spoken by miriam berg

Recent messages

OLDER MESSAGES (Before 1982)
What Would I Pray For? (2/18/79)
Absurdity (c.1979)
Easter Message (4/15/79)
Be Like God (6/27/79)
Suffering (July 8, 1979)
Publicans and Sinners (December 2, 1979)
Meeting For Worship (December 9, 1979)
Christmas Message (12/23/79)
Winter Query (2/17/80)
Pessimy Revisited (March, 1980)
Leadings (5/25/80)
Response to Near-War (6/8/80)
On Caring (8/3/80)
Lady (8/5/80)
A Vision (8/7/80)
A Song of Thanks (8/10/80)
Joy (undated, but probably fall, 1980)
Women and God (9/1/80)
On Being Bitten By a Dog (9/28/80)
We Are God's Hands (1/25/81)


This is a message which came to me this morning;
      and so if it sounds like a speech
      it's because I'm reporting it.

What would I pray for?
I might pray for guidance
      or I might pray for deliverance;
But we have heard this morning how the Way is within us
      or that guidance comes from within us;
And Jesus has said, Thy sins are forgiven
      which sounds like deliverance;
So I do not need to pray for guidance, or for deliverance.

But I might still pray to receive, or to achieve
      something which seems very important to me;
But Jesus also says, Our father knoweth what things
      we have need of, before we even ask;
So I do not need to pray, either, for anything which
      I do not have.

So I do not pray.

So what is there for me to do?
I do what which I see that is necessary to be done.

ABSURDITY (c.1979)

This morning I was thinking to myself
      And wishing that something in my life would change

And I decided to try to pray.

So I said to myself

God, please change this situation in my life.

Now I have difficulty with these theological concepts,
But it struck me suddenly
      How absurd it was for me to want something
      different from what God wants!

And I almost laughed out loud;
But it was a joyful laughter.

And I feel that this has given me a new strength
to cope with daily living.


Last year after the election
      after Proposition 7 passed (the death penalty)
      I was angry with the people of the State of California.

It occurred to me to tell myself
      "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
      I didn't really feel very forgiving, but it helped.

This morning I was thinking about how we have three reports
      of what Jesus said while he was on the cross.
Matthew and Mark report that he quoted from the 22nd Psalm:
      "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
Luke reports that he said
      "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
John reports that he said simply, "It is finished."

It has always seemed to me that Luke's account is most probable
      because it is confirmed by the earlier account
      when he was carrying his cross,
and he turned and said to the women following him
      "Daughters of Jerusalem, don't weep for me
      but weep for yourselves and your children
      for if these things be done when the tree is green
      what shall be done when it is dry?"
The meaning of which I infer to be another forecsst
      of the destruction of Jerusalem.

Now there is currently what I call a fad
      among psychologically-oriented and encounter-oriented people
That anger is a good thing
      or at least if we have it it's good to express it.
But I was thinking this morning
      that when we are angry with people it would be far better
      to think, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
Then again, I thought, no, that's possibly not so good, either
      Because it sets you up as superior to them in some kind of way.

So I'm not sure what I think about all this
      but I felt burdened by it
      and I wanted to share it with you.

BE LIKE GOD (6/27/79; addendum on 7/29/2012)

        My friend Dryden Phelps, who was something of a New Testament scholar, translates the passage "Be ye therefore perfect, even as God is perfect" as: "Let your love include all persons, even as God includes all in His love." He explains that the Greek word used for "perfect" is teleoi, which the Oxford Greek-English Dictionary translates as "whole", or "complete".

        Furthermore, Jesus says this at the conclusion of the portion of the Sermon on the Mount which begins, Love your enemies; and continues with the contrast of how God sends his sun and rain on the just and unjust, good and evil alike.

        Then just before giving this famous passage he asks, "If you love your friends only, what do you do more than anyone else?"

        From which i derive the following syllogism:
1) Love your enemies (as well as your neighbors).
2) God includes both of them when He sends the sun
and the rain upon the earth.
3) Therefore, include both friends and enemies in your love.

        Be like God.

