if that had an effect. Amaranthe is ranked 65th out of about a 100,000 in number of quests completed. Some people’s kids rank at Stanford, mine rule in another world.

Daughter number 2 is named Ailwhin, she is a level 38 gnome/swashbuckler. She is tiny and cute, even her horse is tiny and cute. But do not let this fool you – she will cut you off at the knees if you don’t watch her.

In this world, daughter 1 lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with her husband of 3 years. He plays too. So do members of his extended family. If I am wondering how they are, I don’t have to use a phone, I just ask someone in this house who is on-line to check with them. They have headsets and type and talk to each other in the game.

I am pretty sure that my husband spends as many hours on Norrath as he does at his earth employment. He spends a great deal of time with his daughters –more time than he ever had to spend with them when they were highschoolers at home.

At first I was a little worried about this thing. My concern was that it would become an addiction or a Borg-like connection that took a person out of human relationships and into a cyberlife that I was not part of. This has not turned out to be the case. I have been watching this phenomenon carefully. You could play this game in a way very different than you live your life. You could check your morals, ethics, and relationships and act without normal societal constraints. But they don’t – well, I am told that a few do, but they don’t do well. What I have seen my family do is build human community. They formed a guild. It has the reputation of being tolerant, friendly and powerful. They keep track of each other, in that world and this. My husband has more friends now than ever before in his life. I don’t know them mostly, but I have a lot of friends that he doesn’t know either. Sometimes I get asked to keep someone from this game world in my prayers as they, or a loved one goes through a crisis. I do not think that I have yet been asked to pray for a crisis ON Norrath; that might be my limit. Daughter 1 did use a telephonic device to call me about her new laptop that had an accident with spilled coffee – now THAT is a crisis!

The people on my life who play this games seem just as happy to see me as before. We still have things to talk about. They still care about this world. They know the difference. They care about starving children on the streets of Earth.

I have observed this world. I do not think I will join it, but I have no doubt that this is community. It is real and it is the future. If our churches are empty on Sunday morning, it may be because they are all on another world.


Seeing with Fresh Eyes

This weeks UPI column

So There I was...

at the movies. I have a friend visiting from out of town, way out of town, as in, from Bujumbura, Burundi, Central Africa. This friend is a director of an organization whose goal is to heal Central Africa from t he effects of genocide, mass torture and wholesale rape. He has a potential clientele of 22 million, and fourteen centers and a staff of 40 to work with.

He is an optimist.

He is here on a working tour; an NGO conference at Harvard followed by a fundraising tour. I have never known a smarter, harder working, more practical or sophisticated individual. He speaks five languages. His English is better than that of 50% of Americans.

But when he gets a break he likes to take in a comedy – the simpler the better – physical humor, site gags, shtick, middle school boy’s locker room jokes. When he works he really works, but when he laughs he really laughs. He knows that it is healing medicine.

We had three free hours the other day, so we headed for the “Theatre Near You” Multiplex. I stepped up and said “Anything funny that starts in less than 20 minutes.” That is how I found myself saying a thing that I would have bet against a week before: “Two for RV please.”

RV, with Robin Williams, got truly bad reviews. I saw the actor on the Daly Show a couple of weeks ago. They put the name of the Movie up on the screen behind them and then never, I mean not once, mentioned it. I said “Boy, that must be a stinker if he is embarrassed to even mention it.” and crossed it off my always-short, list of movies to be seen.

I like Robin Williams, but I’ll wait for Johnny Depp this summer, thank you very much.

I tried to prepare my friend for how dumb this movie might be.

He responded to my dire predictions with optimism.

The flick is a tremendously predictable story of a corporate obsessed dad, and his materialistic Malibu family. Through standard ridiculous circumstances they end up on a road trip with clichéd mishaps and duplicitous shenanigans that stopped being fresh with Lucy. The dramatic tension – such as it is – is created by recurring encounters with a family of travel bus living/home-schooling/southern speaking/cosmetics selling/group singing/big hair wearing/ rednecks.

The resolution – such as it is – comes when corporate dad learns the true value of family, regains the love of his children and we come to see that the red-state family is actually smarter and morally superior to the Malubites.

Insert sewage jokes and cleavage and you have the movie.

In my boredom, I started watching my friend watch the movie. Since we were 50% of the audience we could converse a bit – heck – we could have used cell phones with impunity.

