Tag: newsletter

Simplicity — Seeds | Semillas — #19 May 2023

Seeds is now also available in a PDF format that can be printed, saved, or shared. Click on the link above.

Beginning with this issue, and for the next six issues, Seeds will be featuring the SPICES (Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, Stewardship), which form Quakerism’s core values. also known as testimonies. The first Spice: Simplicity. Many of the SPICES are basic life values that would improve anyone’s life, but we were specifically interested in exploring how they exist as spiritual values in the life of our community.

In this issue, we are introduced to recent Monteverde arrivals Don and Lois Crawford. Longtime resident Sarah Dowell reflects on coming to Monteverde and establishing a simpler lifestyle. Elliott Honeycutt shares poetry on the subjects of simplicity and awareness. Carol Evans provides a short piece on the SPICES as a spiritual reality and not just a checklist. Lewis Steller shares the story of a precious desk and of letting go of material objects while cherishing the values they convey. And finally, when Lucky Guindon shared in meeting recently, it caused me to reflect on my own spiritual journey and how a simpler faith can also be a deeper and more rewarding one.

Our next issue will be out in September and will feature the next SPICE: the spiritual value of Peace. If the Spirit moves, send us your essays, poetry, artwork, photography, or interviews on the role of Peace in your life. Anyone, Quaker or not, may send submissions to the Seeds e-mail address: seedsmfm@gmail.com. Deadline for submissions is August 31.

“Simple can be harder than complex.”

Steve Jobs

Table of Contents

A Little Bit About the Crawfords

By Don and Lois Crawford

We’d like to introduce ourselves to you. We are the Crawfords, Lois and Don. We arrived in Monteverde in January for a long stay of indeterminate length and are happy to be living in Santa Elena in a large, one-bedroom apartment.

Most recently, we lived in Harrisonburg, Virginia, which is in the Shenandoah Valley between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Allegheny Mountains. 

We are both retired, having worked for many years in a variety of businesses. Lois is a writer and editor who worked in marketing and advertising for small companies over the years. Her last formal employment was working for James Madison University’s Center for International Stabilization and Recovery, where she was the editor of an international magazine dealing with the removal of explosive remnants of war. She learned a lot about landmines, bombs and other weapons that remain long after a conflict is over. 

Lois likes to cook and try new recipes. For twelve years she produced a website, RecipeIdeaShop.com, which focused on healthy foods. She also blogged extensively and wrote two books about how changing her diet improved her health. She sold the website last spring but continues to write occasional posts for the new owner.

Don worked in a sales role for a variety of small businesses over his career. He most enjoyed working with businesses where he could help achieve the dreams of the owners. During the pandemic, Don served as a business advisor in the local small business development center. He enjoyed helping several clients start new businesses and helping others weather the maelstrom of the pandemic.

We are blessed to have found each other later in life after we each had raised a daughter. Then together we chose to raise two of Lois’ nieces when their mom could no longer care for them. These four ladies have blessed us with nine grandchildren ranging in age from five to twenty years old. Our kids and their families are spread over the US, from Wisconsin to North Carolina. We are grateful for the technology that lets us keep in touch with them.

Most recently we worshiped with Valley Friends Monthly Meeting in Dayton, Virginia. Lois was active on the peace and social concerns committee, communications committee, and others over the twenty years we lived in the area. Don served on the property and finance committee. 

We are actively involved in the work of Baltimore Yearly Meeting’s summer camping program. In addition to sending our two youngest daughters to Shiloh Quaker Camp for several years, we have enjoyed seeing all of our grandchildren attend as soon as they are eligible. Don continues on the camping program committee, and we both volunteer as cooks for a couple of weeks at Opequon Quaker camp. This year, we will have two twelve-year-olds at Opequon and two teenagers participating in BYM’s Teen Adventure, a 21-day backpacking experience.

We are blessed to have found a home at Monteverde Friends Meeting. We feel loved and welcomed here. The work of the school, and our love for the nurturing of children to become the voice of their generation for the betterment of our world, fits well with our spiritual practice. 

(table of contents)

Sending You Light

At a recent meeting, Lois Crawford announced that her daughter would soon be having surgery and asked the Meeting to hold her in the light. As we did so, she sang this song. Some who heard it suggested that it would be appropriate to share in this issue on Simplicity. Simple prayers. Simple worship.

The original music and lyrics (2012) are by Melanie Demore, an American musician and composer. Lois says, “When my friend was sick, I began to sing the song, but I could not remember the artist’s more complicated lyrics. Consequently, I changed them so that I could remember them.”

Please listen to Ms. Demore’s amazing song on YouTube.  

Sending You Light (Lois’ version)

I am sending you Light to hold you, to heal you.

I am sending you Light to hold you in love.

I am sending you Light to hold you, to heal you.

I am sending you Light to hold you in love.

I walk the path with you. Go slow, dear one, don’t hurry.

I hold your hand and comfort you. There is no need to worry.

‘Cuz I’m sending you Light to hold you, to heal you.

I am sending you Light to hold you in love.

(table of contents)


By Sarah Dowell

Sarah sitting on the steps of her house.

This is about simplicity of lifestyle, a way of living in which fewer resources are needed and there are fewer meaningless distractions. When I arrived in Costa Rica over fifty years ago seeking a place to make a home, I’d come in part because it seemed the benevolent climate here would make it easier to live in a simple way, in a beautiful, natural setting. I’d just left British Columbia because the severe winters there didn’t fit my image of being able to live with the level of simplicity I was seeking.

I don’t think there were any guidebooks for Costa Rica in those days. However, as I traveled around with my partner, someone we chanced upon thought we might like living in the remote community called Monteverde. By hook or crook, we hitchhiked our way here.  

Upon arriving in April 1971, I immediately loved the setting and the climate.  And I quickly felt the same about the Quakers who lived here and their way of life. At that time, the community consisted of about one hundred people who were mostly farming families. So, my partner and I bought a little coffee farm in upper San Luis. Soon we had a shack, a garden, a cow and calf, a horse, several pigs, some chickens, a dog, and a cat. By then we also had our infant daughter.

We had no electricity and no income, and this life required us to work from sun up until well after sundown while living off our steadily-diminishing savings. It was more than a year later that I finally accepted the reality that neither the partnership nor the lifestyle was working for me. Rather than attempt to “live off the land,” I realized that I needed to continue searching for my “simple way of life.”

With my little daughter on my back and the dog at our heels, we rode the horse back up the mountain to Monteverde. For a few years, I did some teaching while renting a tiny cabin for my daughter and me. Then I met and eventually married the father of my son. The two of us built a wooden home from scratch in the middle of the forest, where the children were raised and where my second husband Mel and I live to this day—albeit a somewhat remodeled version. 

It took many years of “simple living” for me to realize that life was definitely much simpler with electricity! Eventually, we also decided to get a telephone. I remember thinking this device equally simplified and complicated our lives. Nowadays, we can’t imagine not having computers! As we were getting into our late 70s and 80s, we added a vehicle, a little electric cart that we’d now be hard-pressed to do without.

When Mel and I met some twenty-seven years ago as two single people, we quickly realized that we both preferred a similar lifestyle, though his had begun on the South Caribbean coast when life there was more communal and everyone had little material wealth. Over the years, family and community and lots of committee work have sometimes made life quite a bit more complicated, but that was a type of abundance that we both could embrace.

I’ve asked myself, Why did I seek a simple life” all those years ago? Maybe it had to do with growing up in comfort but with little peace of mind. I sought a more natural setting because I experienced more internal peace that way, and for the same reason, I wanted fewer material objects to buy, maintain, and replace. Only later did I hear about “living softly on the earth” and “leaving a lighter footprint.”  Mostly, I guess a simpler lifestyle in a natural setting just makes me—and Mel—feel better.

Homemade leafcutter ant costumes for Halloween.

(table of contents)

“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

William Morris

Living at the Center

By Carol Evans

The Quaker testimonies—the “SPICES”— are sometimes evoked in place of a creed to explain what it means to be Quaker. It can sound like a checklist:

Simplicity? Check.

Peace? Check.

Integrity? Check.

Community? Check

Equality? Check.

Stewardship/Sustainability? Check.

One might say, “We should do this because it is in keeping with our Quaker values.” In reality, however, the testimonies are a historical guide of how Quakers have lived when they have looked to the guidance of the Spirit. They are manifestations of a life in the Spirit. All of the testimonies are interconnected. If one lives in the Spirit, all of the testimonies flow out of the Guide. Simplicity is perhaps one of the most central of the testimonies. Simplicity is complex in that it has many facets, but in essence, it all comes down to just living in the Spirit.

When we talk of simplicity, people tend to think first of physical simplicity—having less stuff. Simplicity is not the same as poverty. The earth can sustain all our needs but not all our desires. It implies a sense of justice, of not taking more than our share of nature’s bounty, sharing with others who do not have enough to meet their needs. “Live simply, so others can simply live.” This is closely linked to sustainability (care for the environment) and to the peace testimony.

Simplicity in our use of time means taking time to listen to the Spirit and ordering our activities accordingly. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all else will be added unto you” (Luke 12: 22–34). It means paying attention to what is most important. Perhaps this is the essence of Quakerism: a life guided by the Spirit.

(table of contents)

Into the Complex Realm

When you simplify enough
You don’t find absence
But abundance
Not a void
But a world

The paradox is that simplifying
By reducing man-made complexities
Results in awareness of
(and perhaps entry into)
A realm far richer
And more intricately interconnected
Then any we can ever imagine

And this complexity soothes and centers
Its myriad fractal geometries
Labyrinthine web of processes
Network of calls and responses
In sound and light
Are glimpses of a genesis continued:
The forest for filling its nature
Its systems, adapting, interacting,
finding equilibrium.
In the sea of green
one finds life’s every color.

By Elliott Honeycutt

(table of contents)

“Simplicity enables us to live lives of integrity in the face of the terrible realities of our global village.”

Richard J. Foster

The Desk: A Study in Simplicity

By Lewis Steller

I still have the last letter my grandmother ever wrote me, a handwritten note of about three sentences she sent to my first apartment in Seattle. In a few months, her relationship with dementia would deepen and notes from then on would only have her signed name, if anything at all.

She wrote a little bit about the games she and my grandfather were playing together, thanked me for the photos I had sent of our Thanksgiving celebration, and then noted that while the sofa and table I had inherited from her were visible, she did not see The Desk and wanted to make sure I still had it in my possession.

The Desk was a family inheritance across three generations—it served as my grandfather’s desk while he was in medical school, my mother’s desk while she got her master’s degree, and lived in Massachusetts for many years before moving to meet me in Seattle shortly after I got my first full-time teaching job. It was a beautiful, handmade hardwood desk with custom drawers, brass hardware, and a humongous top—1 x 1.8 meters—that I used to joke rivaled the size of some U.S. states.

