RECENT MESSAGES (since 1982)
spoken by miriam berg

Older messages

RECENT MESSAGES (since 1982)
Our Mother (May, 1982)
Her Will (signed mb; 7/25/1982)
No Taxes For War (April 10, 1983)
The Lamentations of Yeshua (March, 1997)
Visionary Pragmatism (5/25/1997)
Love Which Remains (Kristina Perry on 11/2/1997)
The Queries (5/24/98)
Quakers and Police (10/11/98)
Choirs of Angels (Christmas day, 1999)
Speaking and Entering (12/23/01)
What Does God Required of Us (12/22/02)
What Can I Do More (12/25/02)
God's Will For the Meeting (12/29/02)
The Sight of Venus (Christmas, 2003)
The Teaching of Epictetus (1/25/04)
Christmas in Ancient Israel (December, 2005)
Life is Worth Living (12/25/05)
Trust (December, 2008)
Christmas and Miriam (December, 2010)
Fasting For Peace (Fall, 2010)
Hurrah For Ben Franklin (January 17th, 2011)
Message to President Obama (April 6th, 2011)
Happiness (November, 2011)
On Membership (January, 2012)
Messages From God (June 3, 2012)
I Have Everything Which I Need (7/24/2012)
To Drive or Not to Drive (August 26th, 2012)
Resentment and Trust (2/10/13)
The IRS and Me (4/23/13)
Message at 2013 PYM (8/3/13)
Persuasion (8/11/13)

OUR MOTHER (on Mother's Day, May, 1982)

Last fall I was ready to die.

I remember thinking to myself

Whatever happens to me
Is a gift from Her our Mother.

Today, six or seven months later
      believe it or not
I sometimes think, i'm the happiest person
      in the world.

I'm grateful for all the help she's been to me.

And I'm grateful
That few of us have to suffer
The inner suffering that I went through.

And I'm grateful For all the joy that I feel today.

HER WILL (signed mb; 7/25/1982)

Sometimes it seems to me

That following the will of God

Is the same as believing that i'm right
and the rest of the world is wrong

i'm uncomfortable with that feeling

and i wonder

if what i believe may not be the will of God after all
or perhaps there's no such thing as the will of God

and it all gets muddled

and then i feel

that i'm lucky to be just muddling through
without hurting too many people
or wasting too much time in inconsequential activity

a little prayer carne to me in meeting several months ago

       Lady, i am the least of your creatures
       and well that it is so
       for then i can not look down upon any

NO TAXES FOR WAR (April 10, 1983)

It was about eighteen years ago
      on a morning like this,
That i first picked up a CNVA pamphlet
      (Committee for Non-Violent Action)
Suggesting that we refuse to pay war taxes.

i remember how scared i was
      when i first filed a return
with a letter of protest
      and no check
They kept after me
      and eventually came and took it out of my bank account.

i kept doing this
      and got a reputation for being the meeting's
      tax refusal counsellor
which i feel was undeserved
      because of the mess i've made of my own case.

while i was married we always seemed to be getting
      money back from the government
but about five years ago
      i became self-employed -
and i haven't paid anything since

but about a year and a half ago
      they put a levy on the company where i work
i remember when they walked in
      and handed a paper to fred gey
i was being audited at the time
      i called the auditor
      and she ordered him to suspend collection

after we agreed on the audit
      i went to see the collection agent
and convinced him that my net worth was zero
      which it was
and he said he would leave me alone for a year

that was about a year ago
and the time is coming up again

they want an absurd sum from me
      and i don't know where they're going to get it
but as the time comes again
i keep thinking about it
and i realize
      i can't write a check to the government
      i can't give them any money for bombs and guns
      nothing they can do to me
      would be as bad as my doing that

i don't know how i'm going to get out of this
but i wanted to speak about it today
and let you know where i stand
and that i appreciate the Meeting's support


        There are three statements attributed to Yeshua, or Jesus as he is commonly known, which i would class as my favorite sayings from the gospels. I call them the Lamentations of Yeshua. They are my favorites because i think they reveal the true nature of the man, and of the deep feeling of which he was capable.

        The first Lamentation happens just after he has decided to make the trip to Jerusalem for passover, where he has predicted that he would be killed. It comes right after he has been told that Herod is planning to arrest him and imprison him, just as he did with John the Baptizer. He cries out,
        O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killeth the prophets,
        and stoneth them that are sent unto her! how often
        would i have gathered your children together, as a
        mother hen gathers her brood! and ye would not! Behold,
        your house is left unto you desolate; and ye shall not
        see me, until that day when ye say, Blessed is he that
        cometh in the name of the Lord. (Luke 13:34-35)
And that is what he said on his arrival at Jerusalem, on what is now called Palm Sunday. But that image of the mother hen gathering her brood is, i feel, one of the most beautiful images of Jesus in the gospels.

