Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Tears of timeless reunion: a poem

I am feeling deep gratitude to my spiritual director Dennis Gibbs, who listened to my poetry today and encouraged me to write another poem of grief.  I went to the Huntington Garden, a place where I loved to spend time with my late wife Kathleen, and this poem came to me by a lily pond where we used to hang out. I am also grateful to my men's group, "Brothers on a Journey," where I learned that scientists have identified at least three types of tears, though of course we know there are infinitely more. And also my thanks go to Rose-Lynn Fisher, for taking these stunning pictures of tears...

Tears of timeless reunion

Scientists say there are three types of tears,
Or maybe seventeen, depending on the study.
I’m sure I’ve known them all,
And probably you have, too.
I’m no expert, but no novice, either.

We all have known the tears that lubricate,
Tears that implicate, tears that extricate,
Intricate tears of feelings
too subtle for words.
The not so subtle tears we cried
when we were children
and didn’t get what we wanted,
The tears we cried as adults
when we got what we wanted,
but not what we expected.
Tears of laughing till we cried,
tears of grieving till we wished to die,
Bitter, sweet, healing tears….
Each with its own chemical and emotional composition.
Basal tears,
reflex tears,
psychic tears.

Tears that appear under a microscope
like an amazing landscape
I’d like to explore, but not alone,
Maybe with you, if you are willing to go with me
To lush and verdant places
watered with tears,
Lovely beyond words
when studied under a microscope….

Who knew that heartbreak magnified
could seem so wondrous?

I’m such a novice after so many years,
So many tears.
Still learning the landscape of the heart,
So many variables, twists and turns,
so many questions….

Like, what are tears of timeless reunion?
Who but a specialist knew such tears existed?

As I sit here with my notebook,
Remembering how we came here once,
And sat together
as if
we were going to enjoy this scene forever….
This timeless lily pond,
surrounded by bamboo,
Turtles sunning themselves,
a black bird surveying its world,
A koi that leaps unexpectedly,
ecstatically out of the water….

Could this pond have been made from tears
My friends and neighbors shed alone,
Afraid to share their grief with anyone?

The waters seem so pure and clear,
Reflecting the trees and sky…..
Thoreau once called a pond like this “the heaven’s eye”….
Or is it earth’s eye, filled with heaven’s tears?

What kind of tears did God shed when He saw
His precious one nailed to a cross,
Or sees his children murder in His name?
Are they tears of grief,
tears of frustration?
Tears of rage,
An ocean of tears that Noah floated on
for forty nights, or was it forty years?
A river of tears in which we plunge ourselves
in hopes of drowning,
The tears that change our hearts of stone into
A bird that sings:
“My precious my beloved one!”

I offer you these tears as a gift,
The most precious gift I know,

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Do Quakers hide behind a wall of silence?

As I mentioned in a previous blog, there was a Quaker poetry-sharing session at my Meeting in which I read a poem about the death of my beloved wife of blessed memory. When I burst into tears, recalling this terrible loss, I was stunned when there was an dead silence from Friends. No one spoke a word, or expressed any interest or sympathy.  I read the poem a second time, and there was still no response. It was as if I was in an empty room. I was profoundly hurt and shaken.

After wards,  I began to question my Quaker faith and practice. Are we Quakers creating walls of silence separating ourselves from our feelings and each other? Do we hide behind a facade of spirituality? Are we just pretending or are we for real about being friends? What is preventing us from acting like human beings?

Last night I went to  my men's group at All Saints Episcopal Church. I have been meeting with this group of men each Monday night for several years. It's  been an incredibly life-giving experience to be among men who have the courage to be honest and vulnerable about their feelings. We share deeply about our personal struggles, our relationship issues, our sex lives, our spiritual yearnings. When a man shares something especially painful and personal, we thank him for being honest. 

During my share time, I read the same poem that I read to the Quakers and the response was utterly different. My "brothers on the journey" were empathetic, caring, and deeply Spirit-led.  Some even wept with me. I felt their love and it touched me deeper than words can tell. I told them, "Thank you for being human!" 

