I don’t know what I might be led to write when I sit in front of my computer and try to move into a place where I can hear the Inner Light. What I’m hearing this morning seems disjointed, but I’m hearing many voices related to ‘silence’.

I think I am craving silence for renewal during these dark times full of incessant noise.

Worshiping in silence at Quaker meetings for worship is something I’ve done throughout my life.

I hadn’t reflected much on why we sought opportunities to be by ourselves in the mountains. It just seemed a much better experience that way. Now I think it was related to feeling closer to God when we were deep in the quiet of the forests. Having grown up in Quaker communities, I was used to worshiping in silence, as we do so we can hear the whisper of the Spirit. Being enveloped in the silence of the mountains was a natural extension of Quaker worship.

Spirit Walking in Tundra, Quakers, Social justice and Revolution, Jeff Kisling

As I am writing this I’m thinking of two separate meanings of silence. I don’t remember knowing about the terms ‘active’ and ‘passive’ silence but I have always know the concepts they represent. Passive silence relates to not speaking when there is a need to speak out. It is a way of hiding, or not engaging. Active silence relates to creating the conditions that will allow you to hear what the Spirit is saying to you. Silent Quaker meetings for worship, or individual meditation are examples of active silence.

The Silence=Death Project relates to passive silence.

They (Silence = Death Project) created the Silence=Death poster using the title phrase and a pink triangle, which during the 1970s had become a gay pride symbol reclaimed by the gay community from its association with the persecution of homosexuals in Nazi Germany and the Holocaust.[4]

Silence = Death Project

“SILENCE = DEATH” today relates to years of silence related to environmental disaster and its crisis of conscience. We are rapidly heading toward the death of Mother Earth.

Because active silence is the core of Quaker meeting for worship, I’ve heard about this all my life. But recently I’ve been learning about Native spirituality and culture. That is one of the things I value most from sharing eight days, walking 94 miles, with a small group of Native and non native people, who became my friends. Every time we came to a place where we crossed over the Dakota Access pipeline as we walked together on the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March, we would stop and form a circle, and have some silence and prayer.

Alton and Foxy Onefeather

This has occasioned discovering new ways of thinking about silence.

But silence teaches in a way that nothing else can. The mind makes deep adjustments in the quiet times. True laughter bubbles up from humor too precious for words–and brings with it a joy that dissolves disappointment.

A Cherokee Feast of Days, Volume Two, March 31, by Joyce Sequichie Hifler

The Warrior of the Light meditates. He sits in a quiet place in his tent and surrenders himself to the divine light. When he does this, he tries not to think about anything; he shuts himself off from the search for pleasure, from challenges and revelations, and allows his gifts and powers to reveal themselves. Even if he does not recognize them then, these gifts and powers will take care of his life and will influence his day-to-day existence. While he meditates, the Warrior is not himself, but a spark from the Soul of the World. Meditation gives him an understanding of his responsibilities and of how he should behave accordingly. A Warrior of the Light knows that in the silence of his heart he will hear an order that will guide him.

Coelho, Paulo. Warrior of the Light: A Manual (pp. 26-27). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

I’ve just begun reading “Neither Wolf nor Dog” by Kent Nerburn, which I’m very glad someone recommended. I can see why people value it.

“Your eyes are different, Nerburn,” he said. “You are looking farther.” He didn’t elaborate or say another word, but that phrase, with all its cryptic meaning, buoyed me like nothing else he had ever said.

One day Dan startled me with a full sentence. “You’re getting better with silence,” he said.
“I am?”
“I watch you.”
“I know.”
“You’re learning. I can tell because of your silence.”
I sensed that he had something to say. Dan did not make small talk when he was on his hill.
“We Indians know about silence,” he said. “We aren’t afraid of it. In fact, to us it is more powerful than words.”
I nodded in agreement.

“Our elders were schooled in the ways of silence, and they passed that along to us. Watch, listen, and then act, they told us. This is the way to live.

“Watch the animals to see how they care for their young. Watch the elders to see how they behave. Watch the white man to see what he wants. Always watch first, with a still heart and mind, then you will learn. When you have watched enough, then you can act.”
There was a silence.

“Indians have known this for a long time. We like to use it on you. We know that when you are in a room and it is quiet you get nervous. You have to fill the space with sound. So you talk right away, before you even know what you are going to say.

“Our elders told us this was the best way to deal with white people. Be silent until they get nervous, then they will start talking. They will keep talking, and if you stay silent, they will say too much. Then you will be able to see into their hearts and know what they really mean. Then you will know what to do.”

“You don’t convince anyone by arguing. People make their decisions in their heart. Talk doesn’t touch my heart.

“People should think of their words like seeds. They should plant them, then let them grow in silence. Our old people taught us that the earth is always speaking to us, but that we have to be silent to hear her.

“I try to be that way. I taught my children to be that way.”

He swept his hand out across the panorama in front of us. “Do you hear the sound of the prairie? That is a great sound. But when I’m talking I can’t hear it.

“There are lots of voices besides ours, Nerburn. Lots of voices.”

“Do you know what I do?” he said. “I listen to voices. For me this hill is so full of life I can never be quiet enough to hear all the voices.”

Nerburn, Kent. Neither Wolf nor Dog (p. 64). New World Library. Kindle Edition.
Posted in Arts, climate change, Indigenous, Native Americans, Quaker, Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Recently I’ve been struggling with ideas of how to bridge the deepening political divide in the United States. The recent rally when the president was in North Carolina was very disturbing, where an all white audience chanted “send her back”. “Her” being Democratic Congressional Representative Ilhan Omar representing a district in Minnesota. It is unbelievable that a sitting president could target women of color, U.S. citizens and duly elected Congresswomen. We are rapidly moving toward a fascist state.

