Monday, December 29, 2008

Concering the Crisis in Gaza and Southern Israel

Please pray for Palestine/Israel, especially southern Israel and Gaza where the killing by both sides is killing the innocent as well as the guilty.
Hold all people in the Light.

The whole situation of Palestine/Israel is so very complicated.

I don't have any quick answers for the extremely complex situation. However, I did live in Palestine/Israel in 1974, worked on a Jewish kibbutz, stayed briefly with a Palestinian family who befriended me in Nablus, and have read extensively books by both sides, etc.

My first suggestion is that we need to concentrate on giving all the different people of the Middle East the Good News. This is what America and Europe HASN"T done, except to a tiny degree with such activities as the Friends School in Ramallah,
Christian Peacemaker Teams, Brother Andrew's involvement in bringing Jew and Arab together, even going to HAMAS to share his perspective with its leaders (and helped
them when they were dumped midwinter into Lebanon years ago).

For instance, Eli Chacour a Palestinian/Israeli Arab priest gives out the Good News to all. He has worked with and started a school/university for all peoples of the area--Christian, Muslim, Druse, and Jew. He has also befriended non-theists.

That is a start.

Also, here are several books that might assist in helping everyone to understand the complexity of the area:

Once Upon a Country: A Palestinian Life by Sari Nusseibeh and Anthony David

Blessed are the Peacemakers by the former assistant mayor
of Ramallah (don't remember the name right now)

Blood Brothers by Elias Chacour
We Belong to the Land by Elias Chacour

Chacour's father, a Palestinian said that they needed to love
the Jews (when the Jews were escaping to the M.E.) yet later
the Israeli army kidnapped him and Chacour's brother
and dumped them in a foreign country, then they blew up
their Catholic church and drove all of the Palestinians
out of their town.

Yet Chacour still shows love to the Jewish people and all others.

Sounds like the Lamb's War,
the only war worth having.

Peace in the Light of Christ,

Daniel Wilcox

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Wholeness Necessary in Faith

Religion, indeed all human thought and action, seems given to divisive fragmentation--to one extreme or another; almost always leaving us unbalanced, often distorted in our quest for truth.

As Howard H. Brinton insightly explains in Friends for 300 Years this fragmentation even happens to renewal movements such as the Friends who came into being for the very purpose of regaining the wholistic truth.

Yet the Quaker movement itself swings between 4 poles, seldom seeming to walk in wholeness.

An excerpt by Brinton:

Quaker Thought and the Present

"Through the three centuries of Quaker history the four primary elements present in all religion have at different times exerted their influence in varying degrees."

"During the first century an a half mysticism and evangelicalism were in balance in the group as a whole though many individuals tended to stress one or the other;

during the nineteenth century mysticism and evangelicalism were in conflict, each pressing the other to extremes in the group as a whole, though in many individuals the two were in balance; and during the past half century rationalism and humanitarianism have assumed greater prominence, sometimes becoming dominant, though here again there are some individuals in whom the four tendencies are in balance."

"The best type of religion is one in which the mystical, the evangelical, the rational and the social are so related that each exercises a restraint on the others. Too exclusive an emphasis on mysticism results in a religion which is individualistic, subjective and vague;

too dominant an evangelicalism results in religion which is authoritarian, creedal and external; too great an emphasis on rationalism results in a cold, intellectual religion which appeals only to the few; too engrossing a devotion to the social gospel results in a religion which, in improving the outer environment, ignores defects of the inner life which cause the outer disorder."

"In Quakerism the optimum is not equality in rank of the four elements. The mystical is basic."

Brinton goes on to warn against "vitalism which worships the life-force in its biological sense" and the other distortions of true worship.

About the only point where I disagree with Brinton is when he says the 4 qualities "each exercise a restraint on the others." It is rather that when most bathed in the Light, the 4 parts of true spiritual reality relate/commune, giving a redeeming uplifting of each other and are the Seed of Ultimate Fulfillment.

Read Friends for 300 Years (it has been updated to Friends for 350 Years)
and be not only intellectually enlightened, but raised up in the Spirit!