A couple of men shared their insights about the poem, and how it had affected them. They didn't feel "awkward." They asked me questions. They showed interest. We talked about how sacred our feelings are--a gift from God. Recognizing the sacredness of our feelings is my spiritual "growing edge."

Because I was so vulnerable, other men in the group felt free to share their hearts, and even their tears. It was a blessed night. 

Because of our honesty, I feel that this group of men have demonstrated a kind of love and spirituality I don't experience in my Quaker meeting. In our Meeting, the silence is often heavy and a little intimidating because people become annoyed if anyone has the temerity to stand up and speak. They go to ministry and counsel and complain that so-and-so's message is too long, or too political, or isn't sufficiently spiritual. As a result, people are reluctant to share. We learn to hold back our feelings since it isn't safe to express them.

Perhaps this is why people in my Meeting were reluctant to open up and be real during the poetry session. Holding back is part of our Meeting's culture. We have learned to hide behind a wall of silence.

Granted, we did open up a bit during an adult study in which we talked about vocal ministry. That was an important breakthrough. During that session, I felt as if a window had opened and a little light had streamed into our Meetinghouse. Praise God! 

So I have been asking myself, and God, Is this really the way it has to be with Friends? Is our Quaker practice fatally flawed?

Then I remembered that Friends in other Meetings and in other situations have found ways to let the Light into our lives, even the dark and vulnerable parts of their lives. In La Jolla Meeting, there was a painful conflict over a member who allegedly behaved inappropriately towards women in the Meeting, and the men and women were so freaked out they formed support groups to explore their feelings. The women's support group disbanded after the women had processed their feelings. But the men's group has continued and it functions in much the same way as the men's group at All Saints Church. So it is possible for Quaker men to be real and honest and vulnerable with each other. I wish that we had  such a group at my Meeting. We really need it!

I also recall that when I first became involved with Friends at Princeton Meeting thirty years ago, my mentor Herrymon Maurer led a weekly "surrender group" based on the AA Twelve Step Program. This is what I wrote about my first experience with Quakers, an experience not unlike what I am now experiencing with the Episcopalians:
The "Surrender Group" was started in the early 1970s a few years after Herrymon joined AA and turned his life around. Its format was simple: AA’s Twelve Steps were re-cast, in deference to Quaker practice, as "Ten Queries." Each week participants would focus on a single query: "Are you willing to make Truth the center of your life?" or "Are you willing to give up compulsions and devices?" The questions were simple, but the responses were often deep and challenging. Participants were encouraged to share from their personal experience, and to help others to understand how we could in fact change our lives. I had never experienced anything quite like it before, or since. 
What made the "Surrender Group" dynamic was the presence of recovering alcoholics deeply committed to spiritual transformation, and the presence of Herrymon, whose wisdom and humor pervaded the gathering. 
"I don’t think I’d be here today if not for Herrymon and the Surrender Group," says Harriet, one of the group’s original members. "When I first went to the group, I was 29 years old and had just found out that my husband was manic-depressive. Herrymon helped me get through this crisis spiritually as well as psychologically." (See

Clearly, Friends are capable of being honest and real about their feelings if they are given the right format in which to do so, Perhaps the problem isn't with Quakerism, but with our insistence on using "Quaker dialogue" for every kind of encounter. "Quaker dialogue" works well as a way to curb the tendency to be aggressive and argumentative. It helps promote compassionate and deep listening.  But like every form, it has its limitations. It can be used to stifle feelings and to discourage people from expressing empathy. That's why I am beginning to question this form.

During the world Quaker conference in Peru, I was asked to facilitate a "home group," a small worship-sharing group for Friends from different branches of Quakerism. My co-leader was a lively and deeply spiritual young woman in her thirties from New York. She was very creative and together we came up with innovative ways to help the group connect emotionally and spiritually. We used art, dance, and even finger puppets!  We also had times of traditional worship and "Quaker dialogue" with queries. We weren't locked into one form and our goal was not to follow the form but to be open to the Spirit. 