I can’t think of any quick solutions. As I tried to explain in the blog post “the importance of shared memory” I believe we have to work hard to build community, to get beyond the rhetoric and engage people whose views we don’t agree with by personal, face to face meetings.

Next I wrote about “how do you know” how to figure out what you should do to help build community. For people of faith, anyway, we learn what justice work we should do from guidance from the Spirit or God.

The follow is an exercise from the American Friends Service Committee’s (AFSC) project “Knowing Ourselves: Undoing Racism as Spiritual Practice”. It might benefit you to answer these:

  • I am called to work for justice because…
  • This is essential spiritual work because…
  • What I hope to do and become as I do this work is…

At North Meadow Circle of Friends in Indianapolis several years ago, we decided to explore how the new AFSC program, Quaker Social Change Ministry (QSCM), might help our justice work. The two basic parts of QSCM are:

  • Having the whole Quaker meeting working one a justice project. Most commonly Quaker meetings have various people working on their own justice work. To instead have the whole meeting doing this together helps meeting attenders learn more about each other and benefit from ideas from many people instead of doing this alone.
  • Having the meeting spend significant time with people in a community or organization that is experiencing injustice.

Although I didn’t express that as “creating common memory” at the time, that is what we did when we worked together with a community like the Kheprw Institute (KI), which was the community we worked, and continue to work with at North Meadow Friends.

There is one thing that is critical for making this successful, which is expressed as accompaniment. Accompaniment means those of us who want to work toward justice with an oppressed community must be very careful to resist offering our suggestions or ideas. For this to work, the people in the meeting must listen deeply, and wait for the oppressed community to say what would be helpful for them. It takes a lot of time for the Quakers and the community such as KI to get to know and trust each other. The Quakers have to accept how little they know about the impacted community they want to work with. In my experience at KI it was two years before I was asked to help the community, which in my case was to teach about photography during KI’s summer camp.

In order for a Quaker meeting to begin its relationship with an impacted community, someone has to make the initial contact. What follows is the story of how I first became involved with the KI community.

I had long been struggling with the knowledge that simply through the circumstances of the family I was born into, my life was significantly better in many ways than that of a great many others in America and the world.   This was a spiritual problem for me.

God (finally) provided me with a way to begin to learn about that. Nearly three years ago (2013) the environmental group organized a national day for environmental education/actions. Only one event was listed in Indiana that day, and it was at the Kheprw Institute, which was how I found out about KI.   The day of the event, I arrived at the run down building that had once been a convenience store.  But it was full of kids excited to show us the work they were doing, including their aquaponics system, and the rain barrels they created and sold.

I was intrigued, and wanted to see if I could become involved with this group.  So we arranged a meeting.  On a dark, rainy night I rode my bicycle to the KI building.  The adult leaders, Imhotep, Pambana, Paulette and Alvin, and about a dozen young people from the KI were here.  I had thought we were going to discuss working on some computer software projects together, which is another area KI works with the youth in.

But Imhotep began asking me a series of questions about myself. I don’t talk a lot about myself, but Imhotep, I’ve come to learn, is very good at drawing stories out of people.   I should have anticipated this, but I soon realized I was basically being interviewed so they could determine if I was someone they felt comfortable working with, or not.  So I began to talk about Quakerism. When Imhotep asked me to talk more about that, I said something like, “Quakers believe there is that of God in everyone, and that includes you, and you…” I said to each of the kids near me. The very first time, I think I hesitated slightly as I was asking myself, “Ok, we Friends always say this, but do you really believe this of a group that is different from you?” And I’m really glad the answer was an immediate and emphatic YES, but it also seemed to reaffirm that by exploring it consciously and publicly. At that point I remember smiling at the thought, and the young person whose eyes I was looking into saw it, too, I think. Each person smiled at me as I said that to them, and I had the impression they were thinking, “of course”.   I strongly felt the presence of the Spirit.

Then Imhotep said, “tell us more”. I thought the story of how I had been led to give up owning a car some 30 years ago would help show Quakers try to live as they are being led. At the end of that story Imhotep smiled at me and said, “30 years. You are a warrior.” Being a Quaker, I had never thought of my self in that way. I could tell this amused Imhotep, because I later found out he already know some about Quakers. After he said that, we all laughed together.

That seemed to satisfy the questions for the evening, and they have welcomed me into their community ever since.

Looking back on this, I see now that my unconscious white privilege led me to even ask the question whether there was that of God in everyone in that room that night.

I was not used to speaking about faith in public outside Quaker circles, and this was a lesson that it is important to do so. From the beginning, my experience at the Kreprw Institute has been a shared, spiritual one.

Posted in Black Lives, climate change, Kheprw Institute, Quaker, Quaker Meetings, Quaker Social Change Ministry, Uncategorized | Leave a comment


I want to disclose I am honored to be on the Bold Iowa Team. I appreciate the many good things Bold Iowa has done and continues to do, especially related to climate change. Unfortunately a recent attempt to call attention to the dire threat of environmental collapse was not sensitive to the multigenerational trauma related to nooses in communities of color. I wouldn’t be writing this if I didn’t think it was an example of how those of us who are white need to continually pay close attention to the assumptions we are making, that are shaped by systemic racism and living a culture of supposed white superiority.