I started enjoying his laugher at the dumb jokes. And I watched his perplexity at the set up. You see, he has none of the information necessary to respond to an American stereotype. He knows nothing of “trailer trash” or “rednecks” or even Malibu. He didn’t recognize what was supposed to be clearly “cheesy” or “corny”. He didn’t know that you were supposed to disdain the one family and empathize with the other until the dramatic twist where your loyalties will flip (what a shock!). He kept asking me “Why do these people run from the Happy Family? They are just trying to be kind!” Had this been a Tutsi and a Congolese family he would have been right with it, but as it was he had no choice except to see it with fresh eyes. So he was genuinely touched when the father’s heart turned back towards his children. He laughed hard, and breathed a deep sigh at the resolution. He declared it to be a great movie. I laughed with his laughter and tried to explain the details and then just gave up and enjoyed it.

Last year when he was here we went to see Hotel Rwanda. This was more fun. Actually, I can’t tell you when I have had more fun at a movie.

The opportunity to see with fresh eyes doesn’t come every day. Usually you have to borrow a four year old. But when you get a chance – take it. Suspend your doubt and cynicism and let someone give you a guided tour of their world.

This Religion and Spirituality forum is an opportunity to see with eyes that are not your own. It is easy to read the titles and decide who you are going to agree with and who you are going to discount. There is another way to look at it – I suggest you give it a try.

Oh, and if by some chance, somebody reading this knows somebody who knows Mr. Williams, tell him “Thanks” from me. He has nothing to be embarrassed about.


This is for Cherice

On Catching a Message
by Peggy Senger Parsons
reflections after NPYM 2002

I am a Minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am also a Quaker Preacher. The former defines my being and purpose, and is usually understood, in some form, by those I meet in the ministry. The later defines my process, and is often misunderstood, even by Quakers of the various branches. I will attempt to clarify my understanding of my own process.

I preach on a regular basis. I bring a message. But I diligently try to never present a sermon. A sermon is a prepared speech, often exhortative, on a topic chosen by a minister, which the minister perceives that the community of believers needs to hear. To my thinking, there is nothing wrong with preparing and delivering a sermon, as long as you are honest about what you are doing. The art and craft of fine oration seems to be dying in our culture, and I, for one, miss it. I like listening to good sermons. But I am not called to write and present sermons. I am called to be a message bearer. This presumes a message sender and intended recipients. I believe that the messages I receive come from Christ through the Holy Spirit. I call the transmission of this message preaching, because it is an active verb, and this transmission does not really feel passive to me. I am aware that the term preaching carries a lot of negative baggage, but I desire to retrieve it from shame. I am aware that there are many non-Quaker preachers who also consider their call to be message bearing. But all of us, when we are honest, know when we have presented a sermon and when we have born a message.

I consider my job as a preacher/message bearer to have five parts.

The first requires me to live my life in a state receptive to the Divine. I, myself, must be fertile soil. This requires me to take good care of myself physically, emotionally and intellectually. I must be vigilant about sins and addictions. I must be vigilant about distractions. I must seek healing for my wounds. I find that practicing spiritual disciplines, studying Scripture, and being about the business of Christ; i.e. feeding the sheep and fighting the Lamb’s War, help me immeasurably. I also find that I require the community of those who will hold me accountable. I do not live my entire life in this receptive state - far from it. But I find that I am more receptive, more of the time, as I walk farther and deeper down the path of Christ. I work at this continually.
When I am receptive - messages arrive.

It is essential that I recognize and accept the messages. I have to go through a discernment process about where the message is coming from; and I try to weed out, or divert to the right time and place, those ideas that are simply mine. But I find these days that I do not have too much trouble with this, Divine messages have a feel and a smell to me, and it is unmistakable. Harder, is the discipline of receiving the messages with the time, attention, and reverence that they deserve. It is easy to hear the message and yet be distracted to the point of having it slip right on by, not caught, not treasured, not attended to. More occasionally, I have to fight rebellion. Some days I just do not want the job. I always surrender, but sometimes it is a fight.