        The second Lamentation happens just as he arrives at Jerusalem on that Palm Sunday, and he looks at the city and weeps over the city, and he says:
        If thou hadst known in this day, even thou, the things
        which belong unto peace! but now they are hid from thine
        eyes (or you are not able to see them)! For behold, the
        days are coming, when thine enemies shall compass thee
        round, and build a bank against thee, and dash thy walls
        down upon thee, and thy children with thee! and there
        shall not be left here one stone upon another! because
        thou didst not know the time of thy visitation.
        (Luke 19:41-44)

By "thy visitation" he is referring to his prophetic ministry to them and he predicts the destruction of Jerusalem because they didn't listen to him. He also says,
        There shall not be left here one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down." (Mark 13:2)

        The third Lamentation happens while he is on his way to the cross and it is reported that a great multitude followed him, and that there were many women in the multitude; and i can just imagine what one of those women felt: Here is this wonderful man we have learned to love, and he's going to die, and be gone forever! and i can feel the tears in her eyes and the knot in her throat. He turns to them and says:
        Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but rather weep
        for yourselves and your children. For the days are coming,
        when they shall begin to say, Blessed are the barren; and
        the wombs that never bore; and the breasts that never gave
        suck. For they shall say to the mountains, Fall on us; and
        to the hills, Cover us. For if these things be done in the
        green tree (that is, when the tree is green), what shall be
        done in the dry (that is, when the tree is old and dry)?
        (Luke 23:27-31)

These three poignant exclamations are my favorites, because they reveal how much he cared for the people, and gave his life in a witness against their attitude towards the Romans, because he foresaw that the Romans would destroy Jerusalem. And they didn't heed him, and the war against the Romans got worse, and finally the Romans compassed Jerusalem round, and destroyed it and left there not one stone upon another.


        many years ago i was having a conversation with Al Andersen ( whom i'm sure many of you remember) and i told him that i didn't think of myself as a spiritual person. He said that he did see me that way, as a mystic, as an idealist...

        i'm always faintly amused whenever someone tells me that they see me differently than i see myself -- my first thought is always, One of us must be wrong (and there's a 50 percent chance that it's me).

        but this morning it occurred to me that both of us could be right, like light being both particles and waves...

        sometime after that conversation, though, i coined the phrase "visionary pragmatist" for myself, which means that what is most important to me is what is; what is in front of me; what calls for some form of action on my part...but also that i can see beyond what is -- or look beyond it, anyway; i don't know if i actually see very much -- i look past what is to what might be or what could be...but i never let that become more important to me than what is...what is in front of me.

LOVE WHICH REMAINS (Kristina Perry on 11/2/1997)

On this second day of November
I'm thinking of those who have departed from us
And of love
Not only of the love that is gone
But of the love which remains
And I pray that we can give more of that love
And to receive that love
Which transforms both the lover and the loved
And those who witness it
A kind of love which heals our wounds
And comforts us in isolation.

THE QUERIES (5/24/98)

        This morning was the 4th Sunday meeting to discuss the queries. This month they were on Equality. There were only three of us here; these meetings have always been small. So this morning i began to formulate a new query: Do Friends still believe in the Queries; or do we still believe in using them for corporate examination and self-examination? Or have we come to think they are only for personal reflection? or worse, that they have become only a symbol for what Friends believe? that is, we say that Friends do not have a creed, but we formulate our beliefs as questions instead?

        The corporate use of the queries has always been very helpful to me, for example, in this morning's discussion on Equality it forced me to admit that at least twice in the past weeks i had failed to measure up to the Queries; and this was helpful to me, or will be help to me in the future to better conduct myself in accordance with Quaker ideals.