I was going to post the video of climate performance art by Bold Iowa. Three people were standing on blocks of melting ice, with nooses around their necks. But some people on the video expressed concerns about nooses and race, and those concerns make sense to me. I do appreciate the underlying message and am sure you can visualize this but the history of lynching in the U.S. means, to me, this is not appropriate.

A friend had this to say about that statement:

When William S. Burroughs’s book *Naked Lunch*, a devastating indictment of the moral bankruptcy of American society, was first published, the city of Boston banned it on account of the language it contained. Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan, speaking at the trial in defense of the banned book, likened the offended Boston Brahmins to a man who, on being awakened at two in the morning by a person outside the front door shouting that the house was on fire, criticized the way the person who awakened him was dressed. At two in the morning!

Well, the complaints about the protests sound a whole lot to me like people who, on being told their home is on fire, criticize the way the messengers are dressed.

What a world.

My response to that was:

I strongly disagree. As a well read person I imagine you have read about multigenerational trauma. I don’t know if you have first hand experience with it, though. I’ve been at the Kheprw Institute where mothers will break down in tears describing the terror they feel every time their children leave the house. That terror comes not only from present day police abuses, but from the long, sad history of lynching in this country. Over 4,400 African American men, women and children were “hanged, burned alive, shot, drowned, and beaten to death by white mobs between 1877 and 1950. Millions more fled the South as refugees from racial terrorism, profoundly impacting the entire nation.”

A Native friend told me the story of how upset his mother was when she recognized a rope that was being used to ferry people across a small channel of water at Standing Rock. The rope reminded her of the history of Native children being kidnapped to be taken to Indian boarding schools. The Natives would use a boat with a tow rope to try to save their children. This trauma occurred in the mid 1800’s yet the trauma persists.

I don’t believe we have the right or privilege to use symbols of these traumatic events for our own purposes.

I appreciate that Ed Fallon has issued an apology. I will definitely continue to work with and support Bold Iowa and its good work. Any person or organization that is on the forefront of justice work is guaranteed to make a mistake now and then. Making mistakes is how we learn and grow.

The following is from an article in the (Cedar Rapids) Gazette:

CEDAR RAPIDS — The organizer of a climate change protest at last weekend’s gathering of presidential candidates in NewBo is apologizing for incorporating a symbol evoking America’s violent racial past — a hangman’s noose — into his demonstrations, but that may not be enough to quell the condemnations.

Ed Fallon, a former Democratic state representative and the current leader of the progressive activist group Bold Iowa, apologized Tuesday for a “lapse in judgment.”

“It wasn’t the right call on our part in terms of trying to get the message across,” he said. “I hope people will look beyond that lapse in judgment and understand that we have a tremendous challenge facing us right now” with climate change.

Dedric Doolin, president of the NAACP Cedar Rapids branch, decried the protest using something so emblematic of lynching as insensitive and said it displayed “the lack of understanding about how the symbol of a noose intimidates, terrorizes and puts fear in the hearts of many people, especially African-Americans.”

“They didn’t understand the impact their display had on the community,” Doolin said. A member of NAACP’s national board of directors, Doolin plans to spread word of the protest’s tactics to other NAACP chapters in hopes of curbing any such future protests.

On his Fallon Forum website, Fallon describes the protest as Bold Iowa’s “provocative performance art.”

“We underestimated the way it may trigger folks who either are concerned about the rise in racism in this country, in many respects because of Donald Trump,” Fallon said in an interview. “And also people who were affected by a family member who maybe committed suicide by hanging. … Our focus is to get people to understand just how urgent of a situation climate change is. We really are at a point where human extinction is a possibility.”

Iowa protesters wore nooses to make statement on climate change. Now they are apologizing. Bold Iowa apologizes for protest deemed racially insensitive outside Progress Iowa Corn Feed, The Gazette (Cedar Rapids) July 16, 2019
Posted in #NDAPL, climate change, Green New Deal, race, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

How Do You Know?

Yesterday I wrote of why “common memory must be created” and some of my experiences in doing that. I wrote: I encourage you to seek out your own opportunities to experience building new relationships. We need to reconnect with each other. We have so much more in common than we do differences. We have to pull back from the extreme rhetoric and actions. We have to build real community and to do that we have to work together, spend significant amounts of time with each other, building common memory, building real community.

I wrote of two ways I was able to make connections that resulted in building new relationships and community, one being engagement with the Kheprw Institute. The other walking on the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March.

But I didn’t write about how you know which new adventures are right for you to engage in. The way you know is when the Spirit or God tells you. Quakers believe God is present in everything, all the time in our world today. We speak of the “Inner Light” as the presence of the Spirit in us, guiding us. But you have to prepare yourself to hear “the still small voice” speaking to you. I Kings 19:12. I think there are so many times when the Spirit is speaking to us but we don’t hear because we are too busy with other things at the time. So caught up in the demands of everyday living that we don’t stop to listen when we hear/feel these small nudges to do what the Spirit is asking us to do. It takes practice to pay attention when we feel/hear the whisper of that small voice.

And those times we do hear the Spirit, we sometimes fear to do what it is asking of us. When I was starting out on my own in life, I kept hearing the Spirit saying “personal automobiles are destroying the environment”. My reaction was wow, that sounds difficult. How could I live without a car? There were so many reasons I could think of. Fortunately the Spirit tends to be persistent, giving you more chances. I did own a few cars early in my life. But when there was an accident that totaled the car, the Spirit said, here is your chance to do what I have been asking of you. I remember how apprehensive I was about not getting another car. I wondered how I could get to work, transport groceries home, what to do during inclement weather?

But I took that “leap of faith” and my life was immediately transformed in so many ways.