The third step is to discern who the message is for, and when it is to be given. This process is similar to that which any Quaker minister (and that is all of us) goes through in meeting for worship. Is this message for the group, and is it appropriate to share it now? My process differs in that I often get messages at times other than group worship and at times other than the time of delivery. I am a public friend, a recorded and released minister in whom the community has noticed a consistent ability to accurately catch messages. These days, this results in invitations to speak at meetings. I sometimes have many invitations on my calendar. Often a message comes during a time of prayer set aside to consider a specific place and occasion. But sometimes a message arrives and I do not immediately know who it is addressed to. But as I consider the message, and pray about it, the recipient becomes clear. I have received messages for as broad an audience as “The daughters of God”, “Friends in Northwest Yearly Meeting”, or as narrow as “Scotts Mills Friends Church this Sunday”. Some messages get delivered again and again until the Spirit says stop; some messages are spoken once, and never again.

After discerning the recipient, I must hold the message. The gestation time for messages varies from seconds to months. It is not always comfortable to hold a message. I do not like all of them. Some of them scare me. Some of them are so wonderful that it is all I can do to not share them before the appointed hour. Sometimes they go somewhere down inside me, and I, myself, cannot find them or pull them up at will. I know the message has been received, I know it is in me, but I cannot recall it until the moment of delivery. I believe that some sort of gestation process is active in me at times. The message grows and clarifies as it sits in me. Sometimes I am aware of this process and participate; attending to the message. I listen to it multiple times inside of myself, I sometimes take notes. I never practice delivering it. I never time it. I do not write it out in manuscript form before it is delivered. I have a few times erred on this point, but writing it out beforehand has a way of calcifying the message for me, and taking a manuscript into the meeting has never failed to yield disaster. As a crutch, I sometimes carry a small outline in my Bible to refer to, but the best messages have happened when I forsake even this.

The final step is to transmit the message. It is my job to get the message back out and through me and to the recipients. This requires my free will and obedience. This requires me to take responsibility for my transmission and not for the reception. I have to renounce fear, and desire for approval. I am about as good at this as most people, which means I struggle with it. I have to refrain from deleting things that I don’t like or that I think the recipients won’t like, and I must refrain from adding in things that I think will make it better, or which I think they will want to hear. It is a participatory act with the Spirit. It is not “channeling” as new age proponents understand that process of emptying or leaving themselves to be let another speak. I am very present. I am used in the way a musical instrument is used, The oboe is an oboe and does not have the voice of a trumpet or violin, but neither does the oboe call the tune - the player of the oboe does that. The message is not mine, but it sounds in my voice, and my range, and my intellect, and my emotion. The Spirit uses absolutely all of me to bring the word.

Which brings up the subject of giftedness and craft. Some people perceive the messages I bring to be ‘well crafted’. They assume that this comes from careful writing and practice, or else from natural giftedness. This is not a good enough explanation, especially since I do not write the messages beforehand or practice delivery. I do think I have a natural gift for storytelling, developed in childhood under the guise of excessive fibbing. And I have studied preaching in seminary, but what I deliver most of the time does not bear much resemblance to what I was taught. I did learn to stand up straight, breathe, and look at people. The eighteen years or so that I have been doing this have improved my ability to transmit, to participate with the Spirit. I learn things all the time. I try to remember them. But all of this comes down to a few things. I am an instrument. I am not a Stradivarius, but I am no plastic kazoo either. I work to keep my mechanics working well. I tune, and tune, and re-tune. But the musician is still in charge.

I have observed a few things about this process. I have strong feelings about the messages and the transmission, but my feelings often have no bearing to the reception or to the observed work of God on the recipients. Immediately before preaching I experience everything from terror to euphoria. I like it when there is a time of silent worship before the message, but I can take the same time during a period of worship through music. During this centering before preaching - I re-dedicate myself to the task at hand, and renounce distractions. I try and get quiet and in tune. Sometimes during this centering I get a visceral feeling of being filled, literally from the toes up. I like this feeling. Occasionally, this feeling is followed by what I call ‘getting lit’ that happens when the substance I am filled with seems flammable and is ignited. Weirdly, getting filled or lit, does not seems to have any correlation to the energy that is transmitted with the message. Sometimes I am on fire inside and transmit the gentlest of messages. Sometimes I have great rushes of endorphins while preaching. Other times it feel like the words are coming out of my mouth and falling on the ground like bricks, dead. These feelings also have no correlation to how the message is transmitted. Since every time I bring a new message, I am also hearing the words in the air for the first time, there is an effect of the words on me as well as the listeners. I choke myself up all the time. I have to guard against going off on brain tangents just like I do when I am listening to someone else preach. I am sometimes very aware of the individuals who are listening and sometimes I am not. Sometimes I remember very well afterwards what I have said and sometimes I lose it immediately. There is no norm or rule to my feelings, I pay attention to them, and sometimes enjoy them, but I do not allow them to be the evaluation of my preaching. The only real constant is hunger and weariness afterwards. It is hard work, and there is often a blood sugar and adrenaline crash afterwards. It is nice to have an elder who can help me see to my self-care.