Friend Daniel

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Lamb's War

Probably in human history there is no sin, no evil worse than human warfare.

Literally millions upon millions of innocent people have been slaughtered in the name of God.

That doesn't even deal with the multi-millions of soldiers who chose to kill each other in countless battles.

Over 100 million unarmed civilians were slaughtered in the 20th Century alone.

Even we Friends started out supporting religious war. According to First Friends a biography of George Fox by H. Larry Ingle, some early Friends were in the New Model Army of Oliver Cromwell during the English Civil War. Those devout Christians would go off to stealing, destroying, and killing while singing, joyously, psalms to their God.

Massacre at Drogheda, Ireland by Cromwell's troops

However by 1652, George Fox wrote: "That which is set up by the sword is held up by the sword. That which is set up by spiritual weapons is held up by spiritual weapons, and not by carnal weapons."

"The peacemaker has the kingdom and is in it, and has Dominion over the peace-breaker, to calm him in the power of God...The days of virtue, love and peace are coming, and the Lamb...shall have the victory."

Indeed, Quakers came to speak of "The Lamb's War"--the spiritual war by which all forms of human warfare would be defeated by God's love, by the cross of redemption.

One of the best true stories of this "Lamb's War" concerns a Christian attacked by two thugs in New York City. In the process of robbing him, the criminals poked out his eye!

However, rather than wanting and seeking revenge, he forgave the thugs and showed them God's forgiveness and concern--"warring" on them through love.

He visited them regularly in jail.

When one of the criminals later got out of prison, the Mennonite helped him get an education. Then he helped the former attacker to go on to college.

Eventually, that former thug became an eye specialist and helped people with eye problems.

Love overcame evil not by destruction but by creation.

Now that is a wondrous story of redeeming love. Of course, showing forth God's unending love doesn't often end happy in this life.

Many thousands of Friends, Anabaptists, heretics, etc. and many, many other people committed to loving their enemies have died horrific deaths as did Jesus himself. From the cruel torture device of Roman 'justice,' Jesus said, "Forgive them for they know not what they do."

The Quaker Tom Fox who moved to war-torn Iraq to witness for peace and justice was kidnapped and brutally murdered by the Muslims he had come to help.

Let us live in the compassion and altruism of hope, live the "Lamb's War," to defeat violence with love.

Daniel Wilcox

Friday, December 12, 2008

Experiencing Ultimate Reality, Ultimate Friendship

I have never been satisified with the usual, the good, nor the better, not even the best, but have always yearned for the unseen perfect--
have been an idealist, an individual who always seeks beyond this current half-way good state of affairs
to the wondrous,
the mystical,
the transcendent--
to God,
Ultimate Reality.

And as I share below, God has, a few wondrous times, overwhelmed me with his Presence far beyond my wildest ideals and dreams.


so much of my life (and I suppose most other people's lives) has been lived and continually needs to be lived in the humdrum, the routine, the repetitious, the mediocre, the dull, the boring --yes the drudgery and sludge of the average day.

Yet I long for, like the Psalmist speaks of, thirst for the wondrous and the true and the good and the loving.

Recently, I came across an insightful quote that helped me in my daily quandary; it revolutionized my thoughts of communion with God, since so often I am disappointed with how shallow, even dry, my experiences seem on any given day, especially on days taken up with the hectic or the tragic.

"A friendship based on emotion is shallow indeed...
When you feel abandoned by God yet continue to trust him in spite of your feelings, you worship him in the deepest way."

When I first read this, it reached me in the deepest place. Now I suppose for many of you, the insight seems obvious, but for me, the vital truth came anew--
friendship with God is action,
not primarily feeling or experience.

Since I am an artist through and through (one huge nerve ending;-),
this is difficult. I want to feel, feel, feel...

And I do hope to experience God again and again, but for now I know more deeply than I have for a long time, what most counts is to act
for the ideal,
for the true,
for the Ultimate.

That's perfection come down.