Sometimes the Spirit speaks through others. I felt a strong leading to participate in the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March. When I learned that involved walking 94 miles over eight days, I wondered if I was physically up to that. Until recently I ran about six days a week. One of the benefits of giving up having a car was my running improved a great deal, since that was substitute transportation for not having a car. When a friend heard I was planning to walk so far, he cautioned me that even though I was a runner, walking was quite different, and suggested I practice that. I was so surprised that walking was so much different from running, and grateful for my friend’s advice.

This also means you should not do something just because you “think” you should, or are bowing to peer pressure. I imagine we have all done this, many times. We feel irritated and unfulfilled to be doing things that we aren’t led to do.

My friend Joshua Taflinger recently wrote “And whether you’re a Christian, Buddhist, Red Road, Muslim, Pagan, Jewish, ect, etc, on and on…. the way to be one/connected/alignment with God/Love is speaking one’s truth, walking ones’ truth, being in one’s truth… because God IS truth.”


I could hear the light beings as they entered every cell. Every cell is a house of the god of light, they said. I could hear the spirits who love us stomp dancing. They were dancing as if they were here, and then another level of here, and then another, until the whole earth and sky was dancing.

We are here dancing, they said. There was no there.

There was no “I” or “you.”

There was us; there was “we.”

There we were as if we were the music.

You cannot legislate music to lockstep nor can you legislate the spirit of the music to stop at political boundaries— —

Or poetry, or art, or anything that is of value or matters in this world, and the next worlds.

This is about getting to know each other.

We will wind up back at the blues standing on the edge of the flatted fifth about to jump into a fierce understanding together.

Harjo, Joy. Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings: Poems (p. 82). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.

Posted in First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March, Kheprw Institute, Quaker, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Importance of Shared Memory

I am discouraged today. Yesterday our political discourse sank to a new low. As usual the press obsesses on the latest attack on “others” by this administration. We get distracted by paying attention to the latest political outrage and often don’t look beyond that.

There is a fundamental problem when we have gotten so polarized, not only in our politics but in our neighborhoods. It is an eerie feeling when I walk through block after block in neighborhoods and see almost no one outside. How many of us interact with people beyond our usual circles? Why do so few people attend meetings related to conflicts or problems?

I think it was Bob Berquist’s idea that those of us who were concerned about the Vietnam War visit with random people in West Branch to find out what they thought about the war.  I remember being very apprehensive about this idea, but Bob seemed to think it was a good idea, so a small group of us did.  I remember walking up to houses and awkwardly saying we were Scattergood students who wanted to know what they thought about the war.  We were stunned to find people were universally unhappy with the war and wanted peace as soon as possible. I remember how much this impressed me, that we shouldn’t have preconceived ideas about people and what they believe.  I wish I had done a better job of remembering that, many times since then.  Another example of the education we received at Scattergood.

From my Journal April 19, 1970

A friend of mine described how they gained enough support to pass a law for marriage equality in Minnesota. Many supporters went from house to house to have face to face conversations.

About seven year ago I had been wondering how I could learn about racial justice. On the Internet I found an environmental event was happening at a place I hadn’t heard of, the Kheprw Institute (KI). There I found about a dozen children, eagerly showing their aquaponics system and the rain barrels they sold. This was the beginning of a long history of being involved with and learning from this community of people of color. Even though I moved from Indianapolis, I still maintain connections with my friends there.

More recently, I was learning the key to moving through our evolving environmental crises was leadership by indigenous people, because they have maintained their relationship with Mother Earth. Once again I began looking for ways to meet and learn from indigenous people. When I saw a poster for the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March, I immediately knew I needed to be part of that. Walking along country roads with a small group of Native and white people for 94 miles over 8 days along the path of the Dakota Access Pipeline in Iowa provide so much time, so many experiences for us to learn about each other.

As Manape LeMere said, the reason we were marching together was so we could work together in the future. In order to do that, we needed to trust each other. And to be able to trust each other, we needed to understand each other.

Since the March there have been a number of occasions when we have worked together. The photo below was taken when we went to Senator Chuck Grassley’s office to talk about two bills related to Native concerns.

Jeff, Fox, Shazi, Christine, Shari and Sid

Another occasion was when the Surnise Movement’s Green New Deal tour came to Des Moines. 450 atteded, including my friends from the March, Trisha and Lakasha who were on the program to speak about the importance of a Green New Deal to be led by Native people.

Last Friday my good friends Rezadad Mohammadi and Christine Ashley, of the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) participated in the Lights for Liberty, a Vigil to End Human Detention Camps, outside the White House. They engaged people in attendance, inviting them to hold the banner “Love Thy Neighbor. No Exceptions”. Engaging with people one on one. (Photos by Rezadad Mohammadi).

Georges Erasmus, an Aboriginal leader from Canada, said, “Where common memory is lacking, where people do not share in the same past, there can be no real community. Where community is to be formed, common memory must be created.”

These are examples of how “common memory must be created”. I encourage you to seek out your own opportunities to experience building new relationships. We need to reconnect with each other. We have so much more in common than we do differences. We have to pull back from the extreme rhetoric and actions. We have to build real community and to do that we have to work together, spend significant amounts of time with each other, building common memory, building real community.


We had to keep going. We sang our grief to clean the air of turbulent spirits.

Yes, I did see the terrible black clouds as I cooked dinner. And the messages of the dying spelled there in the ashy sunset. Every one addressed: “mother.”

Yes, the distance was great between your country and mine. Yet our children played in the path between our houses.

No. We had no quarrel with each other.