The reality was that I could not forget The Desk because it took up more than half the floor space in my tiny bedroom and was the place where I stayed up most nights planning lessons during my hard-fought first year of teaching. I loved it; I covered it in half-graded papers and coffee stains; I brushed against it when getting in or out of bed every day. 

It was no coincidence that the missive from my grandmother alluded to the furniture in my apartment. My grandparents served as my primary stable caregivers growing up, providing childcare most weeknights and every summer until high school. I often credit them with giving me the kind of interests that would later click with Quakers 40-plus years my senior—card-playing, hand-sewing, crosswords, and gardening, to name a few. The other thing I inherited from their generational sensibilities was a strong conviction in the value of physical objects, held dear by two children of the Great Depression who had built their household treasures from nothing.

As a child, I spent hours playing with toys saved from my parent’s generation, using clothing passed on from the 60s and 70s, and even learning to sew and knit with fabric and yarn saved from my great-grandmother’s personal stash. Above all else, my inherited family values centered on the preservation of physical objects, no matter the cost. As a part of that legacy, I received several pieces of furniture that became, both literally and metaphorically, the full extent of my family inheritance. So, the letter was no surprise. I wrote back, saying that yes, The Desk was safe and in good use. She seemed satisfied with that response.

Over the next ten years, I moved five times around Seattle to different apartments, collective houses, and a duplex. The Desk was always the hardest piece of furniture to move—its top alone weighed approximately 12 kilograms, being one huge, solid piece of hardwood, and the different nuts, bolts, and fragile drawers needed to be carefully disassembled and reassembled in each location. In one house, it was a shared art space, often covered with paint and ceramics. One roommate used the large surface area for a full gaming setup in a dimly lit bedroom. The Desk was where I learned how to teach remotely at the start of the pandemic (pictured at right), and it was the centerpiece of our living room for that long year of full-time Zooming with students, friends, and family.

After these many years together, however, a moment of reckoning came: moving to Costa Rica.

As we began to plan our move after I accepted the job at MFS, it became clear that the time had come to decide what to do with The Desk. Even when moving it into our new home after getting married, it was clear that my days of keeping such a heavy and cumbersome item of furniture were numbered. We moved in the day before our wedding, carrying in box after box of books, cooking equipment, and bedding. When we finally got to The Desk, I felt as though I would collapse. 

We got a good deal on a storage unit to keep our most precious, mold-prone objects while we tested the waters in another part of the world. However, its small size meant that my days with The Desk (and any other remaining familiar furniture) were definitely numbered.

I began asking around my community to see if anyone was interested. No one responded. In a dense city like Seattle, all square footage is precious and I was not surprised that such a large item was unpopular among other young folks constantly moving to find more affordable rent.

I then tried to donate The Desk to the local thrift store. When I pulled up in a rented U-Haul with nothing in it but The Desk, they all but laughed at me. They said they could not accept such a large piece of furniture, especially one that had evidence of wear and tear (read: crayon drawings from when I was a toddler).

Finally, I decided I would give away The Desk to anyone on the Internet who was willing to pick it up. I posted it on a local Buy Nothing group, put it on Craigslist, and listed it for free on Facebook Marketplace. Days, then weeks, passed, as our departure date for Costa Rica loomed closer and closer. When I left for one last visit with my family in Colorado, The Desk was still sitting in the front of our house, waiting for someone—anyone—to claim it. Was I going to have to pay for my landlord to dispose of this precious family heirloom because no one wanted it in their care?

Finally, while I was away with family, someone responded to an online post who was interested in picking it up. Miraculously, he arrived five days before we had to have the apartment completely clear of our belongings. Fievel arranged the meeting while I was gone. It was strange that after all of those years of caring for this huge, heavy symbolic beast of a fixture, it somehow disappeared from my life without me even having a chance to say goodbye.

Giving away or donating so much of my familial inheritance of furniture and other objects brought up a lot of mixed feelings for me. Both of my grandparents passed away several years ago, but I carry many memories of them dearly, and I am pretty certain that they would be sad to know I had given The Desk away. However, after dropping everything and moving across the world to find a community congruent with my values, I find that I am less and less bothered by the idea of releasing physical objects, however precious, out into the world.

It wasn’t until this year that I reflected on my grandparents’ own story, and how incongruent their love of physical objects seems with its trajectory. My grandparents met as scientists in a small town of artists and researchers in Massachusetts—not unlike the community of Monteverde. They got married without my great-grandparents’ blessing, in a church that was not the one in which my grandmother grew up, with her wearing a red dress as a sign of rebellion. They moved to the Philippines after having their first child, with another on the way, bringing very little with them. When she got married, my grandmother didn’t know how to do anything related to housework beyond boiling water and making a bed, but she taught herself how to sew, cook, clean, and build/maintain furniture many decades before DIY books or YouTube.

While my grandparents’ explicit legacy was that of the conservation of physical objects, preserving them, and carrying them from place to place, I think the example of their lives actually tells a different story. My grandparents were constantly following their hearts, learning and growing in ways that helped them meet their goals, and they also imbued these practices into me as a child and young adult. It’s these very values—self-reliance, the reuse of materials, and the simplicity of making things from scratch—that have persisted longer than the objects themselves that were preserved by those same principles. Perhaps the actual inheritance I got from my grandparents was not the objects themselves, but the guiding values that have helped me learn to let them go.

(table of contents)


My feet tap out a tune on keys of dirt and root.
Breath fills my feet as my senses fill the space.
Together they plunge me slowly into a stillness
The forest waves, barrels, and beckons.
These woods are playful yet dangerous 
like a tiger one thinks is tame,
so safety is found in the focus of play.

Here I honor these woods in awareness. 
In the lightning of instinct finding its charge
in eyes that marvel,
ears that attend,
in senses alive and unbound
which miss no word from the woods.
My first and final statement—a song;
footfalls on shade and sun.
Rhythms on the forest floor, 
and the melody of catching my breath
to love a place
and lose myself.

By Elliott Honeycutt

(table of contents)

Be still and know that I am God
Be still and know that I am
Be still and know
Be still

Shared by Lucky Guindon at a recent meeting

My Long, Strange Journey to a Simpler Faith

By Tom Cox

“Be still and know….”

Actual photo from my journey.

Lucky Guindon shared this beautifully simple testimony at a recent meeting. And although I have heard it said before by other contemplative Christians, the timing and setting in which she spoke it resonated within me regarding the wondrous gift of a simpler faith.

Jesus had a simple faith. He reduced the Ten Commandments to just two: love God; love each other. See if you can handle that. When his disciples argued over which one of them was greatest, he put a child before them and warned that unless they could become like the child, they would never experience the kingdom of God. The simple faith of a child is not only needed but required.

My faith journey is a bit of a meandering mess that has made me the Christian mutt I am today. I was first raised in a Congregational Church in the Chicago suburbs. By grade school, the Congregationalists seemed too “loosey-goosey” to my father, so he took us to the other end of the spectrum and the Episcopalians with their high church pomp and reliably consistent liturgy every Sunday, where I was eventually confirmed. Still, I would say that my parents were merely nominal believers at that point. I never remember seeing them pray or read the Bible or discuss religious matters at home, except perhaps for church business matters.

By the 1970s, parachurch ministries were all the rage in US high schools—a remanent of the Jesus Movement of the 1960s. These were national organizations not affiliated with any particular church or denomination. They included Youth for Christ, Young Life, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. This was my introduction to evangelicalism, as well as to the subtle use of peer pressure in religious circles. Part of their strategy definitely included using the popular and influential kids to proselytize all us “normies.” Believe me, more than a few religious decisions for Jesus were heavily influenced by raging hormones and a desire to be seen at the “cool kids” table. I raised more than a few eyebrows on my parents by leaving early in the morning with a Bible tucked under my arm. Was Tom in some sort of cult?

By the eighties, I was off to Texas for college where the only real choice on Sunday mornings was Southern Baptist, but the evangelical parachurch folks turned out to be just as active on college campuses. When I returned to Chicago after college, some folks I knew from Youth for Christ in high school had started their own nondenominational “seeker-sensitive” church. It met in a movie theater, had no cross or religious symbolism, used modern music for worship, and even staged dramatic presentations to help support the message of the pastor. Over the next fifteen years, I became a program director, a writer of dramas, and eventually an associate pastor at this church. No seminary or ordination necessary. I like to say I was “deputized.” Another pastor and I led the church for a year and a half while they did a national search for a new senior pastor, and during that time, we grew the church to over 1,200 people on a Sunday morning. By that point, however, neither of us wanted the job.

There are a lot of good things I remember from that time. I established great relationships with many wonderful people, and we did some great things. We even traveled to Russian and Ukraine to demonstrate how a modern church could use the arts to attract their young people who were not interested in the Eastern Orthodox faith.

Ahh, the nineties… that guy behind us was definitely a spy.

During that time, I saw lives changed, people get sober, and marriages saved. I saw kids grow into amazing adults. But I find myself more haunted these days by the cringy moments in which I participated. The ways we used heaven and hell on a proverbial stick to enforce proper belief and thinking. The ways we cherry-picked scripture to keep women out of leadership and submissive to their husbands. The ways we said we welcomed LGBTQ+ folks but only because we wanted to change them and “pray away the gay.” The ways in which questioning or doubting one’s faith was discouraged if not branded as disloyal or even demonic. The ways in which our predominately white, affluent church spent thousands of dollars on facilities and staff and programs and technology, but very little on reducing suffering and social justice issues in our community.

That was messed up. It was wrong. Why didn’t I leave? These are the thoughts that still haunt me when I think back on that time. Then I go easier on myself and remember that we were young and untrained. At the time, that church was my everything—my friends, my income and career, and the place where I thrived and my talents were valued. We existed in a bubble with no oversight or authority. Instead of doing the work to determine what I believed spiritually, I had basically been handed the teacher’s textbook with all the answers in the back. I felt pressured to memorize the answers and was discouraged from actually working out the equations on my own.

Eventually, my doubts could not be held back. It began with 9/11 and watching the church grow more nationalistic. Then came the Iraq War and I saw the militarism and Islamophobia creep in. The internet was still in its infancy, so much of my radicalization happened the old-fashioned way—through books. I began reading Shane Claiborne, the first Christian I knew of who criticized war. I read Jim Wallis and learned of progressive Christian politics. I read Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller, in which he went to a pagan celebration and erected a confessional. When people entered and began to confess, Donald stopped them and instead begged forgiveness for all the sins the church had committed over the centuries. I watched videos by Rob Bell and discovered Fr. Richard Rohr. Later came Nadia Bolz-Weber, Rachel Held Evans, Barbera Brown Taylor, William J. Barber, and Ta-Nehisi Coates. There were older books by Thomas Merton and the liberation theology of Howard Thurman and James Cone. One day, when my boss at the church saw a rather innocuous book by Brian McLaren on my desk, he warned me to watch out because “that book is dangerous.” A book. Dangerous. I knew it was time to go.