        So i would like to express my hope that more members and attenders will take an interest in attending the meeting on the queries in the coming months.


        i've been thinking a lot the past couple of weeks about Quakers and police...when and if ever it was appropriate for a Quaker to call the police.

        partly it seems wrong because they carry guns...and i don't want to appear to place reliance on people who carry guns.

        it's also because they represent a kind of authority which is forceful and coercive.

        i recalled this morning how George Fox in his journal tells how he had been speaking at a meeting and afterward an angry person came rushing up to him with his sword drawn and pointed at him and George Fox simply said, Alack for thee, it's no more to me than a straw...

        and George Fox was certainly beaten enough times for his speaking and refusing to take off his hat and saying thee and thou... he also tells how once a crowd had been beating him and he rose and said, Here are my arms and shoulders, if all you can think of to do is to beat me...

        so i have a strong conviction that Quakers should never call the police -- i'd rather have them call me -- and i hope there are other members of the Meeting who feel the same way.

        and i have what is perhaps a naive vision -- that in conflict situations we could get together and have a meeting for worship

CHOIRS OF ANGELS (Christmas day, 1999)

        i was sitting today in meeting, thinking about the Christmas story, and about how i had some doubt whether there was really a choir of angels singing that morning, to announce the birth of that humble person.

        then suddenly, i realized that yes, there probably was such a choir singing on that morning for that child, and some people were fortunate enough to hear it; just as the angels sing whenever any child is born! Every child is a bundle of inestimable worth and unpredictable potentialities.

        and i like to think that, while i think of Jesus as a great man,
that every one of us can rise to his level, and learn to be like him, having love for everyone, unconditional love for everyone.


about 40 years ago
when i had only been coming to meeting about 5 years
i went through a phase
      where i must have been speaking frequently in meeting
i don't remember that it was that frequent
      but anyway ministry and oversight appointed a committee to call on me
i often think that that was the most important experience
      i have had in connection with the meeting
but anyhow, i have kept coming ever since
and i have spoken less frequently

but as i was thinking over the experience this morning
i realized that the reason i kept coming was because
for me silent meeting for worship
is the most beautiful way of being with people
that i know of

and then i was thinking about the concern which has been often raised
about people coming late to meeting
and it seems to me that our attitude should be one of welcoming
towards all who come to our meetings for worship
whether they're late or not

and i remember Maude Powell once saying to me
that her feeling was when someone entered late
"Oh, good, that person's here today."

(note: i expressed these exact same words about latecomers in meeting sometime in the late 1970s)


(Margaret Mossman framed a question which was on her mind and that she thought might be meant just for her... It was, What does God require of me?)

I think that the question on Margaret's mind is intended for more than herself
It is certainly meant for me as well
And it was asked by Micah, a prophet in the Old Testament
        2800 years ago
His answer was, To do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk
        humbly with God
And i have been sitting here feeling moved almost to tears
by his question and by his answer
What is moving me almost to tears is not that he asked the question
      nor even that he gave what could be the simplest and best answer of all time
      but that he asked it TWENTY-EIGHT HUNDRED years ago
      and here we are today still needing to ask it again
So to quote another Old Testament verse from the Psalms
        How long, Lord, how long?

WHAT CAN I DO MORE (12/25/02)

After Judith Stronach's memorial i came away
        feeling that i have not done enough for the world
        after reading her obituaries and what she had given the world
And this morning i started asking myself,
        What can i do more than i'm doing?
I have a lot of responsibilities which other people depend on me for
        and i can't just drop them without making it clear to everyone
        that i am not going to be able to continue doing them

(And i'm continually reminded of a motto i once saw posted where i work:
        Just because everything needs to be done
        doesn't mean that YOU have to do EVERYTHING)
But the answer that came to me this morning
        is that i must not become complacent about what i'm doing
        and that i must continue to ask myself the question,
        What more can i do than i'm already doing?


My thoughts this morning seem to be weightier than usual
I have been trying to figure out God's will for the meeting
I have been considering three possible answers to this question

One possibility for God's will for the meeting
      is for us to maintain the meeting for worship
      and for all of us to keep coming regularly
      and for those of us who don't come often to attend more frequently

The second possibility i thought of for God's will for the meeting
would be for us to go out and get more people to attend meeting
But i set this aside because it seemed to me that it was more important
for all of us who are already here to reach out more to each other
      and get to know each other better
      so that our acquaintance will spread during the week
      and not just be on Sunday morning

The third possibility for God's will for the meeting
      would be for us to be a force for social change in our community
      and even to be an outspoken conscience of the community
The rub with this is, On which issues?
I'm sure that for each of us there are some issues
      which are more important than others
      so that it would be difficult to find an issue
      which was the most important for every one of us in the meeting

(i also considered the possibility that God's will for us
      might be to have committees for different purposes
      but then that seemed to me to come more from human will than from divine will)

But these thoughts have been with me all morning
      so i just wanted to express them all

THE SIGHT OF VENUS (Christmas, 2003)

        This Christmas, during our meeting for worship on Christmas morning, i have been thinking about the unearthly sight we have been afforded these past few weeks with the sight of Venus, the brightest object in the sky after the sun and the moon, as it has moved out to its extreme distance from the sun and then begun its lengthy passage ascross the sky to the opposite side of the heavenly vault, when it becomes the morning star.