Harjo, Joy. Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings: Poems (p. 12). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.
Posted in #NDAPL, climate change, First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March, Green New Deal, Indigenous, Kheprw Institute, Sunrise Movement, Toward Right Relationship with Native Peoples, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lights for Liberty – Washington DC

Report from Rezadad Mohammadi and Christine Ashley (FCNL), Washington, DC

America has traditionally been a country of immigrants. For many, the U.S. is known as a global “melting pot” due to its mixture of diverse cultures, ethnicities, and nationalities. That’s what makes America special. However, due to recent changes in policies regarding immigrants and asylum seekers, many have a different perception about that now.  

On Friday night, thousands of Americans across the nation came out to express their opposition to policies that are inhumanly treating asylum seekers and putting them in detention centers. At Lafayette Square near the White House in Washington, hundreds of people gathered at a “Lights for Liberty” demonstration to raise awareness of the current condition of Immigrants and were demanding the immigration services such as Border Patrol facilities and detention centers to be closed. 

The spirit at the vigil was strong

Speakers from different organizations and faith leaders also shared their concern and support for immigrants. 

Christine and I attended after work (Friends Committee on National Legislation – FCNL), joining the vigil Friday to lift up support to end the evil policies that are imprisoning children and families, policies holding our neighbors in cages instead of policies that welcome those fleeing persecution, violence and war, poverty, pervasive hunger, injustice. We cannot stand by while this immorality continues.

Look at all who showed up: families, people of all ages,  races, faiths.

While we were there, we tried to personally meet people, and support this movement for all to take our message of lovethyneighbor (No Exceptions) to our members of Congress. @Friends Committee on National Legislation can help

We gave away 75 signs and invited many to pick up a corner of the banner and pose with us. I think this was great Outreach and we did it after a long week because we feel so strongly about this.

–We must not forget that It is our duty to stand for justice and spread the word of love–

Rezadad Mohammadi, Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL)

Photos and video: Rezadad Mohammadi

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A Perfect Storm

perfect storm: a critical or disastrous situation created by a powerful concurrence of factors

Hurricane Barry could be called a perfect storm.

Hurricane Barry developed from a tropical storm into a hurricane because of higher than normal sea surface temperatures.

Sea surface temperatures are also running well above-average, with actual readings as high as 30 and 31 degrees Celsius.

Gulf of Mexico ‘Hot Tub’ Could Fuel Hurricane Season Toward Peak by Jonathan BellesJuly 20 2016 02:00 Tropical Update: Potential for Gulf of Mexico Development Next Week Increasing
By Caleb Carmichael – July 6, 2019, Nationa Hurricane Center

The elevated sea surface and air temperatures result in larger amounts of water added to the atmosphere, which then falls as significant amounts of rainfall. Over 10 inches of rain have fallen so far in New Orleans.

The Mississippi River was already above flood levels, barely contained by river levees. It looks like the river level will not overtop the levees despite the addition of water from the heavy rainfall and storm surge.

In addition to these affects, other problems have been developing for some time, including disappearing wetland, algae blooms and growing dead zones.

Coastal wetlands in the Mississippi Delta are disappearing. Many factors contribute to the stress placed on wetlands, including the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in the summer of 2010. But natural forces are at work as well—local sinking of the ground and accelerating rates of sea-level rise,2,4 which scientists expect to further accelerate due to climate change

Union of Concerned Scientists

Other problems related to climate change are the algae blooms and growing dead zones in the Gulf Waters. It is dangerous to even wade in the water of much of the coast.

Just off the coast of Louisiana, where the Mississippi River lets out into the Gulf of Mexico, an enormous algae bloom, fueled by fertilizer from Midwestern farm fields and urban sewage, creates an area so devoid of oxygen it’s uninhabitable to most marine life every summer. 

Nutrients like nitrogen from fertilizer and phosphorus from sewage act as a catalyst for algae growth. While algae are the base of the food chain for some fish, when these green plumes proliferate beyond what fish are capable of eating, their decomposition consumes much of the oxygen in the water. 

This year, historic rains and flooding in the Midwest have roiled farm fields and overwhelmed sewer systems, flushing a tremendous amount of nutrients into the Mississippi River and into the Gulf, spurring a remarkable amount of algae. While the agricultural runoff from farms — exempted under the Clean Water Act — is the main driver of the Gulf dead zone, Chicago’s sewage is the largest single source of phosphorus pollution. 

There’s a giant dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico — thanks in large part to pollution from Chicago – Chicago Tribune

And yet we have a Republican administration that not only denies climate change, but has eviscerated regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency that will result in increased pollution of land, air and water.

What we need now is an indigenous led Green New Deal.

“How to Indigenize the Green New Deal and environmental justice” — High Country News.

Posted in #NDAPL, climate change, Green New Deal, Indigenous, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lights for Liberty

“The ones that matter the most are the children.” Lakota Proverb

Beautiful Baby, Beautiful Child (a lullaby)

Hokosucē herosē. Estuce herosē.

Beautiful baby, beautiful child.
Hokosucē herosē, Estuce herosē.

The sky is your blanket; the earth is your cradle.
Sutvt vccetv cēnakēt os. Ekvnv cen topv hakes.

Your mother rocks you close to her heart.
Ceckē ēfekkē temposen ce haneces.

Your father holds up the sky.
Cerkē sutv hvlwen kvwapes.

Beautiful baby, beautiful child.
Hokosucē herosē, Estuce herosē.