I took the first job I was offered. It was for a conservative Christian publisher in Pittsburgh, but that was okay. It was my day job, not my church. I could edit the books and then drive back into the city and to my newly discovered progressive church that got in trouble for feeding the homeless and for conducting secret gay weddings until the Presbyterian USA denomination eventually made them official. We held subversive Bible studies in the basements of tattoo parlors and welcomed doubt as a spiritual necessity for understanding. It was there I officially began “deconstructing” my faith.

Deconstruction is a term often used in progressive Christian circles. Some see it as the work of the devil while others see it as the only way for them to still follow Jesus in a way that is not toxic, traumatic, or unethical. Basically, you put your faith up on a lift like a mechanic with a car in a garage. You disassemble it, part by part. Then you look at each part and decide if you still believe it. Is it really necessary to believe in this for you to be faithful? Things like the doctrines of hell, salvation, and the infallibility of scripture; your visual image of God; the meaning of the cross (did God really kill his son because you are so terrible); Puritan views of sexuality (what do you mean the word homosexual was a mistaken translation that didn’t appear in Bible until 1949?), everything. You toss out the parts that no longer make sense or seem consistent with your image of a loving God. Then you try to reassemble the parts that DO fit. I’ll be honest, some folks never make it back. Some must also deal with real trauma—both physical and psychological—that they experienced in church. Some end up chucking the whole thing and walking away. I can’t blame them. But others are somehow able to reassemble this mess into something beautiful, useful, and lasting.

During the pandemic, I emersed myself in the contemplatives and in Catholic mystics—men and women who encountered God on their own, outside of the church system. My favorite was St. Francis, a rich young man who returned from war and stripped himself naked before the bishop of Assisi. He renounced material possessions, embraced peace, and went off to rebuild the church by owning nothing, ministering to lepers, and worshipping God in nature. I see him as probably the most Quaker of the Catholic mystics.

I believe this journey was instrumental in us leaving the United States and settling in Costa Rica—and Monteverde in particular. Quakerism has been an easy fit for my simplified faith. It is more about the life you live than the things you believe. It does not rely on doctrine or creeds but leans on values (like the SPICES!) which then become the basis for listening to God and responding. And although my past keeps me hesitant from jumping into things like membership and belonging to an organization, I have loved sitting in silence here and utilizing the focused energy of the meeting to continue to work these things out in my head and in my heart.    

Over the years, my faith has been boiled down and condensed into a much simpler but more flavorful stew. Simpler, but not easier or less sophisticated. It is my journey, and not necessarily something I would prescribe or insist on for someone else. It no longer solely resides in my head as dogma. It values doubt and wonder over quick answers and rigid surety. It is more elusive. It requires the internal work of listening and discerning. It seems more biblical, or at least more Christ-centered—the product of a man who never wrote anything or started any church but instead insisted that the kingdom of God is within you.

It is a lighter faith. A more loving faith. It is less fearful. It is a faith that abides and plays well with others. It will never impose itself on others because it understands that, at best, it’s probably only 5% correct. It is fluid and ever-moving, not rigid and brittle. It is more like a kaleidoscope that constantly changes into something beautiful as it turns. When challenges and doubts appear, it is more resilient and flexible. It is more grace-based.

If I live another 15 years, I’m sure more change will occur. Some things I believe today may make me cringe then. But that’s okay. It’s all a part of the journey. And what a long, strange trip it’s been.

(table of contents)

Sencillez — Seeds | Semillas __ #19 mayo 2023

Semillas ahora también está disponible en formato PDF que se puede imprimir, guardar o compartir. Haga clic en el enlace de arriba.

A partir de este número, y durante los próximos seis números, Semillas presentará ESPECIAS (SPICES: Sencillez, Paz, Integridad, Comunidad, Igualdad, Administración), que forman los valores fundamentales del cuaquerismo. también conocidos como testimonios. La primera Especia: Sencillez. Muchas de las ESPECIAS son valores de vida básicos que mejorarían la vida de cualquier persona, pero nos interesaba específicamente explorar cómo existen como valores espirituales en la vida de nuestra comunidad.

En esta edición, nos presentan a Don y Lois Crawford, recién llegados a Monteverde. Sarah Dowell, residente desde hace mucho tiempo, reflexiona sobre venir a Monteverde y establecer un estilo de vida más simple. Elliott Honeycutt comparte poesía sobre temas de sencillez y conciencia. Carol Evans ofrece un breve artículo sobre las ESPECIAS como una realidad espiritual y no solo como una lista de verificación. Lewis Steller comparte la historia de un escritorio precioso y de dejar ir los objetos materiales mientras se aprecian los valores que transmiten. Y finalmente, cuando Lucky Guindon compartió una reunión recientemente, me hizo reflexionar sobre mi propio viaje espiritual y cómo una fe más simple también puede ser más profunda y gratificante.

Nuestro próximo número saldrá en septiembre y presentará el próximo ESPECIA: el valor espiritual de la paz. Si el Espíritu se mueve, envíenos sus ensayos, poesías, obras de arte, fotografías o entrevistas sobre el papel de la Paz en su vida. Cualquiera, cuáquero o no, puede enviar propuestas a la dirección de correo electrónico de Semillas: seedsmfm@gmail.com. La fecha límite para las presentaciones es el 31 de agosto.

“Lo simple puede ser más difícil que lo complejo”.

.Steve Jobs

Tabla de contenido

Un poco sobre los Crawford

por Don y Lois Crawford (traducido por Jean Cox)

Nos gustaría presentarnos a ustedes. Somos los Crawford, Lois y Don. Llegamos a Monteverde en enero para una larga estadía de duración indeterminada y estamos felices de vivir en Santa Elena en un apartamento grande de una habitación.

Más recientemente, vivimos en Harrisonburg, Virginia, que se encuentra en el valle de Shenandoah, entre las montañas Blue Ridge y las montañas Allegheny.

Ambos estamos jubilados y hemos trabajado durante muchos años en una variedad de negocios. Lois es una escritora y editora que trabajó en marketing y publicidad para pequeñas empresas a lo largo de los años. Su último empleo formal fue en el Centro para la Estabilización y Recuperación Internacional de la Universidad James Madison, donde fue editora de una revista internacional que trataba sobre la remoción de restos explosivos de guerra. Aprendió mucho sobre las minas terrestres, las bombas y otras armas que permanecen mucho tiempo después de que termina un conflicto.

A Lois le gusta cocinar y probar nuevas recetas. Durante doce años produjo un sitio web, RecipeIdeaShop.com, que se centró en alimentos saludables. También escribió mucho en su blog y escribió dos libros sobre cómo cambiar su dieta mejoró su salud. Vendió el sitio web la primavera pasada, pero continúa escribiendo publicaciones ocasionales para el nuevo propietario.

Don trabajó en una función de ventas para una variedad de pequeñas empresas a lo largo de su carrera. Disfrutaba más trabajando con empresas en las que podía ayudar a lograr los sueños de los propietarios. Durante la pandemia, Don se desempeñó como asesor comercial en el centro local de desarrollo de pequeñas empresas. Disfrutó ayudar a varios clientes a iniciar nuevos negocios y ayudar a otros a sobrellevar la vorágine de la pandemia.

Somos bendecidos de habernos encontrado más tarde en la vida después de que cada uno de nosotros criara a una hija. Luego, juntos elegimos criar a dos de las sobrinas de Lois cuando su madre ya no podía cuidarlas. Estas cuatro damas nos han bendecido con nueve nietos cuyas edades oscilan entre los cinco y los veinte años. Nuestros niños y sus familias están repartidos por los EE. UU., desde Wisconsin hasta Carolina del Norte. Estamos agradecidos por la tecnología que nos permite mantenernos en contacto con ellos.

Más recientemente adoramos con la Reunión Mensual de Amigos del Valle en Dayton, Virginia. Lois participó activamente en el comité de preocupaciones sociales y de paz, el comité de comunicaciones y otros durante los veinte años que vivimos en el área. Don sirvió en el comité de propiedad y finanzas.

Participamos activamente en el trabajo del programa de campamento de verano de la Junta Anual de Baltimore. Además de enviar a nuestras dos hijas menores a Shiloh Quaker Camp durante varios años, disfrutamos ver a todos nuestros nietos asistir tan pronto como son elegibles. Don continúa en el comité del programa de campamento y ambos somos voluntarios como cocineros durante un par de semanas en el campamento Opequon Quaker. Este año, tendremos dos niños de doce años en Opequon y dos adolescentes participando en Teen Adventure de BYM, una experiencia de mochilero de 21 días. Tenemos la bendición de haber encontrado un hogar en la Reunión de Amigos de Monteverde. Nos sentimos queridos y bienvenidos aquí. El trabajo de la escuela y nuestro amor por la crianza de los niños para que se conviertan en la voz de su generación para el mejoramiento de nuestro mundo, encaja bien con nuestra práctica espiritual.

(tabla de contenido)

«Enviándote la luz»

En una reunión reciente, Lois Crawford anunció que su hija pronto sería operada y pidió a la Junta que la mantuviera en la luz. Mientras lo hacíamos, ella cantó esta canción. Algunos de los que lo escucharon sugirieron que sería apropiado compartir este número sobre la Simplicidad. Oraciones sencillas. Adoración sencilla.

La música y la letra originales (2012) son de Melanie Demore, una música y compositora estadounidense. Lois dice: “Cuando mi amigo se enfermó, comencé a cantar la canción, pero no podía recordar las letras más complicadas del artista. En consecuencia, las cambié para poder recordarlas”.

Escuche la increíble canción de la Sra. Demore en YouTube.

Enviándote la luz (versión de lois)

Os envío Luz para que os sostenga, para que os sane.

Os envío Luz para manteneros enamorados.

Os envío Luz para que os sostenga, para que os sane.

Os envío Luz para manteneros enamorados.

Recorro el camino contigo. Ve despacio, querido, no te apresures.

Tomo tu mano y te consuelo. No hay necesidad de preocuparse.

Porque te estoy enviando Luz para abrazarte, para sanarte.

Os envío Luz para manteneros enamorados.

(tabla de contenido)


por Sarah Dowell (traducido por Jean Cox)

Sarah sentada en las escaleras de su casa.