SUFFERING (July 8, 1979)

       It seems to me that most people think of "suffering" as untoward circumstances in the outside world. But it also seems to me that I have passed through intense suffering in the past few months, which was all inside myself. And I ask myself, what have I learned from all this suffering?

       One message which I feel sure of is that most of my suffering is self-inflicted, maybe ninety per cent and the one-tenth which is not, is not at all unbearable. That is, the things which the outside world does to us don't really matter.

       I was also thinking that most people in this country and in the world, feel more secure surrounded by weapons systems, or owning their own guns. Now I am sure that most of us, or all of us, regard this as a false sense of security, that is, it actually makes them less secure. I think we need to find a way of speaking to this sense of security in people, to impart to them a higher sense of security, one not based on bombs and guns. Otherwise, I'm sure we'll see a continuation of the arms race.

PUBLICANS AND SINNERS (December 2, 1979)

        The Gospels report that, after Matthew was called as a disciple, they gave a feast, and many publicans and sinners came and ate with them. I was trying to figure out how we would translate "publicans" and "sinners" into modern language. We use Bible words glibly today, but sinners meant merely those who did not follow the Pharisaic code and today we would probably call them "street people". The publicans were the tax-collectors who worked for the Romans, and today we would probably say, people who work for the Internal Revenue Service.

        I was thinking of this as evidence of the broad appeal Jesus had to people. I was also thinking of my favorite quotation from the Gospels where Jesus weeps over Jerusalem, and says How often would I have gathered your children together, even as a mother hen gathers her brood; and I was wishing I could live up to that.

MEETING FOR WORSHIP (December 9, 1979)

        Forgive me for speaking again so soon. But I had three insights arising out of our study group last fall in Quakerism, which I wanted, to share with you, and I wanted to share them while the children were still here.

        The first is that for me meeting for worship is not special; it's merely the time when we all agree to meet together, at the same time and in the same place, and in the same manner. We all have our private worships.

        The second is that for me the people are the most important, and I notice myself noticing people as they corne in. And I feel a sense of rejoicing as I see each person, and I think, Oh, good, that person is here today.

        The third is that, while I cherish the silence and feel filled by it, it is the messages which heighten the experience for me. This is not to say that I want all messages, but I do want to know what people are thinking and feeling. Of course we can often communicate without words, but they help.


What motivates me to action
      is that there is something which needs to be done.

What prevents me from acting
      is the feeling that I would be doing it only for myself.

I find that I get great peace and satisfaction
      out of doing something which needs to be done
      but I get antsy and nervous and bored when I am
      doing something just because I want to.

It is not compassion which makes me care for people;
      it is that they need to be cared for.

I feel that I have no more compassion this time of year
      than any other time, and no less;

And I think there is something wrong with the demand
      that we have more compassion just because it's
      this time of year.

We should have more compassion at all times of the year.

But caring for others is time-consuming and difficult

And I can see that it is necessary that we go through
      the ritual of reminding ourselves that caring for
      others is necessary.

It's so easy to let it slide.

WINTER QUERY (2/17/80)

A friend of mine once asked --
      We were having a discussion about the
      deterioration of the world --
And she asked, If in fact the world is in a state
      of downfall, just when was the peak
      that we are descending from?

Another person in the group said
      Well, it all started with the wheel...

I've often remembered the question this woman asked
      and it's given me a sense of optimism about
      the state of the world.

It was fifteen years ago that she asked it
      and I was thinking this morning

Maybe the peak was fifteen years ago
      and ever since we have been declining
      at an increasing rate.

But as I look around, it seems to me that there is
      much more concern about many more things today
      than there was fifteen years ago.

Many of us then were less than lone voices
      crying in the wilderness.

I guess what I wanted to say was
      I retain my optimism.


Our thoughts are but like bats in a dark cave;
      our actions but eddies on the river's edge.
Our emotions are like molten lava beneath the earth's crust
      here and there breaking forth in a hotspring
      or a volcano.

Our plans are nothing more than bubbles;
      our past is but a broken eggshell
Emptied of all its promise
      never to be put together again by the king's horses or the king's men.

I sat by the edge of a stream
      and watched the water tumbling over the rocks;
Its shape was always the same
      but it was always different water.