The results were amazing, and some said our home group was one of the best at the gathering. The high point for me was the day we decided to use dance as our modality. The query for the day: "What do you feel is God's yearning for Creation?" Instead of having a heady theological discussion, we asked Friends to express themselves through dance. How would you act out your response to this question using your body instead of words? 

Having never done this before, I had no idea how this would turn out and was a little nervous. But my co-leader and I both felt this is what Spirit was calling us to invite Friends to do. 

As we gathered in a circle in silence, I closed my eyes and felt led to reach towards my chest and symbolically take out my heart and plant it in the ground. After I got down on my knees, "buried" my heart, I looked up and saw something that brought tears to my eyes as well as a profound sense of the Divine Presence. While I was on my knees, Friends had formed a circle, locking arms and moving in unison. What an expression of Unity!

I joined the circle and then Friends gradually moved out of the circle one by one and began to dance alone and in small groups and then rejoined the circle. It was as if we were being divinely choreographed!

I can't begin to put into words the power and the magic of this experience. I just knew that God was expressing Her deepest yearning through us. 

So I know that Friends don't have to hide behind walls of silence. We can be free and let the Light shine and through us. By being free and honest ourselves, we help to free others to express their feelings and to honor the source of Light and Love and true freedom.

Loving God, please help us  to create windows, not walls, when we come together, so we can see and feel the Light within each other and emanating from You. Help us to honor each other feelings as gifts and not feel awkward. Help us appreciate our humanness, our brokenness. For Your Son  Jesus was not afraid to be vulnerable when he said, "This is my body, broken for you..."  He hung on the cross, naked, humiliated, but willing to reach out his loving arms and accept everyone with love. So let us be broken and tender with each other, accept each other as we are, and experience Your amazing love and healing.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

"An axe to cut open a window" to the soul: reflections on a Quaker poetry study

During prayer I am accustomed to turn to God like this 
that’s the meaning of the words of the Tradition,
‘the delight felt in the ritual prayer.’
The window of my soul opens,
and from the purity of the Unseen World,
the Book of God comes to me straight.
The Book, the rain of Divine Grace, and the Light
are falling into my house through a window
from my real and original source.
The house without a window is Hell:
to make a window is the foundation of true religion.
Don’t thrust your axe upon every thicket:
come, use your axe to cut open a window. -- Rumi

When it was announced there would be an adult study devoted to poetry at my Quaker meeting, I was excited about attending since poetry has been my passion since junior high school. For me, poetry is a way of connecting with the soul, through language that speaks to the heart. When I am in the presence of real poetry, or real art, or real religion, I feel fully alive.

Our facilitator is a woman who sees herself as a mystic and used a "worship sharing mode" for this poetry session. This meant that we were supposed to read a poem, then allow for silence in which people could respond, if Spirit led them. We began with the marvelous poem by the Sufi poet Rumi (the one quoted above), and then settled into silence. 

The first woman to speak read a poem she wrote in high school, a "sonnet" about wanting to ban nuclear weapons.  She told us her teacher liked it a lot and told her to publish it in the school magazine. Another woman spoke feelingly about how Rumi's poem reminded her how much she liked having a window in her office where she worked in a hospital. This led me to share a poem about the death of my wife, which I wrote in Paul Lacey's poetry workshop. 

I told the group that it's been seven years since my wife of twenty years passed away of a cancer. This poem about her death began with an image of a window, the window through which my wife had her last glimpse of the world.

From your window in ICU

(for kathleen)

From your window in ICU
you could see only the dry river bed
but you joyfully imagined
where it led towards the blue mountains
and the rocky paths where you loved to walk
qmidst the pale green chapparal
What a celebration it was
when those who were reborn
as stem cell survivors gathered
joyously at the City of Hope
Thousands of them, with their loved ones
caregivers, doctors, nurses--some of them dancing
some simply standing up or sitting down
miraculously, self-consciously alive
with buttons proclaiming their age:
one year, five years, twenty years old.
My button said, “One day….”