Se trata de la simplicidad del estilo de vida, una forma de vida en la que se necesitan menos recursos y hay menos distracciones sin sentido. Cuando llegué a Costa Rica hace más de cincuenta años en busca de un lugar para formar un hogar, vine en parte porque parecía que el clima benévolo aquí haría más fácil vivir de una manera sencilla, en un hermoso entorno natural. Acababa de irme de la Columbia Británica porque los severos inviernos no se ajustaban a mi imagen de poder vivir con el nivel de sencillez que buscaba.

No creo que hubiera guías para Costa Rica en esos días. Sin embargo, mientras viajaba con mi pareja, alguien con quien nos encontramos por casualidad pensó que nos gustaría vivir en la comunidad remota llamada Monteverde. Por las buenas o por las malas, hicimos autostop hasta aquí.

Al llegar en abril de 1971, inmediatamente me encantó el entorno y el clima. Y rápidamente sentí lo mismo acerca de los cuáqueros que vivían aquí y su forma de vida. En ese momento, la comunidad estaba formada por unas cien personas que en su mayoría eran familias de agricultores. Entonces, mi pareja y yo compramos una pequeña finca de café en el alto San Luis. Pronto tuvimos una choza, un jardín, una vaca y un ternero, un caballo, varios cerdos, algunas gallinas, un perro y un gato. Para entonces también teníamos a nuestra pequeña hija.

No teníamos electricidad ni ingresos, y esta vida requería que trabajáramos desde el amanecer hasta mucho después de la puesta del sol mientras vivíamos de nuestros ahorros que disminuían constantemente. Fue más de un año después que finalmente acepté la realidad de que ni la sociedad ni el estilo de vida estaban funcionando para mí. En lugar de intentar “vivir de la tierra”, me di cuenta de que necesitaba seguir buscando mi “forma de vida sencilla”.

Con mi pequeña hija en mi espalda y el perro detrás de nosotros, montamos el caballo de regreso a la montaña a Monteverde. Durante algunos años, enseñé mientras alquilaba una pequeña cabaña para mi hija y para mí. Luego conocí y finalmente me casé con el padre de mi hijo. Los dos construimos una casa de madera desde cero en medio del bosque, donde se criaron los niños y donde mi segundo esposo Mel y yo vivimos hasta el día de hoy, aunque una versión algo remodelada.

¡Me tomó muchos años de “vida simple” darme cuenta de que la vida definitivamente era mucho más simple con la electricidad! Eventualmente, también decidimos conseguir un teléfono. Recuerdo haber pensado que este dispositivo simplificaba y complicaba nuestras vidas por igual. ¡Hoy en día, no podemos imaginar no tener computadoras! A medida que nos acercábamos a los 70 y 80 años, agregamos un vehículo, un pequeño carrito eléctrico del que ahora sería difícil prescindir.

Cuando Mel y yo nos conocimos hace unos veintisiete años como dos personas solteras, rápidamente nos dimos cuenta de que ambos preferíamos un estilo de vida similar, aunque el suyo había comenzado en la costa sur del Caribe cuando la vida allí era más comunal y todos tenían poca riqueza material. A lo largo de los años, la familia y la comunidad y mucho trabajo de comité a veces han hecho la vida un poco más complicada, pero ese era un tipo de abundancia que ambos podíamos abrazar. Me he preguntado: ¿Por qué busqué una “vida sencilla” hace tantos años? Tal vez tuvo que ver con crecer en la comodidad, pero con poca tranquilidad. Busqué un entorno más natural porque experimentaba más paz interna de esa manera, y por la misma razón, quería menos objetos materiales para comprar, mantener y reemplazar. Solo más tarde escuché sobre “vivir suavemente en la tierra” y “dejar una huella más ligera”. Sobre todo, supongo que un estilo de vida más simple en un entorno natural solo hace que Mel y yo nos sintamos mejor.

Disfraces caseros de hormiga cortadora de hojas para Halloween.

(tabla de contenido)

“Nada tengáis en vuestras casas que no sepáis útil o creáis bello”.

William Morris

Viviendo en el centro

por Carol Evans (traducido por Jean Cox)

Los testimonios de los cuáqueros, las “ESPECIAS”, a veces se evocan en lugar de un credo para explicar lo que significa ser cuáquero. Puede sonar como una lista de control:

¿Sencillez? Hecho.

¿Paz? Hecho.

¿Integridad? Hecho.

¿Comunidad? Hecho

¿Igualdad? Hecho.

¿Administración/Sostenibilidad? Hecho.

Uno podría decir: “Deberíamos hacer esto porque está de acuerdo con nuestros valores cuáqueros”. En realidad, sin embargo, los testimonios son una guía histórica de cómo han vivido los cuáqueros cuando han buscado la guía del Espíritu. Son manifestaciones de una vida en el Espíritu. Todos los testimonios están interconectados. Si uno vive en el Espíritu, todos los testimonios brotan de la Guía. La sencillez es quizás uno de los más centrales de los testimonios. La simplicidad es compleja porque tiene muchas facetas, pero en esencia, todo se reduce a vivir en el Espíritu.

Cuando hablamos de simplicidad, la gente tiende a pensar primero en la simplicidad física: tener menos cosas. Simplicidad no es lo mismo que pobreza. La tierra puede sustentar todas nuestras necesidades pero no todos nuestros deseos. Implica un sentido de justicia, de no tomar más de lo que nos corresponde de la generosidad de la naturaleza, compartiendo con otros que no tienen lo suficiente para satisfacer sus necesidades. “Vive con sencillez, para que otros puedan vivir con sencillez”. Esto está íntimamente ligado a la sustentabilidad (cuidado del medio ambiente) y al testimonio de paz.La sencillez en nuestro uso del tiempo significa dedicar tiempo a escuchar al Espíritu y ordenar nuestras actividades en consecuencia. “Busquen el reino de Dios por encima de todo lo demás, y él les dará todo lo que necesiten” (Lucas 12:31; vean versículos 22–34). Significa prestar atención a lo que es más importante. Quizás ésta sea la esencia del cuaquerismo: una vida guiada por el Espíritu.

(tabla de contenido)

Entrando en el reino complejo

Cuando simplificas lo suficiente
no encuentras ausencia
Sino abundancia
Un vacío no
Sino un mundo

La paradoja es que simplificar
Por reducir las complejidades hechas por hombres
Abre la conciencia a
(y a lo mejor entra en)
Un reino mucho más rico
Entrelazado más estrechamente
Que cualquiera que podamos imaginar

Y tal complejidad calma y centra
Su miríada de geometrías fractales
Telaraña laberíntica de procesos
Red de llamadas y respuestas
En sonido y luz
Son destellos de una génesis continuada:
El bosque por llenar su naturaleza
Sus sistemas, adaptándose, interactuando,
encontrando el equilibrio.
En el mar de verde
uno encuentra todos los colores de la vida.

Elliott Honeycutt (traducido por Tim Curtis)

(table de contenido)

“La simplicidad nos permite vivir vidas de integridad frente a las terribles realidades de nuestra aldea global”.

Richard J. Foster

El escritorio: un estudio en la sencillez

por Lewis Steller (traducido por Alberto Guindon)

Todavía tengo la última carta que me escribió mi abuela, una nota manuscrita de unas tres oraciones que envió a mi primer departamento en Seattle. En unos pocos meses, su relación con la demencia se profundizaría y las notas a partir de ese momento solo tendrían su nombre firmado, si acaso.

Escribió un poco sobre los juegos que ella y mi abuelo estaban jugando juntos, me agradeció por las fotos que le había enviado de nuestra celebración de Acción de Gracias y luego notó que aunque el sofá y la mesa que le había heredado estaban a la vista, ella no los vio. Me preguntó sobre el escritorio y quería asegurar de que todavía lo tenía en mi poder.

El escritorio fue una herencia familiar a lo largo de tres generaciones: sirvió como el escritorio de mi abuelo mientras estaba en la facultad de medicina, el escritorio de mi madre cuando obtuvo su maestría y vivió en Massachusetts durante muchos años antes de mudarse para reunirse conmigo en Seattle poco después de que yo  Conseguí mi primer trabajo como docente a tiempo completo.  Era un hermoso escritorio de madera dura hecho a mano con cajones personalizados, herrajes de latón y una tapa enorme (1 x 1,8 metros) que solía bromear que rivalizaba con el tamaño de algunos estados de EE. UU.

La realidad era que no podía olvidarme del escritorio porque ocupaba más de la mitad del espacio en el piso de mi diminuta habitación y era el lugar donde me quedaba despierta la mayoría de las noches planeando lecciones durante mi primer año de enseñanza.  Me encantó;  Lo cubrí de papeles a medio graduar y manchas de café;  lo rozaba al entrar o salir de la cama todos los días.

No fue casualidad que la misiva de mi abuela hiciera alusión a los muebles de mi departamento.  Mis abuelos sirvieron como mis principales cuidadores estables mientras crecía, brindando cuidado de niños la mayoría de las noches entre semana y todos los veranos hasta la escuela secundaria.  A menudo les doy crédito por darme el tipo de intereses que más tarde encajarían con los cuáqueros de más de 40 años mayores que yo: jugar a las cartas, coser a mano, crucigramas y jardinería, por nombrar algunos.  La otra cosa que heredé de sus sensibilidades generacionales fue una fuerte convicción en el valor de los objetos físicos, apreciados por dos niños de la Gran Depresión que habían construido sus tesoros domésticos de la nada.

Cuando era niño, pasaba horas jugando con juguetes guardados de la generación de mis padres, usando ropa heredada de los años 60 y 70, e incluso aprendiendo a coser y tejer con telas e hilos guardados del alijo personal de mi bisabuela.  Por encima de todo, mis valores familiares heredados se centraron en la preservación de los objetos físicos, sin importar el costo.  Como parte de ese legado, recibí varios muebles que se convirtieron, tanto literal como metafóricamente, en toda la herencia de mi familia.  Entonces, la carta no fue una sorpresa.  Le respondí diciendo que sí, que The Desk estaba seguro y en buen uso.  Ella pareció satisfecha con esa respuesta.

Durante los siguientes diez años, me mudé cinco veces por Seattle a diferentes apartamentos, casas colectivas y un dúplex.  El escritorio siempre fue el mueble más difícil de mover: solo la parte superior pesaba aproximadamente 12 kilogramos, ya que era una pieza enorme y sólida de madera dura, y las diferentes tuercas, pernos y frágiles cajones que se debía desmontar y volver a montar con cuidado en cada ubicación.  En una casa, era un espacio de arte compartido, a menudo cubierto con pintura y cerámica.  Un compañero de cuarto usó la gran superficie para una configuración de juego completa en un dormitorio con poca luz.  Sobre el escritorio fue donde aprendí a enseñar de forma remota al comienzo de la pandemia (en la foto a la derecha), y fue la pieza central de nuestra sala de estar durante ese largo año de Zoom de tiempo completo con estudiantes, amigos y familiares.

