Quaker meeting in Bologna

It’s been really chaotic lately in my life with the hustle of the family all around. I found a moment of much needed stillness this morning at the Bologna worship group that Marisa Johnson of the FWCC helped me get in touch with.

It was a familiar little circle of older gentleman gathered in “the Peace School” in Bologna. Like most thing’s these days, I don’t really catch all the details of the introductions or summaries of most experiences but charge into them as they come. I gathered that the 4 gentlemen are associated with the university (oldest in Europe) and have a leftish bent. An Italian translation of Thich Nhat Han involving something to do with leaving our bodies may have been involved

Anyway, I leave my body often here. When everyone is talking at once around me or I’m tired and sick or I don’t find the topic of conversation very interesting it’s amazingly possible to turn off my brain. Wind it down. It can be a little disconcerting when this happens all the time but I absolutely need it as a kind of defense sometimes.

It’s strange to enjoy the sound of my thoughts in silence though. Usually when my mind races in meeting I try to shut it off, but today it felt fine to have a little moment surrounded by others where I could just do my thing. I actually appreciated the fact it was only 45 minutes too

Moving Quickly

A postcard from Pendle Hill "Just outside the Beltway"

I sold the boat, this much is true
I quit the Rachel Corrie office too

I bit the bullet, changed my life

My blessings are so many, rife

I’m chilling out in Philly now
Peaceful like a just-milked cow

The city’s warm, it’s late Sobember
A time to visit, love, remember

With little plan but some paper cuts
A show downtown, I love to putz

Life starts coming when I stop and let it
And so far I do not regret it


My cousin files suit

My cousin Toby just filed suit today against the Selective Service System petitioning them to provide a space on the draft registration form for Conscientious Objectors to indicate their moral opposition to war.  He is supported by the ACLU in this case and we are interested in spreading the word as much as possible to sympathetic people.  Strategically speaking, the best possible outcome at this point is making this lawsuit as public and embarrassing for the SSS as possible, thereby drawing attention to the issue of opposition to war on religious grounds.  So spread the word, my cousin is hoping that his action inspires folks to rethink this issue and make it their own.

Here is his statement about it in the context of an article posted today in the Washington Post.  Check out his site, post your thoughts or support, let folks know!

Dear friend,

I filed a suit today at the DC federal court house, declaring that I should be allowed to register for the draft only if I can do so as a recognized conscientious objector to all war.

And I can prove it, here’s my article in the post along with a short but fascinating video of yours truly and my lawyer, Art.

If you have the time, please forward this link on to anyone who you think would be interested.  I’ve only sent it out to a handful of my friends, but it’s really an important part of this whole legal venture that word get spread– and especially to young people who’ll be facing draft registration in the near future.

Also perhaps relevant, my website, www.registerforpeace.org

Thank you so much for your time!


To my fellow Young Adult Friends

The muezzin has just called out the faithful to attend Friday prayers at the hole-in-the-wall mosque across the street. It’s so small that when the men crowd in there, particularly on a Friday afternoon, quite a number of them end up spilling out onto the sidewalk outside. I think folks at home may have the misconception that this is normal, or that when the call the prayer happens everyone just busts out their prayer rug on the pavement and starts to pray. Despite the raised profile faith has gotten through a lot of politicization recently, religion is still a very private matter in Turkey. It feels a little awkward to witness folks prostrating themselves as I go about my business in this rare little corner of the city.

At the same time, I’m holding all my brothers and sisters in the Light this weekend as they head to a conference envisioning “A New Kind of Quaker.” The profile of faith amongst young friends has really been raised up lately, with a buzz of optimism about the future of politics and a longing for change in the RSF. I pray that in the hurry and flurry of this excitement we do not forget that faith is ultimately a private concern.