On the day you had your transplant
I brought you a balloon
to celebrate our re-birthday
our new life about to begin

And now in my mind I release that balloon
once again
and let it float away
dancing in the air with a kind of wild joy
towards those blue mountains
where you yearned to go

As I read this poem, I broke down and cried. When I finished, there was a dead silence. I say "dead" because no one spoke and gave any kind of reaction.  It was painful and it seemed inhuman for no one to speak to a man breaking down in tears remembering the death of his wife. Yet no one spoke. No one breathed even a sigh of sympathy. It was as if I was in an empty room, or a room filled with corpses. 

After a few moments of this painful silence, the same woman read another poem she wrote in high school, this time about giving her life to Christ and God. 

We moved on, and people read poems by George Herbert and e.e. cummings and Michael Donaghue and Jose Marti.   There was no emotional sharing, no reflection about what these poems meant, Poems were simply read. Then there was silence. Then another poem was read. 

At one point, our facilitator made an effort to lump all the poems into one.

"They are all about new beginnings," she said in barely audible voice. Then she spoke cheerfully about going to Pendle Hill and hoping to connect with Sufis in that area. "That would be blissful," she said.

 I felt a twinge in my gut. My poem had nothing to do with beginnings. It was about an ending, a tragic, painful ending. The death of my wife. It felt as if the facilitator had not heard a word I had said. She certainly didn't demonstrate any empathy.

As different people read poems, I wondered: why had they chosen these poems? What did they mean to them? How did they feel about them? But there was little or no sharing of deep feelings or insights. I was intrigued when my Mexican Friend read a poem by Jose Marti in Spanish and English:


Cultivo una rosa blanca,
En julio como en enero,
Para el amigo sincero
Que me da su mano franca.
Y para el cruel que me arranca
El corazón con que vivo,
Cardo ni oruga cultivo:
Cultivo la rosa blanca.

I have a white rose to tend
In July as in January;
I give it to the true friend
Who offers his frank hand to me.
And for the cruel one whose blows
Break the heart by which I live,
Thistle nor thorn do I give:
For him, too, I have a white rose.

I was fascinated by this simple, but beautiful poem about forgiveness (the poet gives the same white rose both to the one he loves, and the one who wounds him) and wondered why my friend had chosen it.

When the facilitator heard this poem, her face brightened, but her comment was not about its content. She didn't ask why our friend had chosen it. Instead, she said:

"I really like that poem, I'd like to use it in my ESL class."

Her responses, and the awkward silences of the group, were very disconcerting to me.  

I told this to my wife, and her response was, "Well, that's the way Quaker are." Meaning emotionally disconnected.

"You're right. That's the way some Quakers are, in my meeting," I replied. "But remember I wrote this and other poems in a workshop at Pendle Hill by another Quaker. Paul Lacey is an amazing teacher who loves poetry and knows how to connect with people. He was open to feelings and he created a safe and friendly space where we could freely write poems from the heart. I wrote some of my best poems during that workshop. So not all Quakers are emotionally stifling."

In fact, several Friends in this adult study came to me afterwards and expressed sympathy and appreciation. So I know that those present did feel something when I broke down in tears. They weren't dead. They simply did not feel free to share their hearts. That is very sad. Unless we feel free to share our hearts with each other, it's hard to be authentic and our spiritual life will suffer. 

One of the best parts of this session was the poem by Rumi that the facilitator had us read a the beginning. I love the line "to make a window is the purpose of real religion" and "use an axe to cut open a window." A window into the soul.....

That's what I try to do with my poetry and my ministry, to open up a window into the soul. That's what I am trying to do by writing this reflection. 