I wish I were to the point where my belief and practice of this process were consistent. I believe that the reception is not in my control and is not my responsibility. I wish I did not care what people think, but I do. And always, Friends respond to me. And I face all the same perils of reward and punishment that messengers have always faced. I am told that in Quaker days of old it was considered bad form to comment to the messenger about the message. That might be a very good custom to reinstate. “Take it up with the composer, not the instrument” would be a very good response, especially when they don’t like the message, and sometimes I do respond with a variation of that retort. I like praise, but am uncomfortable with it. I always try and verbally send that to the Source and let the praiser know that this is where any glory should go. When I am praised and respond by telling the person that I did not write the message and that the praise belongs to God, I am often not believed, it is perceived as some sort of false humility. But I am unfailingly curious, and I like to hear people tell me what they heard, because there are always interesting variations on what I think I said, and some of them are informative to me. I like to hear people tell me what they observed in the recipients, because it is often different than my perception.

For a long time the response I had the most trouble with was “Can I please have a copy of that message?” And then I always had to let them know that no written form existed. But due to the marvels of modern sound systems, I have been regularly recorded, and sometimes these tapes are reproduced and distributed. I have heard amazing stories about where these tapes have gone, and the ministry that they have had on their own, completely without my knowledge. Gabriel told the Virgin Mary that God’s word never lacked power, and I have found this to be true. I have found that this power sometimes extends beyond my control or intention. I went through a season of seeking clearness on attempting to write the messages after the fact. Modern listeners do not appear to have the memory ability of days gone by. Our minds have become accustomed to being able to reference material again and again without having to keep it stored in our brains. Perhaps we are lazy or diminished, but that is the reality. And so a couple of years ago I submitted to the discipline of being a recorder as well as a transmitter. I have found that it is possible, and while the written form of the message will vary from the given form, it has its own power and truth and life. I have adopted the language if iconographers, who do not sign their work as theirs but sometimes put on the back “by the hand of…”; I print of the messages “through the voice of Peggy Parsons”. I also date the message and put the address on it. This distinguishes the messages from other things I write. I do not think the process of recording the messages in written, visual form is as much fun as preaching, but I have found that I can do it, most of the time, if I set myself to the task soon enough and with discipline. Occasionally the message is just gone, and I accept that as the work of the Spirit, and tell folks who ask that it was just for that day and time. This preserving process does involve craft, and I do use readers and an editor; and so it might be arguable that the written messages somehow lack the power or immediacy of the transmitted message. But I have not found this to be completely true. I have chosen my editor carefully for the gift of clarifying without changing the message. The written messages have their own ministry, and retain the ability to move the spirits of the readers, and retain an inseparable kinship to the preached word. But I have found it very important to do the writing after, rather than before, the preaching. It becomes the preservation of a message, not a containing of the message. It is my prayer that these written messages never become the equivalent of Simon Peter’s attempts to build a clubhouse to hold the physical presence of God’s Glory.

I hope this helps enlighten my process. I am very aware that it is not every minister’s process, or every Quaker minister’s process. I do not proscribe it as the only way. But it is the way of God in me.

Post script: This was written after I was friend in residence at North Pacific Yearly Meeting in 2002. Then I went to Africa a preached a bit. Then I came home and we birthed Freedom Friends Church, where I hardly ever preach.


The Myth of Scarcity

Tuesday's UPI column

So There I was...

Twenty years ago this weekend, great with child. I was awaiting the birth of my second, and what would turn out to be my last, child. I was 28 and we had an almost five-year-old daughter named Emily. Five years of undiluted parental devotion had allowed this child to become confident, precocious and fun to be around. We were confident of our parenting skills. I was not worried about birthing this new life. My husband had gotten a decent job with health benefits just in the nick of time. It seemed that all was well.

Never the less I was terrified. And it was a fear that I did not think I could say out loud. I did not know that anyone else had ever had this fear. I was afraid that it was impossible to love another child as much as I loved Emily.