        But the crowning effect on me as a result of this signt seen only every few years, has been the consciousness that this amazing transit of a heavenly object, seen over several weeks as few other sights are ever seen, is exactly the same as that which the ancient Sumerians saw seven to ten thousand years ago. And it makes me one with them over that vast expanse of time.


I've been reading a lot of Epictetus this week.
It's a little strange that i've not read him before
Because i've always considered myself a Stoic--
At least since i understood what a Stoic was,
        or at least had an idea of what it was.
I think that i came by it naturally
Because both my parents were Stoics;
So i learnt it by example, rather than reading.

Anyway, i found one passage in Epictetus
In a section entitled "God in Man"
Which i've wanted to share with the meeting
Because it seems very close to Quakerism.
He says, Thou art a supreme object; there is a piece of God in you;
        thou hast in thee something that is a portion of him.
        Why are you ignorant of your high ancestry?
And a little later he says, Now he has given thee to thyself,
        and saith, I had none more worthy of trust than thee;
        keep this man such as he was made by nature--reverent, faithful, high,
        unterrified, unshaken of passions, untroubled.

when i read that, at first i was felt inspired and moved by it,
but then i began to wonder, God must have been able to find thousands of people
        more worthy than myself...
(This morning i found another translation for that passage:
God did not mean, I had no one more worthy of trust than thee,
        but rather, I have entrusted a portion of myself to thee;
        see that thou keep it safe, such as it was made by nature...)

Last night i was reading him again,
And i found another passage which was very helpful to me.
I'm in the position of being relieved of my responsibilities at work
(to put it somewhat euphemistically);
It has been happening in the aftermath of our being audited by HUD;
And i have been feeling sad about it, and discouraged;
Because it does not seem to be the natural way for it to happen.

But i found this passage last night, and it lifted me out of that
(or as Friends say, It spoke to my condition);
He asks, What is the divine Law? and answers:
        To hold fast that which is your own, and to claim nothing that is another's;
        To use what is given you, and not to covet what is not given;
        To yield up easily and willingly what is taken away from you,
        giving thanks for the time that you have had it in your service.

So i wanted to share all of this with the meeting.


I also was thinking this morning,
How that the Old Testament sometimes seems bleak, and stark, and dry,
And suddenly I realized, it's because they didn't have Christmas
Moses did his best to provide them with festivals and holidays
I give him credit
But they didn't have Christmas,
They never knew about Christmas.


We had a sort of Christmas eve celebration here last night
And we had a sort of meeting for worship as part of it

There were some messages,
And we had some flute music,
and some readings

It was a family meeting and there were children in attendance
And throughout most of the worship they were crawling
      all around the room
But there was a message given by one of the longtime attenders
      of the meeting
      which has stayed with me and i want to promulgate it

He said, in his perennial succinct style
        It's good for us to have children around
           (no, he didn't mean, children just crawling around)
        Because it shows us, Life is worth living.

And I've been thinking about that this morning
'cause it seems to have affected me
Because i haven't always felt that that was true

After 70 years of life
i have lost count of the times i have doubted it
and thought instead that life is just too difficult

But the hidden point in Bernie's message was
      that children are proof of that truth
I've just had a grandchild for the second time;
      The first is now 6 years old

So the point is not just that they are playful and happy
      or that watching them is enjoyable and even makes us happier
But that their actions and activity provides us with proof
      that life is worth living.

TIME (2006; recomposed in 2012)
(inspired by a message in meeting about the spiritual value of a wristwatch)

my experience seems to have been the opposite of our clerk's
i think i may have worn a wristwatch for one whole day in my life

i suspect i was mostly annoyed at this thing cluttering up my wrist

my children gave me a pocket watch one year
which i prized because it was from them
and it helped me keep time during meeting
and know when to close the meeting
but it disappeared when my purse was stolen several years ago

but not carrying a timepiece taught me how many clocks
there used to be out there, wall clocks, street clocks, window clocks
so that i just relaxed and didn't worry what the time was
'cause i knew around the corner or accross the street
i could check the time if i wanted to or needed to
and i even used to sneak a peek at people's wristwatches

but it also meant that i became aware of the passage of time
so that i knew approximately what time it was anyway
closing meeting was always the biggest problem
next to that were medical appointments

but in a perversity of the wide sweep of progress
these public clocks seem to be disappearing
so that today (2012) it is almost impossible to find one
stores don't have them
and fewer people wear wristwatches
because of the newfangled portable telephone-computers

and i'm just cynical enough to believe
that stores have taken down their clocks
because they believe that people shop longer if they can't see the time