My "trial by fire" as a poet was in the poetry workshops I took with Anne Sexton while I was a student at Boston University. She was a poet who bared her soul, and it cost her her life. But at least she lived, and lived fully. So I'd like to conclude with a letter by Franz Kafka that Anne liked to quote. Rumi's line about the axe reminded me of this passage about why we need literature to help us break out of our emotional prisons. A friend of Kafka wrote him that he ought to read more uplifting books, books that would make him less unhappy. Kafka replied with these powerful words:
“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we're reading doesn't wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is my belief.”
I resonate with Kafka's mistrust of easy reading. We don't need books--and I would add, we don't need religion--simply to make us happy. Our culture provides us with all kinds of happiness-inducing entertainment. What we need are books (and religion)  to help us to connect authentically with our feelings, including the sometimes unbearable suffering that we must endure in this life. Middle class people spend far too much of their lives trying to escape or alleviate this pain, sometimes using "spirituality" as a way to avoid feelings, and they end up never being fully alive. That's why we need the ax of authentic literature and religion, to open our hearts to the light of truth, the light that reveals and heals the soul.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Rabbi Waskow arrested for demanding that Congress renew and strengthen the Voting Rights Act of 1965

I am really impressed that Rabbi Waskow for taking this stand in defense of the Voting Rights Act. What a mensch! And I feel it's unconscionable that Republicans are doing everything they can to discourage and disenfranchise marginalized voters at a time when voter turn out is at an all-time low. Have they no respect for democracy?

I'm deeply grateful that I had a chance to hear Rabbi Waskow speak at ICUJP a couple of months ago. It was a joy to hear him and his wife Phyllis in such an intimate setting.  He is truly a giant of Judaism, and so is his wife. See Rabbi Waskow speaks out about Dr. King's anti-war legacy

The Shalom Report

Yesterday -- A Time to Be Arrested
As an Act of Freedom for Tomorrow

Dear friends,

Yesterday I was arrested among about 250 others who gathered on the steps of the US Capitol to block the entrances. We were demanding that Congress pass laws renewing and strengthening the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and creating new ways of getting Hyperwealth out of our elections. 

This photo shows the front line of the March as we approached the Capitol. Just before this photo was taken by Lynne Iser, Rabbi Mordechai Liebling was in the front line. Together with Pat Carolan of the Franciscan Action Network, he had led prayers at the rally just before the March began.

Looming behind the front line is Sen Jeff Merkle of Oregon.On the left of the line is Rev. William Barber, prophetic voice and extraordinary organizer, founder of Moral Monday  & head of North Carolina NAACP.
Then, from Left to Right:Tefere Gebre, executive vice president of the AFL-CIO. Chris Shelton, president of the Communications Workers of America Me ---Rabbi Arthur Waskow, The Shalom Center.  I am wearing sunglasses and the Rainbow tallit that my mother sewed for me for my 50th birthday, almost 33 years ago. It symbolized then and now (from the Torah’s story of the Flood) the commitment of the Holy Unity that breathes all life, to give us the wisdom to make sure that never again would the earth be drowned and all life be endangered. I have worn it into every one of my arrests since then. (You can see the Rainbow design better in the next photo, of my arrest.)  Cornell William Brooks, president of the NAACP' Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace. Aaron Mair, president of the Sierra Club.

The arrests were benign – not even handcuffs, and we were soon released.  More dangerous than the arrests themselves was the almost total blackout in the “mainstream” media of ten days in which there had been more than one thousand arrests at the Capitol, capped by an extraordinary coalition of labor, African-American, Hispanic, GLBTQ, earth-protective, and good-government / pro-democracy organizations.

All of us convinced that the damage to demoocratic elections stands in the way of each of our distinctive concerns for a just and peaceful world of sustainable and shared abundance -- - and therefore must be opposed by all of us in unison. 
What does it mean that the media are blanking out these actions, led by an unprecedented array of leaders and their organizations – all in defense of the heart of democratic process?

Perhaps this question is one we need to address along with the Four in the Passover Seder. When Moses, Aaron, and Miriam faced Pharaoh, as the Pharaoh’s arrogance brought down Plagues on his own country,  did the Egyptian town criers and traveling troubadors refuse to mention it? Why?