Sin embargo, después de tantos años juntos, llegó el momento de hacer cuentas: mudarse a Costa Rica.

Cuando comenzamos a planificar nuestra mudanza después de que acepté el trabajo en MFS, quedó claro que había llegado el momento de decidir qué hacer con The Desk. Incluso cuando lo mudamos a nuestro nuevo hogar después de casarnos, estaba claro que mis días de guardar un mueble tan pesado y engorroso estaban contados. Nos mudamos el día antes de nuestra boda, llevando caja tras caja de libros, utensilios de cocina y ropa de cama. Cuando finalmente llegamos a The Desk, sentí que me derrumbaría.

Obtuvimos una buena oferta en una unidad de almacenamiento para guardar nuestros objetos más preciados y propensos al moho mientras probábamos las aguas en otra parte del mundo.  Sin embargo, su pequeño tamaño significaba que mis días con el escritorio (y cualquier otro mueble familiar restante) estaban definitivamente contados.

Empecé a preguntar en mi comunidad para ver si alguien estaba interesado.  Nadie respondió.  En una ciudad densa como Seattle, todos los pies cuadrados son valiosos y no me sorprendió que un artículo tan grande fuera poco popular entre otros jóvenes que se mudan constantemente para encontrar un alquiler más asequible.

Luego traté de donar el escritorio a la tienda local de segunda mano.  Cuando me detuve en un U-Haul alquilado sin nada más que el escritorio, casi se rieron de mí.  Dijeron que no podían aceptar un mueble tan grande, especialmente uno que tenía evidencia de desgaste (léase: dibujos con crayones de cuando era un niño pequeño).

Finalmente, decidí que regalaría The Desk a cualquier persona en Internet que estuviera dispuesta a recogerlo.  Lo publiqué en un grupo local de “Buy Nothing”, lo puse en Craigslist y lo incluí gratis en Facebook Marketplace.  Pasaron los días, luego las semanas, y se acercaba más y más nuestra fecha de partida para Costa Rica.  Cuando salí para una última visita con mi familia en Colorado, el escritorio todavía estaba sentado en frente de nuestra casa, esperando que alguien, cualquiera, lo reclamara.  ¿Iba a tener que pagar para que mi arrendador se deshiciera de esta preciosa reliquia familiar porque nadie la quería bajo su cuidado?

Finalmente, mientras estaba fuera con mi familia, alguien respondió a una publicación en línea que estaba interesada en reclamarlo.  Milagrosamente, llegó cinco días antes de que tuviéramos que tener el apartamento completamente limpio de nuestras pertenencias.  Fievel organizó la reunión mientras yo no estaba.  Fue extraño que después de todos esos años de cuidar a esta enorme y pesada bestia simbólica de accesorio, de alguna manera desapareció de mi vida sin que yo tuviera siquiera la oportunidad de despedirme.

Regalar o donar tanto de mi herencia familiar de muebles y otros objetos me trajo muchos sentimientos encontrados.  Mis dos abuelos fallecieron hace varios años, pero guardo muchos recuerdos entrañables de ellos, y estoy bastante seguro de que les entristecería saber que había regalado elescritorio.  Sin embargo, después de dejarlo todo y mudarme por el mundo para encontrar una comunidad congruente con mis valores, me doy cuenta de que me molesta cada vez menos la idea de liberar objetos físicos, por preciosos que sean, al mundo.

No fue hasta este año que reflexioné sobre la historia de mis abuelos y cuán incongruente parece su amor por los objetos físicos con su trayectoria.  Mis abuelos se conocieron como científicos en un pequeño pueblo de artistas e investigadores en Massachusetts, no muy diferente a la comunidad de Monteverde.  Se casaron sin la bendición de mis bisabuelos, en una iglesia que no era en la que creció mi abuela, ella con un vestido rojo en señal de rebeldía.  Se mudaron a Filipinas después de tener su primer hijo, con otro en camino, trayendo muy poco con ellos.  Cuando se casó, mi abuela no sabía hacer nada relacionado con las tareas domésticas más allá de hervir agua y hacer la cama, pero aprendió sola a coser, cocinar, limpiar y construir/mantener muebles muchas décadas antes que los libros de bricolaje o YouTube.

Si bien el legado explícito de mis abuelos fue el de la conservación de objetos físicos, preservándolos y llevándolos de un lugar a otro, creo que el ejemplo de sus vidas en realidad cuenta una historia diferente.  Mis abuelos seguían constantemente sus corazones, aprendiendo y creciendo de maneras que les ayudaban a alcanzar sus metas, y también me inculcaron estas prácticas cuando era niño y adulto joven. Son estos mismos valores, la autosuficiencia, la reutilización de materiales y la simplicidad de hacer cosas desde cero, los que han persistido más tiempo que los propios objetos que fueron preservados por esos mismos principios.  Quizás la herencia real que obtuve de mis abuelos no fueron los objetos en sí mismos, sino los valores rectores que me ayudaron a aprender a dejarlos ir.

Cuando comenzamos a planificar nuestra mudanza después de que acepté el trabajo en MFS, quedó claro que había llegado el momento de decidir qué hacer con The Desk.  Incluso cuando volvimos a nuestro nuevo hogar después de casarnos, estaba claro que mis días de guardar un mueble tan pesado y engorroso estaban contados.  Nos mudamos el día antes de nuestra boda, llevando caja tras caja de libros, utensilios de cocina y ropa de cama.  Cuando finalmente llegamos al escritorio, sentí como si me hubiera derrumbado.

(tabla de contenido)


Mis pies tocan una melodía sobre teclas de tierra y raíz
Mi aliento llena mis pies, mis sentidos llenan el espacio.
Juntos me sumergen lentamente en una quietud
El bosque saluda, abruma, e invita.

Estos bosques son juguetones pero peligrosos.
como un tigre que uno cree manso,
por lo que la seguridad se encuentra centrándose en el juego.

Aquí honro estos bosques en conciencia.
En el relámpago del instinto encontrando su carga
En ojos que se maravillan
Oidos que atienden
En sentidos vivos y desatados
que no se pierda ninguna palabra del bosque.

Mi primera y última declaración—una canción;
Pisadas sobre la sombra y el sol
Ritmos sobre el piso del bosque,
y la melodía al tomar aire
para amar un lugar
y perder a mí mismo.

Elliott Honeycutt (traducido por Tim curtis)

(tabla de contenido)

Estad quietos y sabed que yo soy Dios.
Estad quietos y sabed que yo soy.
Quédese quieto y sepa.
Estate quieto.

Compartido por Lucky Guindon en una reunión reciente.

Mi largo y extraño viaje hacia una fe más simple

Por Tom Cox (traducido por Alberto Guindon)

Foto real de mi viaje.

“Quédese quieto y sepa…”

Lucky Guindon compartió este hermoso y simple testimonio en una reunión reciente. Y aunque lo he oído decir antes a otros cristianos contemplativos, el momento y el contexto en que lo dijo resonaron dentro de mí con respecto al maravilloso don de una fe más simple.

Jesús tenía una fe sencilla. Redujo los Diez Mandamientos a sólo dos: amar a Dios; amarse unos a otros A ver si puedes manejar eso. Cuando sus discípulos discutían sobre cuál de ellos era el mayor, les puso un niño delante y les advirtió que a menos que pudieran llegar a ser como el niño, nunca experimentarían el reino de Dios. La fe sencilla de un niño no sólo es necesaria sino requerida.

Mi jornada de fe es un poco un desastre que me ha convertido en el chucho cristiano que soy hoy. Me crié por primera vez en una Iglesia Congregacional en los suburbios de Chicago. En la escuela primaria, los congregacionalistas le parecían demasiado “flojos” a mi padre, por lo que nos llevó al otro extremo del espectro y a los episcopales con su gran pompa eclesiástica y su liturgia consistente y confiable todos los domingos, donde finalmente me confirmaron. Aún así, diría que mis padres eran meramente creyentes nominales en ese momento. Nunca recuerdo haberlos visto orar o leer la Biblia o discutir asuntos religiosos en casa, excepto quizás por asuntos de la iglesia.

En la década de 1970, los ministerios paraeclesiásticos estaban de moda en las escuelas secundarias de los EE. UU., un remanente del Movimiento de Jesús de la década de 1960. Estas eran organizaciones nacionales que no estaban afiliadas a ninguna iglesia o denominación en particular. Incluían Jóvenes para Cristo, Vida Joven y Fraternidad de Atletas Cristianos. Esta fue mi introducción al evangelicalismo, así como al uso sutil de la presión de grupo en los círculos religiosos. Parte de su estrategia definitivamente incluía usar a los niños populares e influyentes para hacer proselitismo a todos nosotros, los “normales”. Créanme, más de unas pocas decisiones religiosas para Jesús fueron fuertemente influenciadas por hormonas alborotadas y el deseo de ser visto en la mesa de
los “chicos geniales”. Levanté más de una ceja a mis padres al salir temprano en la mañana con una Biblia bajo el brazo. ¿Estaba Tom en algún tipo de culto?

En los años ochenta, me fui a Texas para asistir a la universidad, donde la única opción real los domingos por la mañana era la baptista del sur, pero la gente evangélica paraeclesiástica resultó ser igual de activa en los campus universitarios. Cuando regresé a Chicago después de la universidad, algunas personas que conocía de Jóvenes para Cristo en la escuela secundaria habían comenzado su propia iglesia no confesional “sensible a los buscadores”. Se reunía en una sala de cine, no tenía cruz ni simbolismo religioso, usaba música moderna para la adoración e incluso organizaba presentaciones dramáticas para ayudar a apoyar el mensaje del pastor. Durante los siguientes quince años, me convertí en director de programas, escritor de obras de teatro y, finalmente, en pastor asociado de esta iglesia. No es necesario seminario ni ordenación. Me gusta decir que fui “sustituido”. Otro pastor y yo dirigimos la iglesia durante un año y medio
mientras buscaban a nivel nacional un nuevo pastor principal y, durante ese tiempo, hicimos crecer la iglesia a más de 1200 personas los domingos por la mañana. En ese momento, sin embargo, ninguno de nosotros quería el trabajo.