Harjo, Joy. Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings: Poems (p. 28). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition. MVSKOVE TRANSLATION BY ROSEMARY MCCOMBS MAXEY

“Grown men can learn from very little children—for the hearts of little children are pure. Therefore, the Great Spirit may show them many things that older people miss.” –Black Elk

“The Lakota call children wakanyeja. ‘Wakan’ means sacred. To us, children are not only blessings, but are meant to be the principal focus of each tiospaye (extended family group). They are sacred of their own accord.

We believe that before a baby is born, its soul specifically chooses its mother and father. It is understood that children are more than miniature versions of ourselves; they are spiritual beings in their own right, with their own voices, gifts, talents, and purposes.”

I am so grateful for the thousands of people who have gone, and will continue to go into the streets to demand the concentration camps be closed and children removed from cages. This can not stand.

Seeing Vice President Pence standing before these cages with no reaction, intentionally ignoring the men locked up before him is a sad but accurate representation of the intentional cruelty of this administration. We cannot wait until the election next year to change the administration. We must press for the impeachment of the president for these high crimes now.

I was so glad to see this video of my friends Rezadad Mohammadi and Christine Ashley from the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) on their way to the Lights for Liberty protest in front of the White House last night.

My friend Judy Plank, who has been involved with migrant issues for many years and lived near the border in Arizona, sent the following information about ways to help.

My friend Janice Pulliam, A Quaker friend from Arizona, sent this to me a few days ago, regarding the migrant situation on the AZ border, with groups and places she is involved with where our supplies and funds are needed. It’s good to know where to donate that will go directly to those in need. The terrible treatment of migrant families and their children is horrible. I am very distraught with our government’s inhumane actions.

As many of you know, I am on the board of Voices from the Border, a 501c3 organization founded in January 2017 to work for human and civil rights and environmental justice in the border regions of Arizona, US and Sonora, Mex. Last summer began a huge influx of legal asylum seekers at the border town of Nogales–AZ and Son. We began taking food, water, clothing and supplies (diapers, toiletries, shoes & socks, toys etc.) to the people waiting at the gate in Mexico to enter and claim asylum. We have continued to do that as the numbers of refugees has increased. We have also worked with a nurse, Pancho Olachea Martin, who works with these migrants and with the extremely poor citizens of Nogales, Sonora. We support him with money for his ambulance and medical supplies. He guides us as to what items are most needed and helps us distribute them. We have met many asylum seekers at the border and when feasible we have helped them get settled in their sponsoring families and communities throughout the USA. We have helped them get legal assistance–although we do not pay lawyers fees, we link refugees with those who can, if we can. Anyway, the work continues, as you know from news headlines these days. You may want to connect with Voices from the Border on FaceBook, if you use it, to see what we are doing.

Once someone is admitted through Nogales, they may be sent to the shelter Casa Alitas in Tucson, AZ where refugees are housed and fed until they can be sent to their sponsors elsewhere, where they will wait for their hearing dates. Casa Alitas is run totally by volunteers and is situated in an old convent/monastery building. An email letter from them is forwarded below, an update on their current situation.

If you scroll to the bottom of this email, you can find several ways to donate to Casa Alitas. They really do need funds. I am planning to volunteer there myself once I digest all the info about how to volunteer there and take the training. After seeing and reading about what has been happening in Texas, I felt like going there with truckloads of toiletries and saying to ICE, “Hey, you say you don’t have funds to give kids toothbrushes and soap. Well I do and here they are!” But of course that is ridiculously impractical and impossible for too many reasons. Yet I know many of you have been feeling that same way. What can I do to help? Donations of money are extremely helpful for both Casa Alitas and Voices from the Border. You may also want to donate to ACLU, Amnesty, No More Deaths, Derechos Humanos, or RAICES—you can find their websites and donate online. They are all working to alleviate the suffering of and injustices done to asylum seekers and other migrants.

However, sometimes we want to do something concrete, palpable to help asylum seekers. Perhaps the following will appeal to you or your group. I’m sending this email to several friends, so ignore if the following does not apply to you:
There is a list at the bottom of this email of practical items that Casa Alitas shelter needs. Most of these are also needs of the asylum seekers waiting at the border whom Voices from the Border helps. One idea I had is for friends of mine from around the country who want to do something but feel helpless because you’re so far away—get together a group of friends or people from your religious group who are interested in helping, take a trip together to Walmart or another place you prefer to shop, buy up a bunch of the needed items (toothbrushes, travel sizes of tooth paste and soap, lip balm, flip flops, underwear, etc. whatever you want to focus on), and send all your purchases in one package together (like “if it fits it ships” at the US Post Office) to save postage. Share the costs. After your trip to the P.O., go have a lemonade together and know that the recipients will be extremely grateful! Maybe you have a school class or Sunday school class that might want to do this project together.

You may mail items and checks (IRS tax deductible) to Voices at:
Voices from the Border
c/o Linda Hirsch
PO Box 7
Patagonia, AZ 85624

Keep the Faith! Love is stronger than death. Janice Pulliam / JLC Pulliam

Every week since my last update I have meant to write another, but each week the big picture of what we do and with whom changes. In the past month the shelter went from 200+ guests to 500, then back down, with a few with what we now call “slow days” of 50-60 new guests. Then just as suddenly occupancy surged by over 150 guests per day. In addition to those guests that ICE drops off at the Monastery, Border Patrol now has added to our numbers, dropping of families earlier and later than usual, and with less documentation and detail. These cycles of rapid expansion followed by sudden drops in the numbers of families seemed daunting at first, but as one kitchen volunteer exclaimed on a particularly busy day, “Let them come! We can handle anything.”