Together with the sweeping entry into electoral politics of a great wave of young people calling for a “political revolution,” this “Fusion coalition” willing to be arrested offers enormous hope – perhaps the only hope -- for the American and planetary future. I am proud that The Shalom Center is taking part in it.

We need your help to keep doing this work. Please click on the “Sustain/ Contribute” button just beneath, to sustain our work and keep it going.  Thanks!
Shalom, salaam, peace, Earth! --  Arthur

Rabbi Waskow at ICUJP: Let us remember Dr. King's Riverside Church speech and his anti-war legacy

Rabbi Arthur Waskow and his wife Rabbi Phyllis Berman came to ICUJP and spoke in February. What an amazing couple, and what a blessing!

Rabbi Arthur Waskow is a life-long peace and justice activist, and one of the founders/leaders of the Jewish Renewal movement. He also founded the Shalom Center in Philadelphia. He has written numerous books and received numerous awards. Time magazine even named him one of the 100 most influential rabbis of our era. For me, he is the most influential.

When he and his wife presented together, it was a joy to see them playing off each other, a dynamic couple who so obviously love and respect each other. I'll share more about them later, including how they met.

Rabbi Waskow's main pitch to ICUJP was that next year will be the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's powerful sermon at Riverside Church. On April 4, 1967, he spoke out strongly against the Vietnam War and US militarism, racism and materialism.
   We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent  co-annihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.
A year later, on the very same day (April 4), he was assassinated. Some (including King's family) think the US government had a hand in this tragedy.

Waskow feels that Riverside Church and peace groups around the country should use this opportunity to examine the current moral and political condition of America, especially our addiction to militarism, racism, and materialism. We at ICUJP support his idea and plan to make it part of our agenda in the upcoming year.

Waskow's commitment to peace springs from his deep love of God and of Torah. In fact, his wife told a story about a conference in which her husband was asked about what he loved most. His face brightened, his eyes sparkled, and he said excitedly, "Torah."

Smiling, she said she had hoped for a different answer, one that he gave a few years later. "I love my wife, and I love Torah."

Waskow's heart-felt love for Torah, and the stories of the Bible, is profoundly evident in how he reads and interprets Scripture. He is open to the Light wherever it comes from, whether it is from Rabbinical tradition, a woman, or a child.

During our time together, he told a charming story about the importance of listening to children. His ten-year-old grand daughter asked him what the Bible meant by saying "Human beings are made in God's image." She wanted to know what an "image" was.

"It's like a photo," Waskow replied. "Like the pictures you take on your cell phone."

"Hmm," replied his grand daughter. "How can you take a picture of God? Isn't God invisible?"

Waskow told us that he deliberately refrained from responding to her question. He wanted her to come up with her own answer.

After a while she said, "Well, I guess you could take a picture of everyone on the planet and that's what God looks like."

Waskow said he again remained silent (to which Phyllis said, smiling, "Hard to believe, isn't it?")

The girl continued to ponder this mystery and finally said, "I get it! God is like a big jigsaw puzzle and we are all the pieces."

At this point, Waskow began to choke up. He was so pleased that his grand daughter had such a profound insight at such an early age.

When Waskow told this story with tears in his eyes, I felt his love for people and for Truth and it brings tears to my eyes.

There has always been a special place in my heart for Arthur Waskow. When I was in Philadelphia, I knew him as a friend of the Quakers. I visited him at the Shalom Center and invited him to give a workshop with me on Interfaith Peacemaking at Pendle Hill. He agreed, but for some reason (maybe the cost), we didn't get enough signups for the workshop to fly. I have always felt that Quakers missed a huge opportunity.

Later, as I read the Quran's story of Ishmael, and compared it to the story in the Bible,  I was struggling with the meaning of the story of Abraham. The story seemed to imply that because of their birth, there was eternal enmity between these two brothers who represented the Arab and the Jewish nation.

Waskow had a different take on this story, which he developed in a remarkable book called "The Tent of Abraham." In this book, he tells the story from a Jewish perspective and invites a Muslim and Christian to tell it from their perspective. He honors the fact that we all have different narratives, different pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, and each piece is important.