Hay muchas cosas buenas que recuerdo de esa época. Establecí excelentes relaciones con muchas personas maravillosas e hicimos algunas cosas grandiosas. Incluso viajamos a Rusia y Ucrania para demostrar cómo una iglesia moderna podría usar las artes para atraer a sus jóvenes que no estaban interesados en la
fe ortodoxa oriental.

Ah, los noventa. Ese tipo detrás de nosotros definitivamente era un espía.

Durante ese tiempo, vi vidas cambiadas, personas sobrias y matrimonios salvados. Vi a los niños convertirse en adultos increíbles. Pero me encuentro más obsesionado en estos días por los momentos vergonzosos en los que participé. Las formas en que usamos el cielo y el infierno en un palo proverbial para hacer cumplir la creencia y el pensamiento adecuados. Las formas en que seleccionamos
las escrituras para mantener a las mujeres fuera del liderazgo y sumisas a sus maridos. Las formas en que dijimos que le dimos la bienvenida a las personas LGBTQ+, pero solo porque queríamos cambiarlas y “rezar para alejar a los homosexuales”. Las formas en que se desalentaba cuestionar o dudar de la propia fe, si no se tildaba de desleal o incluso demoníaco. Las formas en que nuestra iglesia próspera y predominantemente blanca gastó miles de dólares en instalaciones, personal, programas y tecnología, pero muy poco en reducir el sufrimiento y los problemas de justicia social en nuestra comunidad.

Eso fue un desastre. Estaba mal. ¿Por qué no me fui? Estos son los pensamientos que todavía me persiguen cuando pienso en ese momento. Luego me tranquilizo y recuerdo que éramos jóvenes y sin formación. En ese momento, esa iglesia era mi todo: mis amigos, mis ingresos y mi carrera, y el lugar donde prosperé y se valoraron mis talentos. Existíamos en una burbuja sin supervisión ni autoridad. En lugar de hacer el trabajo para determinar lo que creía espiritualmente, básicamente me habían entregado el libro de texto del maestro con todas las
respuestas en la parte de atrás. Me sentí presionado a memorizar las respuestas y me desanimé de resolver las ecuaciones por mi cuenta.

Eventualmente, mis dudas no pudieron ser contenidas. Comenzó con el 11 de septiembre y vio cómo la iglesia se volvía más nacionalista. Luego vino la Guerra
de Irak y vi cómo se infiltraban el militarismo y la islamofobia. Internet aún estaba en pañales, gran parte de mi radicalización sucedió a la antigua, a través de los
libros. Empecé a leer a Shane Claiborne, el primer cristiano que conocía que criticaba la guerra. Leí a Jim Wallis y me enteré de la política cristiana progresista. Leí «Tal como el jazz» de Donald Miller, en el que fue a una celebración pagana y erigió un confesionario. Cuando la gente entró y comenzó a confesarse, Donald los detuvo y en su lugar pidió perdón por todos los pecados que la iglesia había cometido a lo largo de los siglos. Vi videos de Rob Bell y descubrí al p. Ricardo Rohr. Luego vinieron Nadia Bolz-Weber, Rachel Held Evans, Barbera Brown Taylor, William J. Barber y Ta-Nehisi Coates. Había libros más antiguos de
Thomas Merton y la teología de la liberación de Howard Thurman y James Cone. Un día, cuando mi jefe en la iglesia vio un libro bastante inocuo de Brian McLaren en mi escritorio, me advirtió que tuviera cuidado porque “ese libro es peligroso”. Un libro. Peligroso. Sabía que era hora de irme.

Acepté el primer trabajo que me ofrecieron. Era para una editorial cristiana conservadora de Pittsburgh, pero estaba bien. Era mi trabajo diario, no mi iglesia. Podía editar los libros y luego conducir de regreso a la ciudad y a mi iglesia progresista recién descubierta que se metió en problemas por alimentar a las personas sin hogar y celebrar bodas homosexuales secretas hasta que la denominación Presbiteriana de EE. UU. finalmente las hizo oficiales. Llevamos a cabo estudios bíblicos subversivos en los sótanos de los salones de tatuajes y acogimos la duda como una necesidad espiritual para la comprensión. Fue allí
donde comencé oficialmente a “deconstruir” mi fe.

La deconstrucción es un término que se usa a menudo en los círculos cristianos progresistas. Algunos lo ven como obra del diablo, mientras que otros lo ven como la única manera de seguir a Jesús de una manera que no sea tóxica, traumática o poco ética. Básicamente, pones tu fe en un ascensor como un mecánico con un coche en un garaje. Lo desarmas, pieza por pieza. Luego miras cada parte y decides
si todavía lo crees. ¿Es realmente necesario creer en esto para ser fiel? Cosas como las doctrinas del infierno, la salvación y la infalibilidad de las Escrituras; tu imagen
visual de Dios; el significado de la cruz (¿Dios realmente mató a su hijo porque eres tan terrible?); puntos de vista puritanos sobre la sexualidad (¿qué quieres decir con que la palabra homosexual era una traducción errónea que no apareció en la Biblia hasta 1949?), todo. Tiras las partes que ya no tienen sentido o parecen consistentes con tu imagen de un Dios amoroso. Luego intenta volver a montar las
piezas que SÍ encajan. Seré honesto, algunas personas nunca regresan. Algunos también deben lidiar con un trauma real, tanto físico como psicológico, que
experimentaron en la iglesia. Algunos terminan tirando todo y alejándose. No puedo culparlos. Pero otros de alguna manera pueden volver a armar este desorden en algo hermoso, útil y duradero.

Durante la pandemia, me sumergí en los contemplativos y en los místicos católicos, hombres y mujeres que encontraron a Dios por su cuenta, fuera del sistema eclesiástico. Mi favorito era San Francisco, un joven rico que regresó de la guerra y se desnudó ante el obispo de Asís. Renunció a las posesiones materiales, abrazó la paz y se fue a reconstruir la iglesia sin poseer nada, ministrando a los leprosos y adorando a Dios en la naturaleza. Lo veo como probablemente el más cuáquero de los místicos católicos.

Creo que este viaje fue fundamental para que dejáramos los Estados Unidos y nos estableciésemos en Costa Rica, y Monteverde en particular. El cuaquerismo se ha adaptado fácilmente a mi fe simplificada. Se trata más de la vida que vives que de las cosas en las que crees. No se basa en doctrinas o credos, sino que se apoya en valores (¡como las ESPECIAS!) que luego se convierten en la base para escuchar a Dios y responder. Y aunque mi pasado me hace dudar de saltar a cosas como la membresía y la pertenencia a una organización, me ha encantado sentarme en silencio aquí y utilizar la energía enfocada de la reunión para continuar resolviendo estas cosas en mi cabeza y en mi corazón.

A lo largo de los años, mi fe se ha reducido y condensado en un guiso mucho más simple pero más sabroso. Más simple, pero no más fácil o menos sofisticado. Es mi viaje, y no necesariamente algo que prescribiría o insistiría para otra persona. Ya no reside únicamente en mi cabeza como dogma. Valora la duda y el asombro por encima de las respuestas rápidas y la seguridad rígida. Es más elusivo. Requiere el trabajo interno de escuchar y discernir. Parece más bíblico, o al menos más centrado en Cristo: el producto de un hombre que nunca escribió nada ni fundó ninguna iglesia, sino que insistió en que el reino de Dios está dentro de ti.

Es una fe más ligera. Una fe más amorosa. Es menos temible. Es una fe que permanece y juega bien con los demás. Nunca se impondrá a los demás porque entiende que, en el mejor de los casos, probablemente solo sea un 5% correcto. Es fluido y en constante movimiento, no rígido y quebradizo. Es más como un caleidoscopio que cambia constantemente en algo hermoso a medida que gira. Cuando aparecen desafíos y dudas, es más resiliente y flexible. Está más basado en la gracia. Si vivo otros 15 años, estoy seguro de que se producirán más cambios. Algunas cosas en las que creo hoy pueden hacerme estremecer entonces. Pero eso está bien. Todo es parte del viaje. Y qué largo y extraño viaje ha sido.

(tabla de contenido)

Forgiveness — Seeds | Semillas — #18 January 2023

Seeds is now also available in a PDF format that can be printed, saved, or shared. Click on the link above.

Our theme for this issue is something sorely needed but in short supply in our ever-more divided world: Forgiveness. The Seeds committee is grateful to the Quaker community of Monteverde for wrestling with this intensely personal, innately complicated, and, at times, painful subject. As in life, nothing rewarding or healing seems to come without struggle and surrender. Unforgiveness is one of those insidious things that can take root within us and, if not dealt with, become a part of us—a weight that becomes our duty to carry. In most cases, however, the person or thing we struggle to forgive is either no longer living or perhaps sailing through life oblivious or indifferent to our self-imposed crusade. Very often, we are the only ones affected by our struggle to forgive. Author Anne Lamott writes, “I really believe that earth is forgiveness school—I really believe that’s why they brought us here, and then left us without any owner’s manual. I think we’re here to learn forgiveness. …To forgive someone is the hardest work we do.”

In this issue, we are introduced to Katherine Leiton and Philip Adams, and Philip shares why we shouldn’t necessarily forgive and forget. Harriet Joslin and Kay Chornook each explore the process of moving through forgiveness—either by letting go or making amends. A poem by Hazel Guindon highlights the importance of forgiving and accepting yourself. Jennie Mollica shares the complicated feelings around forgiveness she experienced while living in Vietnam. Old Testament scholar Eric Ellison reflects on his Ph.D. studies about the biblical difference between forgivable and unforgivable sin. Finally, we also have an update from former Seeds committee member and Monteverde resident Tim Lietzke and his journey to discover communal living in the United States.

In coming issues, Seeds will begin to highlight the SPICES of Quaker life. These core values make up our living testimony. The acronym SPICES refers to: Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, Stewardship/Sustainability. In May, our topic will be Simplicity. Send us your essays, poetry, artwork, photography, or interviews on the role of Simplicity in your life. Anyone, Quaker or not, may send submissions to the Seeds e-mail address: seedsmfm@gmail.com. Deadline for submissions is April 30.

Table of Contents

Introducing Katherine Leiton and Philip Adams

Hello! We are Katherine and Phil! We are so happy to be a part of this beautiful, loving, and supportive community of Monteverde! We are not exactly new to the community. Katherine is a member of the lovely Leiton family and was born and raised in Monteverde, learning from its people and nature for many years. Phil, being from Canada, has been a visitor here for several years but has made Monteverde home for the past two years. Even more significantly, we have decided to call Monteverde home together, as this is where we will grow our current family of two.

