Friday, August 21, 2009


I'm walking again.

Sounds like a major breakthrough, huh? Well, all I mean is that protesting muscles have recovered enough that I felt like taking a substantial walk yesterday: about 3 miles round trip to the grocery store.

The family backpacking trip was a great success.... even better than the year before. This was largely because we were not quite so innocent as our first trip. I briefly mentioned our first trip based on my nephew Daron's nostalgia, but let me fill in a little detail: he remembered the trip from the standpoint of an early teen, and the hike was the least of his concerns.

A quarter of a century makes a difference. The fact is that there are three ratings for hiking in the guides: easy, moderate and difficult. They missed "brutal." Kids don't notice stuff like that.

Last year we set out early afternoon with light hearts and heavy packs (well, 40 pounds seems pretty hefty after awhile on the trail, and my sister's 28 was no slouch) early in the afternoon, expecting to have supper at our destination. Wrong. About 2/3 of the way up we pooped out and made camp in a nice little meadow not all that long before dark. The next day we ate lunch on the trail before our destination. NEVER trust childhood memories.

But we really did enjoy the trip (as well as the results of our cardio-vascular stress testing) SO, we planned a trip for this year. We chose a less difficult hike. My sister and I even checked it out earlier in the Summer with light packs for a day trip. Not too bad

THIS year we set out before lunch, ate on the trail and were at our destination in plenty of time for supper. Good planning, huh? The trail was a good mix, with a moderate start, a long easy section and three relatively short difficult sections spaced out with short easy sections. It was all we wanted to do for sure, but not a killer by any means. I will say that one of the teens asked what the last "difficult" section was like, and I told her that it was about like the previous section.
Her response was, "Good," and I didn't even hit her for that.

We spent about 5 days in all and had a ball. My only regret was that I only brought enough to make one breakfast of biscuits, but they were a hit. I did do one more climb on the way back with a light pack just so I could see a cirque we had not visited. It was great. We got back to where the rest of the family remained in a sort of base camp... tired, but happy.

"Base camp." NOT a good idea if your focus is "backpacking." You see, there are no lounge chairs on the mountain. You do NOT pack a six-pack of Bud UP the mountain.

NEXT year we are thinking Base Camp with day trips and maybe an overnighter or two.

I think I see a pattern about energy expended emerging here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Modern Council of the Church

My spiritual language is "Christian." For me, the "Way of Life" is embodied in the life and ministry of Jesus and is stated in essence in the "new commandment" in which Jesus calls us to love one another just as He loved us. Ask any Christian what the heart of the Gospel is and most likely they will agree that it is "The Sermon on the Mount" as reported in Matthew 5-6. Ask them what the heart of that "sermon" is and they will be likely to say "The Beatitudes." I disagree

For me, the heart of the message is found in Matt 5:43 to the end of the chapter, which is essentially about loving our enemies, stating that God loves everyone and we should try to be more like God. To my mind Jesus was just picking the most glaring example of where to expand our consciousness of relationship, and the idea applies equally to anyone who is different from us in any way. I doubt that very many would disagree on that part.

That's it in a nutshell. Anything else is about how to acquire a heartfelt appreciation of that principle and then apply it, or it is about personal perceptions of our relationship to God.

It is clear that the first followers of the Way that Jesus embodied remained in the Jewish religion. They continued to meet in the Temple court and used Jewish practices such as water baptism. Until Peter and Paul expanded the horizons of the fellowship. Then a huge question arose as to what was required of a follower of Christ; was a convert required to convert to the Jewish religion?

The council of the Church at Jerusalem recounted in Acts is a fascinating study, but the result hinges on one perception: the report by Peter and Paul that the Spirit manifested in gentiles without the need for them to do what was necessary to come under the covenant with Abraham and with Moses as representative of the Hebrew nation. The Way is not dependent on at least that particular religion.

Within the diverse Society of Friends there is currently a question about whether a profession of faith in Jesus as the mediator between God and man is necessary for membership in that Society, an organization that has always professed to follow the Way embodied by Jesus. The more theologically liberal elements of the Society have pretty much decided for inclusiveness for any who wish to join and work together to make the basic element of the Way work in our lives and our relationship with others. The more theologically conservative are adamantly opposed to any but professed "Christians" becoming members.