Then Laura Joy Parsons arrived. I took one look at her and my maternal love instantaneously and miraculously doubled – just like that. Emily suffered no loss of love and Laura received all that she needed.

I have since found out that this is a very common fear of second time parents, but rarely a fear of third time parents. It is a miracle that sticks.

However, I think that this is an example of a larger and more pervasive fear-based belief system – the myth of scarcity. This myth says that there is never enough of anything to go around and you better get yours while you can and hoard it as long as you are able. This toxic belief creeps into every area of human existence and relationship. It shapes government policy, haunts people’s dreams and fuels competition in every arena. It says “There is not enough love, money, happiness, fame, health, time, space, work, … for everybody – so protect what you have, and watch out for those other guys”. It is the absolute proximate cause of all jealousy, envy, and most strife. It is the ranchers vs. the farmers. It is old immigrants vs. new immigrants. And it is absolutely, refutably, experientially FALSE.
I will give three examples; resources, time and love.

There are enough resources in this world. Sure, we will run out of oil at some point. But until old Sol quits on us eons and eons from now there will be sources of energy; sun, wind, tides, hydrogen, fusion, etc. We will figure it out. There is enough food in this world – there is no excuse for a hungry child anywhere. There is enough work to do in this world. The reason that some do not have enough, and hear me -- children in the third world are truly deprived -- is not because there is not enough to go around, it is because what there is, has been criminally distributed, and shamefully wasted. Communism is an attempt to address this criminal distribution. It has failed – not because it is a bad idea – but because the implementers, time after time, have been seduced by criminal greed. Capitalism says that if you rely on individual initiative and a free market that the distribution will be corrected by opportunity and philanthropy. Capitalism has also failed because its implementers have been seduced by criminal greed. And criminal greed is almost always based in the myth of scarcity.
We hoard because we fear.

Hoarding is not God’s way. The Hebrew children in the desert were given one day’s manna in the desert – the stuff rotted if you tried to keep it over night. Jesus prayed for “daily bread”; reinforcing this concept again and again. Don’t worry about next week’s bread, trust and work and it will come. God’s way is to use what you need and share anything extra with someone else. There is enough.

One of the most nefarious incursions of the myth of scarcity into most of our lives is the belief that there is not enough time. That life itself is too short. We run at a frenetic pace and wail at the lack of the 25th hour and the eighth day. This belief rules many a life, and ruins the quality of life. It is impossible to simultaneously savor and rush something.

The truth is that time is darn near infinite, at least from our perspective. Almost every faith teaches that you, or at least some part of you is infinite, immortal. There is something else after this. We don’t know or agree on what that something is, but most of us believe in it. And since this life includes the possibility of quality and meaning, there is no reason to believe that the something out there will not be at least as productive, and meaningful. Our sensation of rushing time comes from bodies that age, and our propensity to chop time up into tiny bits, so that they seem to fly by.

What we do not have is the ability to do two things at once in any really qualitative fashion -- This from a woman who can multi-task with the best of them. The truth is I don’t drive as well when using the phone, and drinking coffee, and listening to music. I don’t pay as close attention to my loved ones when I am preoccupied. I do not have infinite choices. I have many choices, but I must choose how to spend my time, and the responsibility flipside to the freedom of this choice is that I need to relax about the things that I do not choose, and trust that the universe will take care of them. When I do this, when I concentrate on one good choice at a time, when I trust, then time slows down. I savor things, enjoy them, and remember them better too. There is enough time to do everything that I really need to do – because I do not need to do everything. I’m just not that important.

The most relationship-wrecking, and hence human-wrecking, application of the myth of scarcity is that there is not enough love to go around. We believe that if the object of our desire does not love us, that no one ever will, so we get pathetic or controlling. We believe that our friend shouldn’t really have other friends because that will in some way impoverish us. We believe that God is a worse parent than we are, and cannot love all of us equally. We buy into the lie that God has favorites – us, if we are arrogant in our fear – or them if we are victimized in our fear.

The truth is that love is the most obviously infinite resource in this reality. It is renewable. It is multiplicative. It easily trumps death. People who lose a loved one grieve, but then they pick up and love again, without losing the love they had for the one who has gone on to another expression of life. Mothers and fathers love each of their children completely without robbing the others. If we believe that love is unlimited and time is unlimited then there is no reason for jealousy. We are given these miracles to teach us about the truth of God’s love. God’s love is infinite and so is ours if we let it be. There is enough.