Well, almost. Our eighty-year old building groans under the weight of so many guests. Water that rises on the second floor cascades through the ceiling of the first. Electric malfunctions led to the shutting down of critical equipment. We had to empty the shelter for twenty-four hours to do some electrical and plumbing repairs. Perhaps the old building heaved a sigh of relief to get a respite from the wear and tear on old pipes and electrical circuits, just as we appreciated the brief break.

Our work together, yours with us, has taken on graver tones as the political rhetoric over an emergency at the border continues to simmer. Yes, there is a crisis at the border, a human-rights crisis, a moral crisis, a hemorrhage of human potential from the south to the north, the suffering of families. This week as our late night drivers accompanied guests to the bus station, they found sixteen stranded parents with children who had been put on the bus in Phoenix, and who, upon arriving at the Tucson station to change buses, found that their next bus had been canceled. Without food, water, or any money, they were told they had to wait for the next opportunity to leave – the next day or the next. Our dedicated drivers gathered them up and brought them to the Monastery shelter where they bathed, slept, and arranged for drivers for their next leg of the journey. Another family of five from El Salvador arrived yesterday with a baby born in detention. Their sponsor could not manage a family of five or pay for their tickets. They were stranded and alone, until a volunteer began networking with her home church to sponsor the family.

As I write, two of our children and one adult had to be hospitalized after the latest surge and resulting Mexican crackdowns on safer routes through Mexico meant that families were forced to once again make the perilous trip on the top or sides of trains and other dangerous routes. We were able to get immediate medical attention for these three and someone is always with them in the hospital.

Some of our stories have happy endings while others do not. Director, Teresa Cavandish tells of the first time she saw the father who lost a leg below the knee and arm below the elbow when he became dizzy and fell from the top of a train, being wheeled into the monastery with his incredibly traumatized son. She described their meeting, “They were exhausted and broken, and the dad now has a post amputation infection and is back in the hospital.” “I will never ever be the same after seeing this,” she said.

Horrified at human cruelty and the suffering it causes, we are also encouraged and inspired by our comings together. We will never ever be the same. Truly, it is something of a miracle that people do make it through to their sponsors. Our super power in the midst of chaos is our volunteers, who step in at all times of the day and night to figure out the next right step in complicated situations. Physicians, ministers, scientists, teachers, call center operators, home-makers, artists, students, interpreters, computer experts, cooks, drivers . . . people from all walks of life come together because, as we tell our new guests, “We believe that a better world is possible.”

As I arrived one morning one very young dad was sitting in the courtyard, sobbing into his hands. I sat down next to him as asked what was wrong. His crying intensified as he shook his head “no.” I went to the kitchen and got a cookie and took it back to him. Sitting beside him, breaking the cookie, I said the words of my faith tradition, “This is my body . . .” He began to talk, punctuated by more tears. His sponsor couldn’t afford the bus tickets for he and his son. He said they would die if they were returned to Guatemala. I told him that there are so many of you who care what happens to him. I learned there is a donor who will pay for people who can’t afford their tickets. As he held so tightly on to me he wept and said, “I never imagined that there would be such good and kind people . . .” Miracle or simply connecting those who can help with those who need it? That is what we do best.

Our guests’ suffering is not over once they reach us. This is the sharp edge to what we do. We cannot fix the situations that our guests face, but we will move heaven and earth to accompany them faithfully, generously, kindly, and with dignity. We can love them up and send them off to you, where you will do your best to help them take their next right step.

Thank you for your generous support, for your prayers, monetary and in-kind donations, and for sharing the good news our shelter is for our volunteers, guests, and larger community. Please feel free to share this letter with others who might be interested in learning more about our important work, and/or who would also like to offer financial support. Your support makes our work possible. Together, we provide help, create hope, and serve all. Your gift strengthens children, families, adults, and communities. Donations can be made directly to CCS at or through our GoFundMe page

Peace on your way,

Rev. Delle McCormick
Monastery Shelter Volunteer

Donation requests:
(Please keep in mind that we go through large volumes of 100+ of each of these items daily.)

• Men’s underwear, ALL SIZES (high priority)
• Boy’s underwear, ALL SIZES (high priority)
• Girls’ and women’s underwear, ALL SIZES
• Shoes, especially smaller sizes for men and women
• Belts
• Boys’ and men’s pants and shorts (especially S/M for the men’s)
• Men’s shirts (S/M – boys’ size 14+ work perfectly too)
• Men’s small long sleeve shirts/fleece types
• Women’s dresses
• Leggings for girls and women
• Girls shirts and pants all sizes
• Girls underwear, all sizes
• Shoelaces

• Travel size body lotion
• Chapstick
• Nail clippers
• Large bottles of shampoo (3-in-1: shampoo/conditioner/body gel)
• Combs/hair brushes

55 gallon trash bags

Other ways to donate:
• Online through the Catholic Community Services website here and indicate that you would like to direct your gift to Casa Alitas:
• Mail a check to CCS Development Dept., 140 W. Speedway, Ste. 230, Tucson, AZ 85705 . Make out the check to Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona and indicate “for Casa Alitas” in the memo line.
• Donate to our GoFundMe page here:
• You can purchase an item off of our Amazon Gift List. This will be sent directly to Casa Alitas:

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Right Relationship Iowa

The Spirit created the opportunity for Paula Palmer to be with us in Iowa and Nebraska recently. Supported by Boulder Friends Meeting, the resources for Toward Right Relationships with Native Peoples can be found here:

My leading started with a nudge four years ago and grew into a ministry called Toward Right Relationship with Native Peoples. This ministry has grown in depth and breadth under the loving care of the Boulder (Colo.) Meeting. Working in partnership with Native American educators, I learned about their efforts to bring healing to the Native people, families, and communities that continue to suffer illness, despair, suicide, violence, and many forms of dysfunction that they trace to the Indian boarding school experience.