But, tragically, later Rick Warren turned away from this good news and became a Reformed determinist:-(
How strange!
According to the Reformed, not only do millions feel abandoned by God, it turns out that billions of us were abandoned/damned/foreordained to eternal torture
by God before time began.

I refuse to accept such horrific theology.

Instead, I look back to one time I did experience God to an overwhelming degree--

Outside the Limit

Working the thursday graveyard shift
At 7-11, I stock cold shelves of 'cours'
Then write a college essay on dreiser
Of how all is thin surface, all negation;

But alert in the night, I pray in the stillness
While beyond the glass, the parking lot lies
Vacant, lit by the neon signs and street lights--
When so unexpected my mind transports.

I rise outside of self, see far beyondness,
Perceive myself sitting between the rows,
Observe the little ego in the skin and skull
My bodied self sitting with the staid cans and jars.

But now awash drowned in awe, the Personal
Luminousness aware beyond words vivid bliss
Blessed all encompassing exalting surpassing
Great parabled One Pearl of Being.

-Daniel Wilcox

First pub. in Flutter Poetry Journal

May you find the Divine in your daily giving actions and at least once in an overwhelming mystical experience.

In the Light,


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Despair and the Ultimate

At tragic times in my life, when disastrous circumstances overwhelm and all hope seems lost, I drown in despair. And I feel, unbelievably, even worse, because as a Friend, a follower of Jesus,I am supposed to be one living in hope and joy.

The Good News of Christian hope is the answer for the world of despairing humankind, of those who suffer in agony. So why am I still caught in suffering and despair?

In the last several years of my life, I've reached a final nadir, lower than my own worst pessimism could have ever imagined. Keep in mind that I don't have terminal cancer, haven't lost loved ones in a tsunami like the one in Asia that killed hundreds of thousands, haven't lost my home...

No, my own despair is in the midst of the relative comfort of California where most citizens live with more physical necessities and amenities than 99% of humankind ever had.

But my particular despair is still genuine and debilitating and
destructive, keeping me often from accomplishing more in the world to reduce others' suffering.

However, rather than dwell on the ugly facts, let me hasten to a wondrous discovery that came to me one day deep in my bereft hopelessness.

It suddenly dawned on me that Jesus, though the messenger of God--is here with me--with all of us who suffer and agonize. I am not talking about his triumph but of his own despair, his cry from the cross--"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Matthew 27:46

In the past, I had read that verse umpteem times in my life before, but they had been words to study, to ferret out their literary relationship to previous texts in the Old Testament, to understand their abstract theological meaning...

But now, suddenly, they were words for me, to me...words that made me realize Jesus has been where I am, has felt that hopelessness that totally empties and yet gluts one with agony. He has gone deeper into hopeless despair than any drowning of my own, down more into the abyss of loss.

Not only did he lose his career, his relationships with others, his family, then was betrayed, and finally endured excruciating physical pain--he suffered all of those--but in the end he was executed, numbered with the criminals, the terrorists, the rejects on a cruel Roman torture device where the pain was unbearable. In Roman justice only the worst of the worst were assigned to the cross.

And with this shocking discovery--that the son of man experienced ultimate despair and felt totally abandoned--I realized that there is still hope for me (and for all others who suffer much worse than myself).

And then there came back to myself historical memories of the many spiritual leaders who also at times lost any sense of hope, who felt abandoned by the very One who was center-most in their lives: George Fox, John Wesley, Mother Theresa, Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen...

It never ceases to trouble and shock when I re-read in the Gospels how even John the Baptist, who had first announced Jesus as God's Chosen One, later in prison became so devastated in his grief, so hopeless, that he severely doubted Jesus was truly God's answer to human suffering and evil.

From the "dark night of the sou" of St. John of the Cross to the present, so many Christians who have lived for hope have gone through the abyss when all assurance has seemed lost. George Fox at one point spoke of how he experienced an "ocean of darkness." As I recall, he suffered with despair for at least two weeks, so bereft that he lay in bed unable to function.