Of course, living here involves much more than the two of us, whether it is the deeply reliable and empowering group of Katherine’s relatives or the many friends we have made here who teach us what it means to contribute to and grow a community such as this. We are blessed beyond words to be surrounded by such trailblazers in the fields of community outreach, nature preservation, spirituality, and biological research. And so, with deep empathy and passion for animal rights and well-being, as well as the goal of bringing awareness to assisting the forest’s ability to thrive along with all the life it supports, we want to continue to do our part in sharing the beauty of Monteverde with visitors and locals alike. By continuing to do so, we hope to spark a passion in others for a love of nature and the protection of these treasured resources. Thank you, Monteverde community members, for making the world a better place and including us in this admirable aspiration!

[table of contents]

Forgive and Remember

By Philip Adams

Let’s talk about forgiveness—specifically self-forgiveness. And what a perfect time to do so. As a new year begins, perhaps there are thoughts and feelings we need to release in order to free ourselves to pursue our new resolutions. When I think about it, forgiveness seems to be a sort of superpower; it has the power to free us from our unjustified expectations of others. When we forgive others, we empower them to enter back into our lives as we remain open to developing stronger relationships and connections. Perhaps then, if we can apply that same power of forgiveness to ourselves, we can also grow in relation to our individuality and free ourselves to chase new horizons instead of being burdened by past regrets.

A common distinction comes to mind, that of forgiving and that of forgetting. “Forgive and forget,” where did this concept come from? Whatever its origin, reflecting on it now, I find great significance in it, especially in relation to self-forgiveness. Because although self-forgiveness can free us from the weight of regret, completely forgetting why regret or past preoccupations came up may leave us prone to repeating the very thoughts and actions that got us there in the first place.

And so, as I embark into this new year, I will attempt to exercise self-forgiveness, but I will avoid forgetting. Perhaps a better way of putting it: I will aim to maintain self-awareness. In theory, if I can alleviate my attachment to the anxieties of regret by forgiving myself while at the same time remembering the actions, moments, and decisions that made me feel that way, I may further empower myself with the wisdom to not only avoid similar pitfalls but also the ability to improve upon methods and reactions I may have taken that I have come to regret.

To close this thought rant of self-forgiveness, it seems the empowering nature of forgiveness, and in particular, self-forgiveness, may point us to the positive side of regret, which is the fact that it can give us the wisdom to grow without the restraint put on us by the anxiety of regret. So let us approach this brand-new year full of hope, liberated from the weight of what we may think has been holding us back through the past year, and be guided by the wisdom that we are a little bit more experienced to deal with the twists and turns life has to offer.

God bless and Godspeed in this Happy New Year.

[table of contents]

“Forgive and Forget? No. If you Forget, then there can be no real Forgiveness.”


Forgiveness, at Last

By Kay Chornook

In 1997, I was fired from a job that I loved—no warning, no explanation, the termination sent by letter in the post. I think dismissals were being handled this way in corporate settings, but this job was at a summer camp, a bush community I lived in and was part of for several years. The man who fired me was a close friend, coworker, and boss. The shock of it, the feeling of betrayal, and the pain it caused, bookended by the death of my parents in the same period, stayed with me for a very long time. I did not forget, and I could not forgive. Time dulled the sharpness and worked to erase the memory, though anytime the man’s name came up, I felt the harsh sting of bitterness that remained inside me.

Twenty-three years later, in 2020, I received another letter, this time by email, equally as surprising. It was a letter of apology from the person who had fired me. He began by saying he had heard I had sent him greetings through a mutual friend (which I hadn’t so there is some alchemy involved) and now he was taking the opportunity to do something he knew he should have done many years ago. He explained that he knew he was wrong to fire me, especially in that cold manner, had taken bad advice and realized very quickly that he had made a mistake but had not until now, reached out to me. In a conversation through emails, we didn’t pick over the details, largely forgotten over time, but we did reach a place of comfort. And I forgave him.

In the summer of 2022, this man passed away relatively quickly from pancreatic cancer. I had not had the chance to see him since his apology, largely due to Covid restrictions. What I did understand was how forgiving him affected my reaction to his death. I am quite sure that without the forgiveness, I would have expressed my sympathies to his family who I am still close to, with words that acknowledged their loss but not his value. But because of his act of kindness in apologizing to me, after all those years, and my response of forgiving, after years of carrying some seed of resentment, I felt true loss and lingered awhile in that murky pond of grief. As I read the many tributes to him, I was able to appreciate him, not resent him. I am so very thankful that forgiveness had come to me. It made all that came after much more loving.

[table of contents]

Letting Go

By Harriet Joslin

Forgiveness is a concept I have thought about from many perspectives over the years: childhood hurts, thoughtless words or deeds, personal betrayals, and working with clients deeply wounded by unspeakable acts. Relationships can be messy. We all are harmed in small ways, some are harmed in grave ways, and we all cause harm from time to time, either inadvertently or on purpose. That is part of living.

Popular “wisdom” says forgiveness is the path to personal growth, to becoming a better person. And yet, frequently the word is used to describe a one-way process, putting the task of pardoning on the victim* with no requirement of any reciprocal effort from the wrong-doer. That, in my mind, minimalizes the value of real forgiveness.

Sometimes for the victim to begin to forgive, they might need to confront the wrongdoer and tell them what they did and the harm it caused. This can be very difficult, and the person may need the love and support of others. Indeed, if the victim is deeply wounded it can require a lot of guidance, support, and a long, long time. When the wrongdoer truthfully acknowledges what they did and responds with humility and true repentance, both they and the victim can reconcile their differences and experience empathy, each for the other. It doesn’t mean the act is forgotten, or even that the two can resume a meaningful relationship, but the act can be put in the past so that both can move forward.

Acknowledging harm and admitting hurtful mistakes whether intentional or not, can take immense courage and painful self-examination, not to mention potential humiliation or consequences. When the wrong-doer does come forth with that humility and repentance and the victim cannot enter into the process of forgiving with them, then both can be damaged. But the work of true repentance and atonement is a whole other subject.

I think what is often meant by the word forgiveness is what I prefer to call “letting go,” which can be very freeing. Holding on to hurt, whether it is active or more on an unconscious level, can cause painful damage, often leading the victim to react with anger or revenge, damaging how they relate to others. Sometimes there is no opportunity or safe space for confronting the wrongdoer, so the true forgiveness I’ve described isn’t possible.

Letting go of harm allows the victim to put the act in the past, to recognize that it is over and no longer has power over them. Working through this process of letting go allows us to heal and learn to recognize situations that may put us in harm’s way. Hopefully, we become more aware of how we may harm others and perhaps even become inspired to work toward righting wrongs done to others. These steps can be personally, emotionally, and relationally liberating in so many ways.  

As I write, I cannot think of anyone or anything that I am holding on to with anger or malice and I am immensely grateful for being in that space.

*I use the word victim for lack of a better word, recognizing that often people who are harmed do not consider themselves to remain victims.

[table of contents]

“Forgiveness is a strange thing. It can sometimes be easier to forgive our enemies than our friends. It can be hardest of all to forgive people we love.”

Fred rogers (mister rogers)

Forgive Myself

i close my eyes and whisper while embracing my heart.
i forgive myself. i choose to BE my first safe space.

i deeply love myself.
i own my past, present and future.
i choose to believe and honor my truth.

i then open my eyes and everything has become blissful.
i was forgiven, when there was nothing to forgive.

i then forgive, even when there is nothing to forgive.
i let go of the resentment that is no longer mine.

I stay with love

Hazel Guindon

[table of contents]

“Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.”

oscar Wilde

Ancient Israelite Forgiveness

By Eric Ellison, Ph.D.

Tiffani and Eric Ellison with their daughters (l to r) Katia, Tabitha, and Abigail.

Forgiveness was important in ancient Israel. They believed God is fundamentally forgiving. They sang about it in their poetry: “For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you” (Psalm 86:5). They recorded in their narrative God’s self-description: “…keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Exodus 34:7). And when we come to the priestly literature, we see forgiveness repeated frequently in relation to the sacrificial system at the sanctuary, in places like Leviticus 4:20, 26, 31, 35; 5:16, 18 and Numbers 15:25, 28. The disquieting part of each of these verses listed is that the sin to be forgiven is described in Hebrew as being committed shegagah, usually translated in English as “unintentionally” or “inadvertently.” In fact, Numbers 15:28 directly contrasts shegagah sins with high-handed sin, which is unforgivable. If high-handed sin is intentional sin, then the only thing that makes sin forgivable is if it is committed unintentionally. Who can claim to have never sinned intentionally? The Spanish por yerro (“by mistake”) is no better, for the honest among us will admit not every sin we are guilty of was a mistake. Some, at least, were planned. So, did the ancient Israelite sanctuary system allow for forgiveness only when people did not know the action was wrong or when they did not mean to do it?

The problem traces back to translation. As we can see in the verses cited above, a lot of the places where shegagah appears are in Leviticus 4. The sins described in this chapter are clearly inadvertent. It says the matter was hidden from the culprit and then it becomes known to him. (See Leviticus 4:13–14, 23, 28.) Clearly, these are cases in which someone did a wrong action but either did not realize it at the time or forgot it. A person can bring a sacrifice to the sanctuary and be forgiven only after the culprit realizes the action committed was wrong. Because of Leviticus 4, translators have used words like unintentional or por yerro to communicate this kind of inadvertent sin. Then they assume that any time shegagah appears, it must mean only unintentional sin.

This assumption is incorrect. The Hebrew Bible uses this same word elsewhere to mean “stray” or “wander.” Isaiah 28:7 uses this word to describe those who “stray” with wine and “wander with strong drink.” Proverbs 5:19–23 uses the word to describe a married man who wanders after another woman and his life spirals downward to his death. His epitaph in verse 23 is “in his great folly, he went astray.” Proverbs is counting on the reader not wanting such an inscription on his tombstone. It is clearly seen in Ezekiel 34:6: “My sheep strayed on all the mountains and over all the high hills.” It is not even the sheep’s fault. Ezekiel blames the bad leadership of the shepherds. Psalm 119:67 even shows that straying is not permanent: “Before I was afflicted, I strayed, now I keep your word.” Finally, in 1 Samuel 26:21, King Saul describes his murderous crusade to kill David: “Look, I was foolish and wandered greatly.” Shegagah is a good word to describe a king straying all over the nation after a fugitive for no good reason. This last example illustrates that such straying can be very intentional. Saul did not accidently or unintentionally try to murder David. Translators have seen these passages as referring to straying but argue that in priestly law the term means “inadvertent.” Is there a passage that can help us to define what shegagah means in Levitical literature?