The wind pushed at me this morning
      and the hills were clear for a change.
Ever since the drought I've loved the rain
      and the rain is always followed by a rainbow.

So I keep my feet to the trail.
      There may be a shortcut through the wilderness,
But I don't have a map or a compass.
      And shortcuts often take longer.

LEADINGS (5/25/80)

Madge Seaver, in the recent Friend's Bulletin
      expresses her uneasiness
With what she calls a trend among Friends
      towards individualism,
Towards regarding our own leadings
      as somehow taking precedence
      over what we receive from other sources.

This struck a chord in me;
      and I remembered
That I had written a paper a couple of years ago
      which I never circulated,
Entitled, What Do Friends Mean by Inward Light?
      in which I said
That I thought we were caught up
      in a new form of angel-worship.

It seems to me that Friends believe
      not that we each have our own private light
      or that there are many lights,
But that there is one light, which somehow
      finds its way to expression through each of us.

In practice I think this means that in a community of worship
      we would test our individual leadings
      against the light and insight of other members
      of the community.

I know I've been guilty of not doing this;
      I have often decided what I should do
      or what needed to be done
And just gone and done it.

And I know that I have fears
      about coming to the Meeting
      with all my individual leadings.

But this morning I was feeling that we would be stronger
      as persons and as a Meeting
      if there were more of this sharing of leadings among us.


I think that
      we need to take great care
Whenever we think
      that there are "unfriendly and hostile"
      persons "out there"

That we do not respond to them --
That WE do not respond to THEM --
      in an unfriendly or hostile fashion.

I think it was Emily Dickinson who said
      that we need to draw a circle
      that includes them in.

Before I rose to speak I was thinking
      How can I presume to give advice'
      When I'm practically incapable of following it myself?
So I'm speaking partly in order to
      strengthen myself in that direction.

And I remember David McReynolds
      who was speaking on campus
      at a War Resisters' League meeting
Who said that when we are on a picket;tine
      or at a vigil
Faced by police

Our objective should be
      to get them to come over and join us.

ON CARING (8/3/80)

I was sitting here this morning

And I was thinking
      My children need clothes and bicycles.
I was thinking about bicycles because yesterday I
      found that I had four bicycles that needed repairing.

But then the thought came to me---
      This is hard for me to say---
That Jean---my ex-wife---needs love and nurture too
      And I haven't given it to her.

I know it's very easy for me to blame myself
      for everything that goes wrong in the world.
But at least I'm not blaming others.

I had another thought I wanted to share with you.
Last year at Yearly Meeting I said that I felt like
      I was in an ocean
      struggling to keep afloat,
And I could occasionally touch the fingertips of
      others around me.
But this morning I realized
      I don't feel like that anymore,
I feel like somehow I've gotten up on a raft
      And now I'm reaching out trying to help others
      that I can see, all around that raft.

And I also realized,
I didn't pull myself up onto this raft.
And I'm very grateful for the song this morning.

LADY (8/5/80)

I have learned
      What Marggie Sorrel said

That She
      is, in fact, the Goddess.

I fear saying this
      because I don't want to provoke an argument.

But this realization has given me a joy and peace
      That I've never known before.

So I want to pray:
      Help me to be loving
      and accepting
      and forgiving
      and devoted
      and caring.

A VISION (8/7/80)

        I have a vision, and I don't know if I can put it into words.

        "In the kingdom of heaven they neither marry nor are given in marriage." Yet we all need intimate relationships, and children all need caring parents individually.

        So my vision is, in our new Yearly Meeting we will all marry each other, and all the children will belong to all of us. We will care for each and everyone in the same way in which we are supposed to care for our spouses. If some of us choose to draw off by twos or threes or fours or fives, that's part of the kingdom too, and we will all treat those relationships in a nurturing manner.

        In this new marriage, divorce will be non-existent, because there will be no need for it."

A SONG OF THANKS (8/10/80)

I feel ravished--that's the word that carne to me--
      by gratitude.

I went to Yearly Meeting in eager anticipation;

I decided to work in the nursery
instead of being in a worship-fellowship group;

I wrote to Caroline Series this morning
      to tell her about Yearly Meeting

And I said
      The rewards carne in more abundantly than I could
      have asked for.