Now at this point in my reflection I could launch into the traditional good news message of salvation that energized the first Quakers so deeply they traveled across the known world to share their faith--and I do, very deeply, have faith in that wondrous story--but my intention in this meditation is of a different sort; it's to communicate the vital truth that no matter how deep our loss, how terrible our agony, how absolute and ultimate our despair, God is there for us, with us, within our terrible loss.

Indeed, God suffers all that we deeply and so ultimately suffer; God carries within God's essence the pain and suffering of us all, indeed of all the pain and suffering of the Cosmos. Before God saves, God loves, identifies, experiences, suffers with us.

Of course, this makes no sense from a scientific or mathmatical point of view. It is spriitually discerned, an ethical truth not a sense observation. God is not an object that can be weighed in objective scales. God is the source of all being and becoming, so can only be known subjectively.

Furthermore, such incredible hope does seem when looked at rationally to be absurd.

Still, I think we ought to seek to love God with all of our mind, even though ultimately God is beyond human comprehension.

But the wonder of wonders is our hope that Ultimate Reality actually cares and suffers with us and for us--we finite beings, conscious primates on a small planet in minor solar system in one small edged swirl of the cosmos.

Despite the ruthless nature of the observable world, the good news is first and foremost that Ultimate Truth experiences what we experience and most deeply loves us even at our worst.

Despite my best efforts, I've never been able to give myself to God ultimately, except in fragmented inspired moments. But thankfully, the Divine in contrast, has given ultimately to us.

Hope in the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Few Books--Lighthouses of the Spirit

A few books--among the many tomes I've read over the years--have been lighthouses to me by which the Spirit of God has guided me past the Scylla's and Charybdis's of this
temptuous, troubled life.

When I have failed, such books have helped rescue this wayfarer from life's raging sea and helped in my recovery.

In the next few weeks, I'll take time to reflect on some of these shining lights. I suppose it goes without saying that the Bible is the foundation.

However let it be extremely clear--carefully cautioning all you readers--that Scripture is Light only if interpreted by the good reasoning and reflecting faculties that God has given us humans.

Tragically the Bible has been sincerely wrongly applied resulting in much suffering, tragedy, and many horrors in history done by the Roman Catholic Church and the Reformers, etc.

For instance, based on the Bible, Martin Luther spewed forth his hate and invective against the Jews, calling on his readers to destroy their synagogues, confiscate their Jewish Bibles, and so forth. For hundreds of years millions of people followed such immoral advice until finally one generation carried these appalling misinterpretations of Scripture to their demonic conclusion.

I hope it is very clear to the reader that I am NOT a literalist, nor when I recommend a book do I necessarily subsribe to how others have interpreted its words. For that matter some of the books which have been lighthouses to me, are also seriously flawed and cracked in their lenses. I have been helped despite their errors.

Second on the list, after the Bible, would have to be--I have no idea:-) I won't try and do a descending top ten, but cast out the winners like bread upon the waters.

The Eternal Promise (and A Testament of Devotion) by Thomas Kelly;

The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener by Martin Gardner

The Journal of George Fox and The Journal of John Woolman;

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonnehoffer;

Contemplative Prayer by Thomas Merton;

Clowning in Rome by Henri Nouwen;

Slavery, Sabbath, War and Women by Willard M. Swartley;

The Nature and Destiny of Man by Reinhold Niebuhr;

On Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau;

Dynamics of Faith by Paul Tillich...

These books reached me when I was adrift., drowning in American Christianity's arid doctrinal disputes while my own personal life was barren, and I was bereft from seeing so much evil done in the name of Christ.

To upside-down the metaphor, these books were Living Water in my life when all else was empty--only broken cisterns, poisonous wells, mirages of deception...

I often re-read parts of these books when I get discouraged or am caught in the morass of some temptation or wrong action or faced with daunting circumstances.

Read on dear Friends:-)

Daniel Wilcox

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Irony of Christianity

Isn't it ironic that in a number of recent studies and surveys--and in the ugly politcal and social discourse in the United States--Christians as a group are shown to be immoral, indeed less ethical in some cases than non-religious people? I am well aware studies and surveys can be skewed and that statistics are often misleading, however, these recent news reports are still troubling. Where in recent months do you see the Good News shared?