TRUST (December, 2008)

Last night i was reading a book on the history of Berkeley
and i was fascinated by the chapter on the Free Speech Movement
      in October of 1964
because i was there -- i was in the crowd
      and i stood on the top of the police car
      and i led people in singing Bob Dylan's song "Blowing in the Wind"
but the book mentioned that Jack Goldberg's main claim to fame
      was that he said, "Never trust anyone over 30"
(actually, what he said was, "You can't trust anyone over 30")
but this statement always rankled a little bit with me
because i had just turned 30 two months before the Free Speech Movement

that same year Aldous Huxley published a novel called "Island"
and in it one of the characters says,
        Always assume that people are better than you have         any reason for supposing them to be"
That seems like saying the opposite, in other words, Trust people

and that reminded me of George Fox's statement in one of his epistles:
        Be patterns, be examples in all places where you come
        Then you may walk cheerfully over the earth
        Answering that of God in overy one.

then i remembered Lao Tse's statement in the Tao Te Ching
(this message seems like a lot of quotations):
        The best of men is like water.
        Water benefits all things, and does not seek to exploit them.
        It seeks the lowly places which all disdain
        Wherein it comes near the Tao. (D.T.Suzuki's translation)

so to try to tie all of this together
i will quote from Ken Keyes as he taught at the Living Love ashram in Berkeley:
        Love everyone unconditionally, including yourself.
i have striven to practice that now for thirty-five years
though i must say, to paraphrase Benjamin Franklin,
that no matter how much i may have achieved the appearance of that behavior
i am still very far from the reality.
but I hope to someday.


        George Fox and some of the other early Friends often referred to themselves as "in the world, but not of the world". I've often felt that that described me as well; i don't own a radio, or a television and i don't subscribe to a newspaper or a magazine (I'm a sort of ascetic; i try to only have what i need, and i don't want much of anything except what i truly need.) From one point of view, this means that i am not well-informed; but i somehow manage to find out what i need to know, mostly from my children.

        And about 50 years ago i remember deciding that i didn't enjoy celebrating Christmas very much. i went along with it, but i also gave gifts to people throughout the year, whenever the fancy struck me; but i didn't really celebrate Christmas, and i gave gifts to my children because i wanted to give gifts to them, not because it was a December custom. And i was also thinking that, while i have studied the gospels intensely, and am perhaps better-informed about their contents than anyone else in this room, i do not believe that Jesus would have wanted us to celebrate a mass in his name.

        And i was also recalling how about 60 years ago i saw the movie "The Robe", which is about a Roman soldier who was assigned to Palestine in the first century CE, and his first assignment was to execute a political rebel, apparently some kind of nut. i recall the scene from the movie where Marcellus, that was the soldier's name, was standing below the cross and there was a blinding flash of light, and Marcellus wondered, Who was this man, anyway? So he began to roam around Palestine trying to find out, and then i remember another scene from the movie where Marcellus went to Nazareth, and talked with a woman there, whose name happened to be Miriam, who had been visited by Jesus. She was disabled in some way, but Jesus (who I prefer to call Yeshua) hadn't healed her. But, she told Marcellus, she had received a much greater gift from Yeshua than simply being healed of her affliction or disability: he had given her the gift of radiant happiness in spite of her disability which she expressed in song and singing for the village residents, who gathered every day to hear her sing.

        i have remembered that scene for more than 50 years, even though i never saw the movie again, and recently i found the book at an antique flea market, which i read after all those years, and found that scene in it. i don't know where the story comes from, or whether it was made up by Lloyd Douglas, the author; it's not in the gospels, although perhaps it's found in one of the apocryphal gospels.


This morning i found myself thinking,
i refused to pay taxes for war for many years,
Without having any visible effect on the military policy of this country
But i finally stopped when the IRS itself urged me to compromise,
And i also had realized that the IRS were not the enemy,
They were just people trying to do their job.

Anyway i asked myself this morning,
What have i done lately to bring about peace?
What more can i do?
And the thought came to me, i could fast until we renounced war.
But i know i'm no Gandhi,
And the government would not pay any attention to me,
But perhaps, if several of us pledged to do it,
We might have some effect somewhere.