There is just such a text in Numbers 15:22–31. It uses the word nine times describing sins that are forgivable through sacrifice and outlines what to do if the whole congregation sins shegagah. If they follow correct sacrificial procedure, the priest can make atonement and they receive forgiveness. Verses 27–31 explain what an individual sinner must do to receive forgiveness, but they are in the form of an either/or statement. The sinner either commits the misdeed shegagah or with a high hand (beyad ramah). High-handed sins are unforgivable; straying sins are forgivable. This is the definitive passage to help us understand what shegagah means in priestly law. Whatever sin is not done with a high hand is “straying” and thus forgivable. So, what is high-handed sin?

This phrase “high-handed” is used twice to describe how Israel went out of Egypt during the Exodus, in Exodus 14:8, and Numbers 33:3. Clearly, leaving Egypt, they were permanently breaking a relationship. When Jeroboam split ten tribes away from the house of David and formed the northern kingdom of Israel, separate from Judah in the south, 1 Kings 11:26–27 says twice that “he raised his hand against the king.” This is so clearly a case of rebellious defiance that most translations do not say “raised his hand” but translate the phrase as “rebelled.” The Hebrew word for rebellion appears at the end of the story in the summary: “So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day” (1 Kings 12:19). Everywhere the phrase “high-handed” appears in the Bible, it describes someone or some group showing defiant independence or rebellion. It always indicates a permanent break in relationship.

An either/or statement always includes 100 percent of the options. Something can be either wet or dry. Something could be merely damp, moist, waterlogged, or soaking wet, but none of them are dry. Only something totally dry is not at all wet. If “high-handed” means permanent rebellion and defiance then shegagah must mean any action that is not permanently defiant.

Now we should return to Leviticus 4. We mentioned that sinners might realize their guilt, but we overlooked that verses 23 and 28 also give the option that the sin is “made known” to the sinner. The ancient Greek translation of such situations says, “on the day he is convicted.” This suggests that sometimes sinners were reluctant or even belligerent about admitting they were wrong. Deuteronomy 17:8–20 describes the Hebrew courts. If someone wronged you, you should talk it out, one on one. If that fails, you can take them to the elders for judgment. If that still fails, you could go to the king, who, in consultation with the priests, would give a final ruling. We have all known stubborn or belligerent people who are slow to admit their own wrongs. The Levitical system was built to offer forgiveness even to the most uncooperative individuals. As long as they are still “straying,” they might be brought back to the path. Even after multiple people have failed to get through to them.

In ancient Israel, people were sometimes selfish, stubborn, and sinful, but as long as they had not become permanently defiant, there was hope for their forgiveness. It would be well for us to consider this kind of approach to wrongdoing. As long as people are straying from the goal but have not permanently given up, they may find their way back, or may be brought back by others—friends, leaders, or even courts. Forgiveness was available to anyone who was willing to stop straying from the path and sincerely wanted to return. How would our society function if we were equally willing to work with the stubborn and belligerent? Even when we plan to sin and it is not a mistake, forgiveness is available.

[table of contents]

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”

Lewis b. Smedes

An Invitation to Forgive

By Jennie Mollica

In 1994, when I was twenty-three and the war was that long past, I arrived in Vietnam as a volunteer English teacher. The department chair at the Hue Teacher Training College welcomed me and asked for classes in American Pronunciation, American Literature, and American Culture. He assumed my expertise in these topics, but I was doubtful. I had never taught a classroom of students. I thought:

            I’m sorry for having no training in teaching.

            Pardon my poor Vietnamese language and my funny clothes.

            Forgive me for the American War.

My students were nearly my age, born shortly after the Fall of Saigon. Thirsty for learning English, they dreamed of becoming teachers themselves, or of working in Ho Chi Minh City for an international company. America was where their uncles and cousins lived in big houses, drove cars, and visited Disneyland. The war hovered in the background like a phantom. It was the reason why Tran’s uncle lived in California, Bich’s father spent years in a re-education camp, and boiled cassava recalled a time when rice was scarce. While these tales surfaced around me, I was garnered with respect and gratitude for being an English teacher. Perhaps this was a new era, a new generation. Who was I to ask for forgiveness?

I took the train north during the school vacation, using my emerging Vietnamese to talk with anyone I met. In a small mountain town not far from Hanoi, I pulled up a tiny bench in front of a noodle vendor and asked for a bowl of hot soup. The woman stirred the pot she sat beside and poked at the fire below it. As she lifted noodles into a bowl with chopsticks and arranged fresh herbs on top, we smiled at each other and she asked where I was from.

“Nguoi my,” I said. American.

She ladled broth on my noodles and said, “Americans bombed my village and killed my family.”

Then she offered me the warm bowl, her glance gentle. My face must have looked pained when I accepted the soup.

“We can’t dwell on the past,” she said. “Better to let go of it.”

She asked why I was there. We talked until my meal was done—about travel, teaching English, learning Vietnamese, and then about her Buddhist faith, her soup business. Still thinking about what this woman had witnessed, I searched in the swirls of my noodles for whom to blame: a soldier in a plane, a general, a country, or myself? The invitation rising from the steaming broth was to forgive.

Back in Hue, I assigned my American Culture students a creative writing project: imagine an American family and tell me about their lives. We had been exploring our understanding of culture and the complexity of cultures in the United States. Many students chose to write about a Vietnamese-American family. They described people who traversed cultural mixing grounds and found a home. It seemed to me we were all floating in this complicated space, making peace with the messiness of it.

One warm spring day, I took a stack of essays to grade while sitting outdoors. I biked through the gates of the Citadel and parked at the edge of the Imperial Palace, where a scattering of crumbling walls sat apart from the better-maintained museum site. I chose a place to perch among the roofless ruins of a room. My head was in my pile of papers when a man walked into the quiet space and stood at its vacant center. He appeared to be a tourist, and I wondered how he had found this less-visited corner. I let him be in silence until his gaze met mine and, surprised to see me there, he said hello. Then a story poured from him, and I listened.

He was last in this room in 1968, but he had dreamed of it nearly every night since. He was tormented by the memories. Today he had returned to face them. He turned to the window in front of him and pointed to the bullet holes still visible below it, beside it, where he had crouched, where he had nearly lost his life, where he positioned his gun, where the soldier beside him had died, where the battle experience marked him and he could never forget the horror. The story rose out of him and settled in the still air of the ruined room. My eyes crept across the walls that surrounded us. The bullet scars were everywhere, reminders of that day. I wouldn’t have seen them myself.

The man stood, taking deep breaths, listening to the quiet. When he looked back at me, he said thank you.

He had needed to return here, and he had needed to tell his story. He had needed someone to listen, and without reason, I had been there.

On the weekends, I often joined a Buddhist group that delivered donated rice to families and temples in the countryside. We would gather in the early morning and make the rounds of houses around the city where for every bowl of rice boiled, one bowlful was scooped raw into a sack for others who had none.

We balanced the sacks of rice on our bicycles and bumped down dirt roads out of the city. We visited a blind man who had no family, only neighbors who stayed close and stocked his kitchen. They all came to greet us and invited us into the man’s tiny house for tea.

We pedaled many miles through stretches of rice fields to a tiny temple where a solitary monk prayed. He accepted our donations of rice and incense with loving smiles.

We visited—not once, but again and again until we were friends—a frail woman who had lost the use of her legs when her fragile home collapsed. She was now tended to by her devoted husband, who cooked for us the most delicious pumpkin pudding.

As we bicycled from house to house, weaving among the green rice fields, I was building the forgiveness I needed.

In 2006, Jennie returned to Hue
and to the home of the crippled woman and her devoted husband.

[table of contents]

Report from New London

By Tim Lietzke

It’s been nearly three months since I left Monteverde to begin a new life at the St. Francis House community in New London, Connecticut. The time has been full and fruitful for me in various ways, but for the community, whose principles are much in line with Quaker testimonies and Third Order Franciscans (Episcopalian and Ecumenical), it has been a difficult time fraught with making a defense against groundless litigation. One complaint has been dismissed and one remains for now. Nevertheless, I have been welcomed open-heartedly. At the same time, consideration is being given to long-term plans, especially in light of the fact that four of the eight of us, including one of the founders, are in our 70s.

We are a racially diverse community—four black and four white. There are two houses, St Francis House and Victory House. Presently there are seven of us living in St. Francis House and the hope is to turn Victory House into a conference center. The first floor of St. Francis House has a chapel, a small living room, a dining room, and two kitchens. The two floors above are bedrooms and bathrooms. I live on the second floor in the room next to Cal Robertson’s room. He suffers the mental and emotional harm caused by the Vietnam War. He also has diabetes and must use a walker and a portable wheelchair. His war experience turned him to peace activism, especially public witness, in which he has been engaged for decades. For much of that time, his witness was a daily event. His influence is widespread, both in New London and at the Groton submarine base across the river. Usually, in our vigils in front of the house and elsewhere, he is greeted warmly and by name. I am now one of those who prepare his meals and meds. And each morning I cook oatmeal for four of us, including Cal. He and I have become close and feel a deep mutual respect grounded in our commitments and witness. In future articles, I’ll try to say more about other members of the community.

Not only do we have meals together; but we also have daily communal prayer, a commitment to daily personal prayer or meditation and weekly attendance at some area church, weekly Bible studies and business meetings, and biweekly Clarification of Thought discussions that are open to the wider community. During the daily prayer, we have Scripture readings as well as a reading on the life and witness of some saint or person who has given their life for love, truth, peace, and justice. During prayer, we have time for sharing reflections on any of the readings. That has frequently opened new insights for me. Included in our prayers are the stated needs of one or another member for whom we pray during the coming week. Bible study follows the African method in which the passage is read three times using different translations. After the first reading, we each share a word or phrase that stands out for us. After the second and third readings, we share what the passage is saying to each of us personally and what we think it is saying to us as a community. During the Clarification of Thought meetings, a presenter offers background information and insights into a particular issue, such as “water use,” followed by an open discussion of the issue. This has all been an enriching experience both in giving and receiving.  I started a small Quaker worship meeting Sunday afternoons at the house and sometimes I go to the Spanish mass, a joyous celebration attended by some two or three hundred people, I think. There is a large Latino community in New London, mainly Puerto Rican, I have heard. I often hear Spanish spoken on the streets.

While my involvement so far has largely been in nurturing friendships and participating in activities within the community, I am also discerning where I feel led to offer my services in the extended community and beyond, in addition to the peace witnessing. Possibilities include working with the high school students in the FRESH community garden near me, serving on a committee connected to the City Council working on sustainability issues in New London, helping out at the 50-bed homeless shelter, and talking with neighbors and the poor I meet on the streets and directing them to the help they need. At this point, I’m inclined towards the FRESH garden and the sustainability committee.

While intentional community is hard work, it is worth the effort, both for my sake and the sake of others.

[table of contents]