Must it not grieve Jesus (as he grieved outside of Jerusalem) to see his followers who are supposed to be known for their compassionate love, are instead known for their warring, their intolerance, their arrogance, their self-centered nationalism, ethnocentricism, divorce, hypocrisy, slander...The list seems endless.

Of course such dissonance between Christ's way of love, peacemaking, patience, mercy, compassion, purity, generosity, thankfulness, praise and Christians' immoral behavior is nothing new. But let us not dig up the awful past--the Inquisition, Crusades, Thirty Years War, English and American Civil Wars, slavery, colonialism, etc.

We can do nothing about the past. This generation--we are here and now--is called to live the Way of Christ, to share, to give, to help, to bring peace.

May God help us to live in the Center, not in the ways of the world.

Daniel Wilcox

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

On the Nature of Reading and Life

from another blog:

When I was a child, if I was afraid or unsure of something, all I had to do was to open one of my favorite books, and I would drown in the characters' experiences and problems. Now that I have my own problems, dealing with real life, when I open a book, all I can do is compare my own experiences with the characters'. So it kind of made an opposite effect - I now start thinking of the problems in the book, which reminds me of my own problems, which in turn makes me angry: "Why in the world do I worry about a non-existing character? I've got my own things to worry about!"
Katya Timmons

Yes, how often have I drowned out my own problems by drowning in the much worse terrors of storied others of another time and place which then brought rescue to me in my own life.

However, unlike your present situation, I still am able to find succor in the past difficulties of characters. I just finished reading several historical novels set in the 17th and 18th centuries, one during the horrors of the English Civil War. Seeing through the eyes and feelings of one character (so very different from me and my own life) actually helped me endure, recently, one of the worst experiences of my life.

Indeed, rather strange.

Also, is it not strange, how sometimes characters out of fiction--someone else's vivid imagination--are more real than the physically present people around us now(who keep themselves distant and unknown)?

More later

Daniel Wilcox

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Veterans Day Held Up to the Light

Veterans Day (also called Armistice Day or Remembrance Day)is November 11th, the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I--so in a sense it is a day for celebrating peace or originally was meant to be so, but now, in the United States at least, it has become more of a promotion justifying unjust wars of the present and the past.

Religious people, who claim to follow Christ (the who loved his enemies and calls us to do the same), instead use their worship time to glory in their own nation and its wars, even current conflicts (from their own side, of course).

Yet James of the N.T. had it right when he said "Where do these wars and battles between yourselves first start? Isn't it precisely in the desires fighting inside your own fight to get your way by force." JB

Have you noticed that almost invariably each nation thinks its cause is right and just and that it is the other nation who is the evil one?

From the Faith and Practice of Pacific Yearly Meeting of Friends:

We utterly deny all outward wars, and strife, and fightings with outward weapons, for any end, or under any pretence whatsoever, and this is our testimony to the whole world...The spirit of Christ which leads us into all Truth will never move us to fight and war against any man with outward weapons, neither for the kingdom of Christ, nor for kingdoms of this world. George Fox

The Kingdom of God is both present in each of us and a goal yet to be fulfilled. The task may never be done but sustained by God's love we are called to pursue it.

When I lived in the Middle East (worked on an Israeli kibbutz and stayed with a Palestinian family, too, in Nablus), I found loving people on both sides of the conflict, yet both peoples were prepared to kill each other for ideology and for land, even for God! And they are still doing so this week.

And I remember during the Vietnam War when I was encouraged by my Christian youth leader to go to Vietnam and kill communists for Christ. It was God's will, he said.

How tragic!

Such thinking is not from the Light of God.

On this Veterans Day, let us who are committed to peace, seek to spread the good news of Jesus, "Love your enemies..Blessed are the peacemakers."

When thinking of Muslims who oppose us, we ought to remember Brother Andrew's insightful acronym--He says, "ISLAM, for Christians, means I Sincerely Love All Muslims."