HURRAH FOR BEN FRANKLIN (January 17th, 2011)

        I also have always had great admiration for Benjamin Franklin. I don't know how many of you have read his autobiography, but my favorite statement in it, it was where he was discussing how he had been told by a Quaker friend that he needed to work on practicing the virtue of humility, Ben actually had a program that he worked on all his life of practicing 12 virtues, or 13, concentrating on one of them each day. And when he was writing about this in his autobiography he commented about humility, that however much he might be giving the appearance of humility, he was very far from the reality of it. Tho' posterity has certainly given him credit for being a very humble person, as well as a very creative one and very civicly-minded one.

        And i have many times thought of myself, that, while for many years i have aspired to the virtue of unconditional love, that is to love everyone unconditionally, yet no matter how much i may give the appearance of it, i am also very far from the reality of it.

        This morning i was also humming to myself two of the rounds
which i have written, and i want to sing one of them for you today.
        We are one great family; uncles, aunts, and cousins are we.
        For we are all children of God,
        and everyone everywhere is another child of God.
        Let us care for each other as God cares for ev'ryone.


i am fasting three days a week to protest against the budget cuts from social services for poor people and to urge that cuts be made from the military budget instead of causing the poorest people of our country to suffer -- also cuts should be made from corporate subsidies and the taxes of the rich should not be cut -- footnote: please do not sign HR 910 into law -- thank you -- miriam berg

HAPPINESS (November, 2011)

        When i was about 11, i decided, or i made a decision, that happiness was impossible, and that it wasn't worth pursuing, and that it wouldn't last, anyway. i describe it as that i programmmed myself unintentionally and unconsciously to reject happiness as a concept, i described it as, i put it away on a shelf as something that there was no point in trying to do anything with this decision, as i call it, has in fact lasted the rest of my life. when i heard the previous message, i thought, i'm happiest when i'm unhappy

        so, what do i do? how do i keep going? why do i keep going? i think that my solution has been to deal with life in a pragmatic way i try to deal with each situation as it is: what needs to be done? what can i do to help it get done? am i doing it? or, have i done it?

        and i think that this philosophy and way of acting has given me all the contentment i have ever had in my life.

ON MEMBERSHIP (January, 2012)

what i've been thinking about this morning is: membership

since the early 1700s Friends have had those whom they have recorded as members

i infer from this that before that there was no recorded membership,
you were considered a Friend if you called yourself one
and behaved according to Friends' ways

i don't consider myself to have a gift for vocal ministry
and i am standing here trying to make sure that i get the right words
because i want what i say to be clear, and correct, and irrefutable

but anyway, Friends have never been a proselyting religion
in the sense that we go out and try to recruit new members
well, i guess we want to get other people to follow our ways
but we don't care if they call themselves Friends or not

and more than this, we don't even try to proselyte among ourselves
to recruit our own attenders into membership
i've often asked active attenders if they've considered membership
and asked them why they haven't applied
and i've gotten various answers
some of them say, well, i don't believe in God
but i tell them that being a member has nothing to do with
whether you believe in God or not
or they say, i'm just not ready

but the answer i've gotten that i've been thinking about today is,
Membership doesn't mean anything.

and so this morning i asked the question,
as i was driving with someone to meeting,
What SHOULD membership mean? assuming that it's true
that membership doesn't mean anything (which i don't really believe)

the first thing it must mean
is that you come regularly to meeting for worship
and the second thing is that you come regularly to meeting for business
but unhappily there are many recorded members
who don't do either of those things
and many non-recorded attenders who do
there's also the question of giving financial support to the meeting
but that's also not true of some members
and true of some non-members

but then it came to me,
as i was sitting in my little corner this morning,
that the most important meaning in becoming a recorded member is,
that the Meeting is your spiritual HOME,
that it is like your spiritual FAMILY,
and those other things just follow from that fact.

so i want to urge non-members not to believe the excuse
that membership doesn't mean anything,
because it DOES mean what i have just stated
and so i urge you to consider whether the Meeting means that to you.

MESSAGE FROM GOD (June 3, 2012)

I think that the experience which I've had --
but i shouldn't call it an experience but an insight --
of an opening, the voice of God, like the dove descending,
was when i was lying in bed one night,
i remember where I was living, and it was in 1979,
and the thought came into my head, like God had put it there, that
        The world turns round, not because we take care of our own needs,
        but because we help take care of the needs of each other.

later i derived a sort of corollary from that,
that I didn't have to worry about my own needs anyway,
because God was taking care of all my needs,
and that left me free to work on taking care of the needs of others.