But I didn't do it for any reward.

It was a privilege.

So even though my eyes are full of tears, I am
      full of joy.

And I would like to sing a Shaker song, if my voice will let me.

        To the realms of peace and love
        With my companions I will move
        Where the notes of the heavenly dove
        Float among the breezes.
        And the lily, pure and fair,
        Sendeth forth her fragrance rare,
        And voices singing everywhere
        Resound among the valleys.

JOY (undated, but probably fall, 1980)

Several months ago
I was deep in the throes of an inner struggle
And the words of Job came to me
Which I changed slightly
      Though She slay me
      Yet will I trust in Her.

These words came to me several times
And since then I feel
      that I have gone through a transformation
About which I feel that I have so much to say
That I cannot speak
Because I don't know where to begin..

But this morning it came to me
I understood
What Jesus meant when he said
      I can of myself do nothing (John 5:30)
And I saw
And I know
That it is Her spirit working through me.

And I feel
That because I trusted Her
Even though it seemed like I was being slain
She has rewarded me
With Her spirit, and with joy and peace
Even though I don't deserve it.

WOMEN AND GOD (9/1/80)

I had a vision at Yearly Meeting this year.

It was strong
And yet serene.

I saw all the women in the room
As belonging to the same sex as God;

And all the rest of us,
Us males

As subservient to Her and those who are
in Her image and likeness.

This vision had a feeling and a tone of reality
Which I can only compare
To what women must have felt over the centuries
Upon hearing males referring to God
As being of the same sex as themselves.

Except that it was beautiful.

I realized
I am Her vessel, willingly, and joyfully.


I was bitten by a dog last Friday.

As I was going to the hospital, I said to myself,
Lilith is giving me a message.

(Lilith is my name fqr God.)

So I've been trying to figure out what the message is
      or what the messages are.

The first one--
      I fear this will not speak to anyone else's condition--
is that, I've been asking for physical pain
      instead of emotional pain,
And She said
      Well, John, if you really want it, here it is.

The second one is that it's all right to be waited on.
I have an addiction to wanting to do everything
      for myself.

The third one, which I've been thinking about this morning
      listening to the other messages,
Is about loving one's enemies
      and forgiving the harm they do to you.
And I remembered that, back to the second it happened
      I empathized with the dog;
I had stepped into his or her territory
      Thinking it was all right,
And I looked away
      And she bit me.

But I still feel that strong sense of empathy,
And I think the message has something to do
      with how we respond to people who are violent
      and do harm to us.

Those are the messages I feel I have gotten from Her.

WE ARE GOD'S HANDS (1/25/81)

        The medieval scholastics came up with seven deadly sins. I was noticing the other day how few of them -- perhaps none of them -- have to do with harming others. The only one that seems to is Betrayal; and even there it is the act of breaking a confidence or violating trust and faith that is rhe sin, not the harming of others.

        What is not so well known is that they also came up with Seven Earthly Acts of Mercy and Seven Spiritual Acts of Mercy. I can't remember them all, but the Seven Earthly Acts include Feed the Hungry, Give Drink to the Thirsty, Clothe the Naked, Care for the Orphan and the Widow, Visit the Sick and Imprisoned. I was thinking this morning how we as individuals don't do so much of those things anymore, we establish agencies and depend on them to do those things for us. We may give them money.

        We still visit the sick often; we don't visit the imprisoned so much either anymore. And modern Friends tend to be on the side of the movement which thinks it would be a far, far better thing if if we did away with prisons altogether. (George Bernard Shaw challenges us to show that society would have been any different if there had never been a prison or judge or executioner.)

        The Seven Spiritual Acts of Mercy include Counsel the Doubtful, Instruct the Ignorant Comfort the Sorrowing...The last two are Bear All Wrongs Patiently, and Forgive all Injuries. I've thought a lot about these since I first heard about them years ago.

        But I had this message which came to me a few weeks ago, and I didn't share it, and it came the next week and the next, and again today after listening to the previous message. It was,
        We are God's hands...
        She depends upon us to do Her work in the world,
        Of caring for each other.
This is not always easy, and can take a lot of time.