God bless all countries, all people's--no exceptions!
from the recent bumper sticker

The Nature of Baptism

As a Friend I am convinced that baptism is primarily a spiritual reality. For one reason the physical ritual includes all sorts of Christians who claim the other brands aren't even Christians. They attack each other verbally and often have slaughtered each other in so many Christian-sponsored wars.

How can there be ONE baptism in one Spirit when that happens?

And think of the many thousands of other disagreements among Christians:
Calvinists declare there are no Gifts of the Spirit but charismatics and Pentecostals claim the opposite.
Evangelicals claim the Bible is inerrant but liberals state Scripture has many errors.
Fundamentalists argue the Bible is scientifically accurate, evolution is a satanic lie, and the end of the world is coming in this generation
while mainline Christians think those views are ludicrous.

There are many Christians who support killing unarmed civilians in war, who think that the nuclear weapons are given to the U.S. by God, that using torture is justified, that becoming wealthy doesn't mean one needs to share with the world's impoverished.

Where is the love of Christ in this? Where is the Spirit of their formal baptism?

It seems rather that true baptism is spiritual and unseen, when God's Spirit begins to slowly transform a person toward the Truth, the Good, and the Loving.

Physical acts of baptism may be used by some who derive much comfort or inspiration from outward signs, but the danger always remains.

Allegedly, most Germans of the Great War and the Nazi Holocaust War (WWII) era were baptized
yet that didn't show forth in their lives as they went out to slaughter other Christians of the Allies.

And Allied baptized Christians returned the evil favor, urged on by war promoters such as American evangelist Billy Sunday.

Don't forget the Thirty Years War, the American Civil War, and the English Civil War (where Cromwell's "New Model Army" which killed while singing Bible verses! attacked the King's forces who also killed for Jesus Christ).

Sounds more like a baptism into injustice and sin.

No wonder Jesus wept.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Destiny, the Way of God, Versus Evil and Disaster in the World

"God doesn't cause messes for a purpose but he brings purposes to the messes."
Greg Boyd

What deep waters in a pop maxim of only 14 words!

Such a hope-'comet' to hang one's life onto!

Instead of the despairing and severely misguided theology of religious people--from Calvinists to Muslims to Hindus--who claim God wills all evil and all suffering, that every typhoon, earthquake, and war are God's idea and plan.

On the contrary, in this imperfect, actually messy, world, in this unfinished cosmos, God is Unlimited Benevolence and Goodness seeking to guide the cosmos and us finite conscious humans.

God wants to help us redeem the time and the place of where ever we are.

Our destiny is not today's momentary temptation, superficial experience, or tragic event.

We are called to live in the Light of God's eternal becoming.
I John, I Corinthians 13, etc.

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Inclusive or Exclusive?

"It is true that I have tried to make sure applicants understood that the Society of Friends they want to join is at its heart a Christian movement, but I DO NOT believe that retaining or recovering our Christian focus is a matter of policing who can join our meetings. Our spiritual clarity will not come from defending our "borders" with the outside world, but from affirming our Center from within."
Brooklyn Quaker

This Friend speaks to our condition. His statement reminds me of Thomas Kelly's comments in A Testament of Devotion and The Eternal Promise and
the many words of the Good News beginning in the New Testament that God is love and does not wish anyone to perish.

Quaker WebRing

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

To start this new blog, I would like to give several of my favorite quotes--ones that guide and sustain me:

"I saw that there was an ocean of darkness and death; but an infinite ocean of light and love, which flowed over the ocean of darkness. In that I saw the infinite love of God."
George Fox

"True religion consisted in an inward life, wherein the heart does love and reverence God the Creator, and learns to exercise true justice and goodness...I found no narrowness respecting sects and opinions, but believed that sincere, upright-hearted people, in every society, who truly love God, were accepted of him."
John Woolman

John 15: 12-15 "Love each other as I have loved you.. I call you friends because I have made known to you everything I heard from my Father."
Jesus the Chosen One

1646: "When all my hopes in them and in all men were gone, so that I had nothing outwardly to help me, nor could I tell what to do, then, oh, then, I heard a voice which said, 'There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition.'"
George Fox