I was also thinking this morning, about the idea which was the theme
of the last Quarterly Meeting, i think,
that the Meeting is greater than the sum of its members,
and i thought to myself, Well, that's sort of self-evident,
because the Meeting has a corporate existence,
and continues in spite of who's in it,
and i began remembering all the many members I have known over the years
who are now gone, dozens of them, a hundred or more,
great and remarkable people, giants on whose shoulders we stand
(Russ Jorgensen, the Stephensons, the Palleys, the Hecks, Robert Schutz,
the Cunninghams, the Schaffrans, the Nelsons, Clare Millikan, John Merlin,
Vanita Blum, and on and on)

finally, i was remembering two comments from Pogo Possum,
that's my favorite comic strip:
one where Howland Owl storms into the panel, grousing, That's gratitude for you!
and Turtle, who's sort of the court fool for the Okefenokee,
turns and says, It is? Thanks, thanks! I can use some gratitude!
and another where Pogo and Porkypine are having a discussion
and Pogo says, The way I figger it, Porky, is that every man's heart
is eventual in the right place; and Porky answers, And I figgers, Pogo,
that if a man is gonna be wrong about something, that's the best thing
to go on being wrong about, till forever!


i do not need to worry for myself
for there are so many people out there who are worse off than i am
and i need to worry about and help them.

i have everything which i need
and i have ALWAYS had everything which i need
if there is something which i need that i do not have
      then i go out and get it

and i can and do take pride in that i am living on subsistence
so as not to pay any taxes for bombs and guns
and have lived on subsistence for many years
and it has brought me joy and peace

i voluntarily, joyously gave the house to my ex-spouse when we divorced
despite arguments with two lawyers who were against my doing that
and i told my parents to bypass me in their wills
and leave it all to my children
which they did
no one tells you to do that unless they're serious
the love i have for my children and their love for me is priceless

i have everything which i need,
needing nothing which i do not have
wanting everything that i do have
and wanting nothing which i do not need
nor anything that i do not have

so that, sentimentally or not, i am one of the
richest persons on earth
for what do i lack?

i have this superstitious belief
that God is taking care of all my needs
even though i don't believe in God

and i hope that i may say, when the time comes,
as Jean Valjean said in his last moments,
i do not know whether She who gave me life is satisfied with me
      in heaven, or wherever She is;
i have done what i could.

TO DRIVE OR NOT TO DRIVE (August 26, 2012)

Ogden Nash is one of my favorite poets
i think because he has this way of taking serious subjects
and making them light
and also taking light subjects
and making them serious

so he has a whole poem on parsley, for example which starts,
        I'd like to be able to say a good word for parsley,
        but I can't.
        And after all what can you find to say about something which
        even the dictionary dismisses as a biennial umbelliferous plant?

and another in which he poses the dilemma
Should he hope to feel sad or to feel fine
because he knows that if he feels bad, after a while he'll feel better
and if he feels fine, he knows that after a while he'll feel worse

but i've been thinking a lot about a personal dilemma of mine
which is, Should i drive to meeting and be on time
and pollute the atmosphere and increase global warming,
or should i walk and be late?
i omit any mention of whether to take the bus
after all, transit service has deteriorated greatly in recent years
and it requires split-second timing if you're going to catch it
and you still then have to wait for to transfer

anyway, i walk a lot and i've always enjoyed walking places
and i tell myself, as long as i can walk i know that i'm alive
but still, it takes me 50 minutes to get to meeting if i walk
and it's an exhilarating experience
but it means i have to get out of the house by 10:10
if i'm not going to be late

anyway again, i'm sure there are some people who feel
that it's better to be on time than it is to not drive
or in other words better to drive than to be late

but there it is, my personal moral dilemma
which i fret about a lot


A long time ago, it was in about 1978 or 1979,
i felt i needed to refuse to pay state income taxes.
        i had been a long time refuser of paying federal income tax
because it was used for war,
and i felt that i should refuse to pay state income tax
because some it was used for the gas chamber.
        and of course i didn't want the state to use the gas chamber.
        but, i wasn't sure of this,
so i asked the Meeting for a clearness committee.
        well, they appointed one, and it was a very weighty committee: Joachim Leppmann was on it, and Sandy Turner and Jan Marinissen, who was the AFSC Prison Secretary.
        we met three or four times,
and the result was that i did refuse to pay state tax that year.
        one thing i learned, was that the state is much faster than the IRS, they were at my door within a month.
        But i don't remember the clearness committee trying to persuade me one way or another; mostly they just listened to me, and that's what a clearness committee is suppose to do, i guess. i had been a federal tax refuser since 1965 and i didn't ask for a clearness committee then, i just went ahead and refused and took the consequences.
        and i was thinking about the craze that happened this past week, when the whole world, or at least the whole nation seemed to have gone crazy over something called the Super Bowl which i knew nothing about, i didn't know who was playing; but everywhere i turned people were talking excitedly about it, and it seemed trivial to me, i couldn't care less about who won, it was sort of like two ants worrying about which one was the tallest; or like Winnie-the-Pooh's jingle about Tigger:
        If Piglet Was bigger/or fatter or stronger/
        or bigger than Tigger/if Tigger was smaller/
        then Tigger's bad habit/of bouncing at Rabbit/
        Would matter no longer/if Rabbit were taller.