Friends Journal, October 2016

Native American organizations are asking churches to join in a Truth and Reconciliation process to bring about healing for Native American families that continue to suffer the consequences of the Indian boarding schools. With support from Pendle Hill (the Cadbury scholarship), Friends Historical Library (the Moore Fellowship), the Native American Rights Fund, and other Friendly sources, Paula Palmer researched the role that Friends played in implementing the federal government’s policy of forced assimilation of Native children. For a link to her 50-minute slide presentation and other resources, please see

Paula Palmer’s ministry, “Toward Right Relationship with Native Peoples,” is under the care of Boulder Friends Meeting. Please contact her at

The links below are to a number of blog posts about Paula’s workshops and presentations.

One of the significant benefits of Paula’s visit was bringing together people who care about building right relationships among white and Native people, who hadn’t known each other prior to this. Several of the workshops had around 60 participants. But it is important that many more white people learn about this tragic history, so that, hopefully, we can seek reconciliation for the past, and move forward together now.

This is especially urgent now, because we need Native people to lead the way as we move deeper into environmental chaos. Native people have a deep connection to Mother Earth and all who live on her. Spirituality is fundamental to their culture and needs to be more central to white people’s culture as we live through increasingly turbulent times ahead. A Green New Deal is essential. And it is essential that a Green New Deal be indigenous led. Christine Nobiss has created a campaign related to this named SHIFT, Seeding the Hill with Indigenous Free Thinkers.

As the name Right Relationship Iowa suggests, we plan to build on the work that Paula did here. The purpose of this blog post is to invite you to be involved in how this work moves forward. Right Relationship Iowa at the moment is essentially a list of people who have attended Paula’s workshops and presentations, and have indicated they are interested in participating.

This is an invitation for anyone interested in building right relationships among Native and white people.
Contact me at

There is no organizational structure for Right Relationship Iowa at the moment. We just want to know who is interested in moving forward with this. Please share this opportunity with others you think might be interested.

Posted in Green New Deal, Indigenous, Native Americans, Quaker, Toward Right Relationship with Native Peoples, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Climate Emergency

It is so frustrating to those of us who have for years done everything we could think of to curtail the use of fossil fuels. To now see climate chaos unfolding before our eyes. We knew the climate chaos we are living in now was going to occur if nothing was done to radically reduce the use of fossil fuels. Obviously we were unsuccessful in those efforts.

Increasingly frequent, severe, and widespread climate catastrophes are upending the lives of many and will continue to do so.

When the Climate Mobilization was founded at the People’s Climate March in 2014, there was no climate group publicly organizing around the need for WWII-scale emergency speed transition. We built and launched the Climate Emergency campaign in the United States and have worked with grassroots activists, political leaders, and organizations around the world to pass local Climate Emergency Declarations: the #ClimateEmergency movement has won over 740 so far. We’ve been working with our partners to build momentum upwards and outwards around the climate emergency and a massive-scale climate mobilization to match.

The Climate Emergency Declaration expresses the need for a “economically just and managed phase-out” of fossil fuels and calls for a “national, social, industrial, and economic mobilization” to “halt, reverse, mitigate, and prepare” for the climate crisis and save our world

Resolution in Congress to declare a climate emergency

Progressive lawmakers are pushing a resolution to declare a climate emergency in the U.S., demanding “a massive-scale mobilization to halt, reverse, and address” climate change.

Sponsored by Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) in the House and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the Senate, the resolution calls climate change the result of human activity that requires “a national, social, industrial, and economic mobilization of the resources and labor of the United States.”

“This is a political crisis of inaction. It’s going to take political will, political courage in order for us to treat this issue with the urgency that the next generation needs,” Ocasio-Cortez said on a call with reporters to discuss the resolution. 

Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders lead push to declare climate emergency by Rebecca Beitsch, The Hill, 07/09/19

Sample letter to Congress

We are in a climate and ecological emergency. We urgently need a massive effort to reverse global warming and protect humanity and the natural world from collapse. It’s time for Congress to join over 740 local governments in 16 countries around the world in telling the truth about the climate. I urge you to sign on as a sponsor of the Climate Emergency Declaration.

I urge Congress to Declare a Climate and Ecological Emergency and:

– Mobilize people, resources, and companies on a scale larger than that of World War II to reverse global warming and prevent further catastrophe. This must be a wide-scale, inclusive, and equitable transformation and rebuilding of our society to one based on renewable energy, dignified employment, and economic opportunity.

– Democratically transition to a zero greenhouse gas emissions economy in ten years or less. This must be a just transition for workers and frontline communities that keeps fossil fuels in the ground.

– Hold a national People’s Assembly on the climate emergency

– Protect the entire web of life by working to end the sixth mass extinction. Protection of biodiversity is critical to our survival.

– Prioritize funding to repair the damage caused by fossil fuel and other extractive industries, so that Indigenous tribal communities, communities of color, and rural communities hit hardest by environmental injustice can have clean land, air and water.

Declare a Climate Emergency and protect all Americans, all humanity, and all living things, so that we can be safe for generations to come!

Note: Extinction Rebellion US demands a zero greenhouse gas emissions and zero fossil fuel economy by 2025.

Here’s how you can respond to the climate emergency. Click HERE

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