"The Doctrine of the Light" was from near the beginning of the Society a foundational element of Quaker perception, though I understand some elements of the Society have relatively recently repudiated it. That doctrine states essentially that God speaks to everyone in the world and an appeal to "that of God" in a person may bear fruit in causing that person to come nearer into alignment with the Way. There have been various perceptions of how that works, but exposition of the doctrine by Barclay and expressions of the kinship of those who work for an increase of love as active principle in the world regardless of religion by such as William Penn indicate that the perception was that one need not know the name of Jesus to work in the Way.

I think we need to examine the direction perceptions were moving even before the Ministry of Jesus in such prophecies as that of Jeremiah in which he indicated that there would be a new covenant in which God's precepts would be "written on the heart" of the people. I think that means that actions would be the natural result of the attitude of love held by those who have come close to God AS love. The statement in Hosea 6:6, "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings," seems to me to be a clear direction that love of God is to be practiced in relating to others as opposed to simply religious observances. And the same thing is true of Micah 6:8

What IS "The Religious Society of Friends?" That is the question we have to answer when we ask whether it is a community based on a religious perception of Jesus AS "the" Christ, or on following the Way that we have said God makes available to all men through the light Christians see as the light of Christ. This is the choice that faces the Society as some face it and others choose to ignore. I love Jesus for what I see Him as having done for us, and relating to the Divine in the Light of the message and the person of Jesus is a source of joy to me, but that love and joy in no way precludes fellowship with those who live in love and have different perceptions.

To me the question hinges on whether the Spirit can be seen to be operating (as at least some early Friends said it does) within the framework of other religious structures or philosophical perceptions which can be seen as vehicles for the Light insofar as they really do express the same way that Jesus said His disciples would be recognized: by their love. If the Spirit is to be our "guide" as stated by Jesus, can that Spirit be seen at work in members of the Society who do not share religious perceptions with the Christians who have historically made up the majority of the Society?

I have seen it working. End of question for me, it only remains to see how we can work out the details of living together in the Light.

So, if it's that simple, what's the problem?

Perhaps it's the weight of 2,000 years of catering to the propensity of humans to make a religion, a set of forms around the conduct of our life. Veneration of the messenger is a natural response, especially when the message is so much embodied in the ministry or life of the messenger, but is it appropriate to make that veneration a requirement for participation in a Society based on the message? Is our language to be restricted to one description of how the Spirit moves? Is "renewal" to be merely a matter of getting back to earlier forms rather than expanding our perceptions to see what the root of our faith rests in?
I hope not.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Backpacking Biscuits


It's my Dad's fault.

He was the one who decided that my parents should take up backpacking when they were in their 50's. Not that my Mom was not game.... one of my great teen memories was of her attempts to learn to water ski. She could get on top of the water, but somehow her legs just would not straighten and so she would drag half around the lake getting a terrific spanking as her bu.... uh, derriere dragged in the water. She was grimly determined to do it and have fun if it killed her. Backpacking would not have been her idea, but she did it and was good at it.

So, we all got into it. One of my nephew Daron's fondest memories was of a backpacking trip with my Dad and my nephew Tom......... SO, after a hiatus of some years, he got us to go backpacking as a group again last year. My Sister, Bobette, Daron and his kids, and me. It was fun. Honest. And we are getting ready to go again. Tom and his kids will join us this year, as will Jim, Tom's brother.

On that trip I tried the old boy scout trick of roasting biscuit dough on a stick over a campfire.
I was never a boy scout. There had to be a reason, and my results with biscuit making may indicate some of them.

BUT, I do love biscuits and the idea of biscuits on a backpacking trip is just so compelling. AND my later experience with a Dutch oven in camp were really encouraging. So, why not do that on a backpacking trip? Uh, no way am I gonna lug a dutch oven up a mountain. But why not do some experimenting with those lightweight aluminum throw away pans and see what can be done, right?

THIS is why a grown man was baking biscuits in a make-shift dutch oven over a campfire in his driveway at 7 o'clock in the morning.

It was my Dad's fault.