At another time, I'll share about "Freedom Journeys," his brilliant interpretation of the Exodus story from a feminist perspective. Suffice to say, the Rabbi Waskow has been a huge influence on me and many others in the peace and justice movement.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The World Gathering of Quakers in Peru and the Testimony on Sustainability: A Slideshow

 For more about the connection between the Peace Testimony and Sustainability, see

Our Addiction to Fossil Fuel and War

How our addiction to fossil fuel is leading not only to climate disruption, but wars

Giving thanks and praise during Earth week: California Interfaith Power and Light

Dear Friends, I am pleased to share this letter from Rev Sally Bingham, President of Interfaith Power and Light, another group that is doing important work to bring together people of diverse faiths together to focus on environmental concerns from a spiritual basis
Below are some pictures taken at a recent "Interfaith Blessing of Animals" led by my friend Alice Druffel (of Interfaith Power and Light)  and Rev Jeff Utter (pictured below with Joseph Prabhu and my chicken Marilyn). Also pictured is my Buddhist friend Tim, my Sufi friend Noor Malika, a Native American woman named Jean and a Bahai woman whose name escapes me. Also in attendance was a Rabbi and many other people of faith from diverse traditions. 
We came together to celebrate the interconnectedness of all life and we had a blast. I shared that we came not only to bless the animals, but also to acknowledge that they bless us. 

In her letter below Sally Bingham describes some of the other activities that are going on in California during Earth week. This is a great time to reconnect with "Pacha mama," our mother the earth, and with her children, two-legged, four-legged, winged--those that crawl, and those that laugh.
This is time to reconnect with our Creator. For that reason, I'd like to share words Psalm 148, words that I have been contemplating this week. This psalm no doubt inspired  St. Francis to write his "Canticle to Brother Sun and Sister Moon." Let's take time to give thanks for  the amazing miracle of Creation and give praise our Creator.
Praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
    praise him in the heights above.
Praise him, all his angels;
    praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
Praise him, sun and moon;
    praise him, all you shining stars.
Praise him, you highest heavens
    and you waters above the skies.
Let them praise the name of the Lord,
    for at his command they were created,
and he established them for ever and ever—
    he issued a decree that will never pass away.
Praise the Lord from the earth,
    you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,
lightning and hail, snow and clouds,
    stormy winds that do his bidding,
you mountains and all hills,
    fruit trees and all cedars,
10 wild animals and all cattle,
    small creatures and flying birds,
11 kings of the earth and all nations,
    you princes and all rulers on earth,
12 young men and women,
    old men and children.
13 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
    for his name alone is exalted;
    his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.
14 And he has raised up for his people a horn,[b]
    the praise of all his faithful servants,
    of Israel, the people close to his heart.
Praise the Lord.

Thanks be to God for chickens and dogs and all these dear friends.

Rev Sally Bingham writes:
I have a special bond with California. I was born and raised here. Thus I am delighted by the tremendous work being done by congregations and local working groups to make a difference. You are filling the calendar this spring with activities to nurture, support and inspire bold and courageous responses to global warming. Check out Faith Climate Action Week events in California.
On Friday evening I had the honor of introducing Dr. Veerabhadran Ramanathan of Scripps Institute known for his role in the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences, at a gathering held at the stunning St. Paul's Cathedral, San Diego. This was the first event CIPL has hosted there since the city committed to going with 100% clean energy within the next 20 years. Thank you to everyone who helped make that gathering possible, especially Allis Druffel, Phil Petrie and The Very Reverend Penny Bridges. 
Our gathering in San Diego was just the beginning of many events, forums, fairs, and sermons that you, our members, will be participating in this week. 
I feel blessed to be part of the growing climate protection movement that is embodied in your events. Whatever way you are practicing, praying and actively participating this spring, I will be praying for the work we share and for our common home. 
With Interfaith Hope,
The Rev. Sally Bingham
Interfaith Power & Light

Yours in friendship and peace,