        but earlier i was thinking about my tendency of feeling resentment; and i know that feeling resentful is bad for you lt's just like pouring poison into your stomach.
        and then i started thinking about trusting the Meeting and i should ask the Meeting for help around my addiction to feeling resentment whenever things don't go the way i want them to.
        but i'm rising now, to tell you about this, and trusting that by speaking about it, here, in Meeting, that i will be more able to overcome this addiction.

THE IRS AND ME (4/21/13; prompted by a message about Martin Luther)

        i think that the closest i ever came to a Martin Lutheresque statement was in about 1983 -- i had been refusing to pay war taxes for some years, and i got a notice from the IRS putting a levy on my bank account for $15,000
        i remember getting the notice, and feeling like a concrete block had dropped on my head, and i paced back and forth in my living room trying to figure out what i was going to do
        and then the thought came to me, There is NOTHING they can do to me which would be WORSE than my paying for bombs and guns to kill people
        and that thought sustained me in living at subsistence for the next 12 years in main;aining my refusal to pay war taxes
        i was fortunate in being able to get self-employment where i could set my own pay, with no withholding; and i set it just high enough to cover my living expenses, so that when the IRS tried to attach me they had to take a financial statement from me; and it always showed that there was nothing for them to take: i had no property, no bank account, i did have a car and at one point they threatened to take it but even they admitted that it had no market value; and also i had instructed my parents to bypass me in their wills and leave it to my children
        so i feel that that is the most important thing i have done in my life; as is says in an old Latin round:
        I am poor;
        i have nothing;
        so i give my heart.


i'm hesitant to speak this morning
because i want to tell my story
and it's not about the Yearly Meeting
or this session of it
although it may be related to Quakerism

so i've been wrestling all morning with whether to speak about it

i became a tax refuser in 1965
    (i had read a leaflet by the Committee for Non-violent Action
    urging war objectors to refuse to pay their taxes)
and i remember that first spring when i had filled out my return
and i was filled with fear about not sending a check
but my hand just wouldn't write "Internal Revenue Service"
and i've been a refuser ever since
except during my marriage, for a couple of reasons
my ex-spouse didn't want to refuse to pay taxes
and because with our children we never seemed to owe much anyway
but after my divorce i went back to it

and i remember the consternation and panic and confusion i felt
when the IRS attached me in 1982
and took all the money out of my savings account
and i remember pacing back and forth in my living room
wondering what i was going to do
and it came to me, like God had put it into my mind,
i realize now that i had prepared my life for it
when we divorced, i had signed the house over to my ex-spouse
i had instructed my parents to bypass me in their wills
    and just leave it to my children
and i started living on subsistence, earning just enough to get by
no bank account, no property, just an old car
i was fortunate to get self-employment where i could get paid
    as much as i wanted to be paid
and i kept that up for 15 years
until finally the IRS gave in
and wrote off my case
they made me sign an offer in compromise
and a pledge that i would not agitate for others to refuse
for five years, but i don't feel guilty about that
i began talking about it again after the five years had passed
i'm retired now and still not living on very much
but when i look back on it
i see that living on subsistence and not paying any war taxes
has brought me joy and peace
and it's the most important witness i've made in my life
living in voluntary poverty is sometimes hard but it's wonderful

so i'm grateful for this Yearly Meeting
and i'm grateful for the leadership this year
and i'm grateful for all the interaction i've had this year
it feels like the best Yearly Meeting i've ever attended
of course, i realize that part of that is that i reached out more

so i want to thank you all, and bless you

PERSUASION (8/11/13)

This year at Yearly Meeting one of the limitations
was not having any e-mail access
well, that was good, in a way
but when i got home there were 47 unopened e-mails waiting for me
that's probably not very many compared to some people
but it took me more than an hour to get through it all

so this morning i was thinking, what is God calling me to do
if She is
and should i be going out into the world about some issue
and then it hit me,
i don't think i've ever convinced anyone of anything!
oh, sure, i probably taught my children some things
but they were in a formative state

so i figure, all i can do is just to keep listening