Our God loves to see us spill out of our little houses of worship or sing unity songs together. But ultimately the simple Truth we seek is that His first priority is our individual recognitions of his power and love in our lives. Don’t think that you can “figure out” how to repair the faith. Come to those conferences in full recognition of the impossibility of your fallen intentions and with the desire to let God speak through you. Let unity within our faith flow from our individual submissions to God. Let us first seek unity within ourselves.

After all, “… what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

To be a little boy again….

I arrived in Istanbul and have settled in with my host family once again. Sitting by the truck on our way back from the mountain cabin today, my host brother actually complimented my Turkish (“Well it’s not THAT good, but it’s enough”) We’d been talking about how dolphins catch fish and the various attributes of his favorite soccer players and I realized those topics aren’t as basic as they appear in one’s own language.

It feels almost like coming back to a second home when I’m here, albeit a home filled with a language I only 80% understand. I’ve almost let go of that concern though, trusting that eventually I’ll become more fluent and in the mean time feeling remarkably peaceful. I’ve completely let go of the sad and difficult memories of this place now, especially the challenging high school sojourn, which frees me up immensely.

I had a dream of standing beside a house fire last weekend while I was staying in Philadelphia. Just a few days before my aunt and I had discussed the scripture passage where we are promised that God offers beauty for ashes. In meeting the day after my dream, ministry focused on how we can burn away our hangups to be as children again, open and full of wonder. Perhaps our choice to burn away our personal hurts in order to build deeper spiritual connection and recapture child-like wonder is part of God’s gift of beauty.

Staying with my little host brothers, who I’ve watched grow from toddlers to preadolescents, I connect again with the beauty I remember finding everywhere as a child. I’m also eternally grateful I’m not a willful little brat anymore.

Setting up Shop

I’m several days into setting up this blog and still learning how it all works. Not yet fully satisfied with much of what you see here, but that will improve with time.

I would like to give proper credit to the influences and supporters I have to thank for this journey I am taking. My delegation with the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) is supported largely through a grant from the Lyman Fund. (More about them through Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s website http://www.pym.org/pm/more.php?id=1710_0_196_30_M ) The Fund supports individuals pursuing their spiritual leading and I am very grateful to them for helping make this trip possible.

For those readers who are unfamiliar and curious about Quakers online presence, I must give Martin Kelley (http://www.quakerranter.org/quaker/) credit for planting the blogger’s seed in me when I met him years ago on my motorcycle pilgrimage (made possible by the Pickett Fund for Quaker Leadership). It’s taken a while for me to pull together one of my own but I really appreciate the space and encouragement he and others have given me. (whether they were aware of it or not)

I just wanted to share these couple other links to people and resources related to aspects of this trip:

Joy Ellison is the daughter of Friends of Friends on my support committee for this trip. Her “I saw it in Palestine” blog (http://inpalestine.blogspot.com/) talks about her experience as a full time Christian Peacemaker Teams member in the South Hebron Hills. I’ve recently learned that CPT is
closing its Hebron office so I speculate wildly that our delegation will focus more closely on the work Joy and others are doing in the villages surrounding Hebron.

QuakerQuaker.org gives lots of links to Friend’s online contributions.


I worshiped at Yardley Friends Meeting in Bucks county yesterday, the last stop on my Quaker motorcycle pilgrimage 3 years ago. I’ve been staying with my aunt Nina across the border in New Jersey for the last little stretch here, revitalizing myself and taking it easy. When she suggested we return to Yardley, (she inspired our first visit 3 years ago) I was eager to go.

Walking back into that meetinghouse I was reminded how far I feel like I’ve come since I was last there. At that time I remember feeling disappointed and tired at the tail end of my journey, somehow wishing I could have done more or that the petty struggles of Quakerism would melt away to offer me greater solace. Now I feel comforted by a deeper personal connection with God, a fledgling relationship that wells up in me when I am open to it and holds me when I’m not. Sitting in worship yesterday I did not feel as if all my struggles have been resolved or that life is somehow easier now, but I trust now that things are as they should be. I am trusting that I will grow and that makes all the difference.